Thursday, August 16, 2012

Shanghai Shopaholic Take 3

I love the shopping in Shanghai.  For my first shopaholic post, I visited the Honqiao Pearl market and snagged some jade and pearls.  My second shopaholic post was an adventure to the textile market.  For my third post, I ventured to a small, smelly yet famous institution in Shanghai.  I went to the Bird, Fish, Flower, and Insect market.

Before I tell my story, I want to post a disclaimer that I do not agree with everything I saw.  I am just sharing a sensory overload experience.

As I stepped into the market, I did not anticipate my reaction. All I could see were stalls and cages containing bugs, cats, birds, flowers, fish, and many other animals whose native habitats are not cages. 

Some of the animals were really cute.

This shot made me think of my SES Sea Turtle fam.
Others were quite sad.

So many kittens, such little space.

Yes, that is a bird with a leash on a perch.

A few made me giggle.

Shoulda bought a squirrel.  They make Cracker Jack pets.

Of all the animals that I saw, one intrigued me the most.

There were hundreds of crickets at the market.  It has been reported that people will pay upwards of $800 for a prize fighting cricket.

Meet the cricket.  I would have to say that 2/3 of the vendors were selling crickets in tiny cages.  I have seen many vendors trekking through the city with hundreds of crickets in little bamboo cages and have asked myself,

“Why in the world would anyone want to purchase a pet cricket?”

My initial internal answer was,
“Crickets make wonderful snake food.”

Oh my friends, I was wrong.  I researched this topic, and have learned about the sleazy industry of Cricket Fighting.  Yes, I said Cricket Fighting.

According to Wikipedia, Cricket Fighting started around 1000 years ago during the Tang dynasty.  By the time the Song dynasty came into rule, people were hooked.  Multiple sources state the Prime Minister of the Song dynasty was so obsessed with Cricket fighting that he would demand that no one disturb him during cricket training time.  He wrote a book about how to fight crickets while his empire crumbled around him. 

Concubines would keep pet crickets for company. 

Needless to say, Chinese people love their crickets.

From 1966-1976, cricket fighting was banned as part of the Cultural Revolution. 

Now that China is on the economic and political upturn, many people are embracing this national past time.  According to the New York Times, more than $63 million was spent on cricket sales and upkeep in 2011. 

To see the skinny on cricket fighting, click on the New York Times video here.

The good news is crickets do not fight to the death.  A cricket loses a match by backing out of a fight.  If a cricket loses a fight, they are set free on a farm where they will have lots of room to run and play…or at least they are set free.  It has been reported that fallen prizewinning crickets are buried in silver coffins.

There is a dark side to the cricket bouts…many cricket owners decide to place illegal wagers on the fights.  Last September 79 people were arrested for betting around $1600 on each cricket fight. 

As I was explaining this to my Dad, he came up with some really good questions.

“How does one train a prize winning cricket?” he asked.

“I don’t know.  Apparently they live in clay pots, the owners poke at them with mouse whiskers and hay, and drop a female in the clay pot the night before a fight to get them aggravated.”

“How do you know which one wins?  Wouldn’t it get confusing if it was a close match?” he inquired.

“I don’t know…the spectators have good tracking skills?” 

I do not have all of the answers.  At this time, I am simply thankful I did not indulge my impulses by buying one and naming it Tyson.  J

Unfortunately there is not room for a tattoo on his face.