[showtime] Guangzhou's Qingping Market is truly a sight to behold. A medical menagerie of animal parts, some more recognizable than others, amid sacks full of dried insects and snakes sold by the roll.
Traditional Chinese Medicine has long used anything that crawls, flies or swim as well as more static plants and herbs to cure all manner of disease, and this is the place to get them.
No matter how many times I see them, I'm always amazed by the dried-out lizards on sticks, starfish drying in the sun, giant millipedes dried flat like gruesome rulers and bags full of beetles sold by the scoop. But I can never quite imagine how one takes such medicine. I know it probably all gets cooked up into a stew but that very idea fills my head with fairytale images of witchcraft and wizardry; eye of newt and tongue of frog, lizard scales and puppy dog tails... all readily available at Qingping. The market has calmed down a lot since its bygone days as a center for exotic animal trade, though vestiges remain with tiger claws, furtively laid out on scrappy pieces of cloth on the floor, and you'll still find plenty of other endangered species, including sharks' fin and birds' nests, on sale. And there's still a thriving, though down-at-heel, animal market at the north end focused on pets rather than dinner options (still, it's wisely avoided if you're the sensitive type who can't stand to see animals in distress).
Located along Qingping Lu, just to the north of tranquil streets and colonial-style buildings of Shamian Island, the easiest way to reach Qingping Market is by taxi or metro to Huangsha station (line 1).
Travel to Guangzhou:
Guangzhou travel guide