Posted by: Lotus Light | September 7, 2011

The back streets

Please Daddy!

I love having visitors come to visit me.  I stop my normal routines and take them exploring some of my favourite places.  And of course, there is no place better to go than the back streets of Xi’an.

We spent the day playing in the pet market area, where no tourists go (they don’t know it exists!!) and so can see life as it is lived.  The pet market is a combination of souk, animal market, flea market and ‘ghost’ market – where stolen goods are sold.  This is where we can find the street dentists and dermatologists, the traditional medicine sellers and pirated DVDs with the unsteady hand held cameras and audience laughter.  Bits and pieces of traditionas are kept alive and well in the back streets.

Pretty cages

The back streets tell us about life when no-one is looking, when no-one is trying to create a ‘good’ look or conformity or make a personal political statement.  The back streets are reality.  They show us what is happening and important to people on a daily basis.

Not welcome

The other bits of life that we rarely think about are also on the back streets.  The less pretty stuff.   The low prices of the goods remind that not everyone can afford the nice stuff in the big shops 2 or 3 streets over.  That there are thieves and beggars and the down and out.  That health and comfort don’t extend to all.


The back streets give clues about policy.  The old enclaves are being destroyed and the familes who have lived in those areas for generations are being moved out to new ‘modern’, ‘safe’ buildings.  Social structures are destroyed in the process, those who may band together to disagree are being separated, those who want to maintain a traditional lifestyle are being moved away from the networks that supported it.

The back streets tell many stories if we only look and listen.



  1. Hello Lotus Eater,

    I’m doing some research on teaching in China and remember you from your posts at Raoul’s China Saloon. I would be extremely grateful if you could contact me via my e-mail address and complete a questionnaire.

    Slim Pickens

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