Chasing FengShui: YanTan Bird, Fish, and Flower Market

A while back I wanted to bring up the Feng Shui level in my apartment- the living room was a bit drab- and could use the lift that only live plants and goldfish could provide. I asked around and eventually was told to visit the YanTan Bird, Fish, and Flower Market, which was walking distance from my old apartment. So I paid a visit… It was INSANE. TOTAL CHINA CRAZY


YanTan market was in a small alleyway hidden from the main traffic that flows through the district. The entire street was lined with shops selling an endless variety of fish, birds, and live plants. As with all things in China, it was CRAMMED. I mean THOUSANDS of fish were splashing around in Styrofoam boxes placed on the street, pleading to be saved, some choosing suicide and leaping out to their deaths instead of cohabiting an open air coffin with 500 other finned comrades.


There were goldish, guppies, tetras, angel fish, koi, beta fish… basically anything you could find at a PetCo but all outdoors, and 10x in number.


There were assorted turtles as well, baby turtles slightly larger than a quarter, to full grown snapping turtles, which seemed dangerous to keep in tanks that kids could easily stick their fingers into.


future mutant ninja turtles!

The bird section was also pretty wild – three dozen parakeets stuffed into a cage meant for two, lovebirds, canaries, and those singing birds that the Chinese have kept for centuries, in round bamboo cages.


There was the occasional hen ready to be snuffed out and turned into someone’s dinner. It was a noisy and colorful affair; lots of squawking, chirping, quacking, singing, and feathers of all shades floating through the dusty mid-afternoon air.



The plants were all kept indoors, and the plant market was really a wonderful, serene sanctuary in comparison to the chaos outside. Every plant imaginable was up for sale: non-vascular ferns and moss, cactus, succulents, peace lilies, spider plants, bamboos of all sizes, and philodendron (I had to look up the name of the last one online!).


I spent a very long time, maybe an hour or more, just walking through all the aisles looking at all the vegetation. Lanzhou is almost a desert (i mean everything outside – streets, hills, mountains, are just yellow and brown), so its a rare treat to see so much green.


I left with seven plants and two betta fish (these YanTan market trips were done pre-bankruptcy FYI). the fengshui in my apartment has been through the roof ever since. within two weeks of arranging all the flora and fauna in a fengshui-garnering manner, i got a call from Brian the Foreign Affairs rep, telling me I was moving to the brand new, glossy high-rise on-campus apartments!!

my beautiful fish!

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