At the Fuchengmen ‘Flower and
Bird’ Market, the name is just the tip of the iceberg. When you get there,
you see the range of jade, crystal balls, military paraphernalia and other
knick-knacks on sale from the chatty and informed vendors. This isn’t to
mention the supply of goldfish, baby turtles, fighting crickets, and a
full range of traditional aphrodisiacs.
If you’re in the market for
flowers, there is everything from sub-tropical plants and annuals such as
petunias and snapdragons to perennials like peonies and garden cannas and
indestructible cacti for those with brown thumbs. Bulb choice, however, is
limited to different colored hyacinth.
Prices are very good – by
bargaining you can purchase a health green pothos for three RMB or a pot
of blooming calla lilies for four RMB (about 50 cents, USD). Tiny trees in
painted vases are free for friendly Canadians – no joke!
Most bird and flower shops have a
sprawling daily pet market next to them. Fuchengmen’s specializes in fish,
parakeets, hamsters, cats, and medium-sized turtles (since selling ‘mini
turtles’ are illegal, you can only buy them on weekdays, when there are
fewer people around). Kittens, mostly Thai imports, are sold from bicycle
baskets, paper shopping bags, and people’s inner coat pockets, but appear
well cared for despite their sketchy origins (of course, appearances can
There are a few enclosed shops in
the neighborhood, selling the basics like fresh seaweed, bloodworms, tank
paraphernalia, and tank-cleaning snails. With fish, variety is lacking.
Most stores carry only goldfish and a few freshwater tropical fish such as
Siamese fighting fish.
The Erogenous Zone
One thing everyone must check out
is the dizzying array of natural aphrodisiacs. Business has been good
during this Year of the Dragon: Chinese consider it an auspicious time to
have children. One vendor claims that the ‘health product’ business has
been so lucrative he doesn’t have to work he rest of the week. He has
many regulars who come, like clockwork, every five weeks for their ‘fix’.
Should you decide to dabble,
first decide whether you want to work with a small, medium, or large glass
jar. Then choose a ‘main ingredient’ – either a dried snake, lizard
(endangered), or dried yak penis and genitals. All have the same effect –
improved performance in bed. Then personalize the aphrodisiac by choosing
special herbs to suit your needs.
For example, chengyouji, a pale knotty
wood, may be added to loosen tight muscles. Small fire-orange flower
pedals, honghua, are often mixed with pale yellow ball-shaped seeds,
huangqi, to increase energy. Prickly gray hollow balls called gejian help
increase lung capacity, and jujubes improve night vision and brighten the
Once home, fill the glass jar with baijiu (white spirits). Let it
sit for two to three weeks and then drink a little each day. A
medium-sized jar with a yak penis and genitals, jujubes, and honghua costs
about 40 RMB after a little bargaining.
When a wandering aphrodisiac
vendor in minority costume was asked whether the yak organs were
effective, he simply grinned and announced that he had four wives… ’nuff