As a China.org.cn staff reporter discovered, Erdaoqiao market in Urumqi, capital of Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, continues to be the best place to buy Uygur ethnic goods after over a hundred years' trading.
The name of Urumqi means "fine pasture" in Mongolian, and since ancient times it has been an excellent grazing and hunting ground for nomadic tribes.
It's a long trip from Beijing to Urumqi: 44 hours by express train or 3 hours 45 minutes by air, but a huge variety of exquisite souvenirs and local products are available: Uygur embroidered hats, Yengisar daggers, local high-quality silk, silver jewelry, and all kinds of dried fruit and nuts.
Any local will recommend Erdaoqiao, the largest retail and wholesale market of ethnic minority goods in Xinjiang.
Erdaoqiao has long been a distribution center for goods from both Xinjiang and central Asian countries, as well as a haven for different ethnic groups. As the daylight recedes, hurricane lamps are lit and Erdaoqiao turns into a place bustling with trade in foods, handicrafts and dancing.
In 1982, a covered market was opened, 330 meters long and covering 6,756 square meters. More than 660 proprietors sell over 1,600 Uygur goods there and each day more than 20,000 people including vendors, merchants, visitors and customers make this place a part of their life.
The new Erdaoqiao Market started construction in 2001 and was completed on August 18, 2002. It covers 35,000 square meters and, together with the old market, forms a lively tourist and trading center.
Located in the center of Urumqi, customers can buy goods ranging from dried fruit to expensive Hotan jade and rare antiques, and bargaining is a must as all prices are negotiable.
The famous "three treasure of Hotan" -- jade, carpets and silk -- are on offer, as are copperware and exquisite Yengisar daggers, dried fruit and herbs, traditional clothing and musical instruments and genuine handmade woolen carpets and cashmere stoles.
(China.org.cn by Zhang Liping, translated and edited by Wind Gu August 3, 2005)