• Beijing Antique Seller

Beijing Antique Seller (Photo : Getty Images)

Beijing is home not only to 24-hour food stalls and low-priced wares but also to the popular weekly "ghost market" where people can buy almost anything--from chestnuts and dumplings to handmade dolls and antique collector items.

A Los Angeles Times report said that the "ghost market" opens at 3 a.m. every Wednesday and runs until the afternoon of the following day.

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According to the report, the tradition of holding ghost market or night market dates back to the Qing Dynasty, when nobles who went broke sold their family heirlooms under the cover of darkness to protect their reputations.

However, today's Beijing ghost market has a different, more sinister connotation which suggests that items for sale were believed to have been obtained through theft, bribery or outright robbery.

But when sellers were asked where their goods came from, they were quick to say that the items were bought online.

Sellers of the ghost market, carrying sacks and flashlights, often arrive earlier to display their items, which were scattered over blankets on the sidewalk.

The customers of the ghost market come from different parts of the country. They are often interested not only in the various items on sale but also because of the cheap price.

"This is the best antique market in Beijing," Li Xiao, a regular customer, said. "There's a lot of people. It's lively." As he walked off to another vendor, he kicked a unicycle on the ground and said over his shoulder, "You can buy anything here."

One of the stalls that draw buyers' interest is the stall owned by Xian He, who sells nostalgia items. His stall displayed cassette tapes, an old metal alarm clock, old stamps; a machine-sewn portrait of Zhou En-lai, the first premier of China; and a vinyl record titled "Forward! Our Great Socialist Motherland, among others.

"I grew up in the '80s," Xian said. "Life is better now, but sometimes we still long for the past."

Xian, who previously worked for a book printer, collects comic books that condensed classic Chinese tales into brightly illustrated stories. He said he collects and buys them online and at markets. He added that he had made a collection large enough to start selling.

Xian said he also buys artifacts from the Cultural Revolution, from 1966 until Chairman Mao Tse-tung's death in 1976, because "people are always looking for these things." He said he sells at the ghost market year-round.

One of the buyers, Yang Fan, even drove from as far as Hebei Province, which is more than 100 miles away. He came with his friends to experience the ghost market for the first time. He said he would like to buy hiking equipment.

The Beijing ghost market is a mix of old and new, a reflection of the varied classes of the new and emerging Chinese society.