Walking through the narrow alleys crowded by the sellers of planters and stones, you will soon reach the East Lake Antique Market of Haikou. Gathering in groups, some people crouch down and exam a piece of work carefully; some argue and bargain intensely, while others just stand by, watching. All kinds of stuff can be seen along the road, such as ancient coins, jade wares, china wares, books, works of art, bronze wares, wood sculptures, and so on.
As for when the market came into being, there is no clue. In the memory of the local, in 1980s or so, some antique sellers spontaneously gathered beside Haikou Cultural Activities Center. Thus, an antique market came into being, which is also the first one in Haikou. Every Sunday, the market is packed with excited antique fans. The antique stalls open on Sunday only, regardless of weather of the day. Later, the market moved several times, and finally settled down beside the East Lake.
Different from Beijing’s Panjiayuan Antique Market and Nanjing Confucius Temple (Nanjing Fuzimiao), the antique market in Haikou has its own rules: it only opens before 11 a.m. each Sunday. As for the exact time, no one can really tell. Some say it is 6 a.m., while some say 4 a.m. Some people even wait by the lake as early as 1 a.m., so that they might get the first look at the items. Before the sun rises, people have begun doing business with torches in their hands. Beside the lake, the moving lights twinkle in the darkness, appearing like will-o’-the-wisps, so the market is also nicknamed “ghost market”.
Due to its unique tradition, the East Lake Antique Market attracts many visitors to come. Later, a large-scaled huali wood market took shape inside it. Reddish and firm, huali wood looks like sandalwood and its value is only second to that of red sandalwood. Early in the Tang Dynasty, people have realized its value and begun to make use of it. Due to earth quality and other factors, huali grown in different places have different quality and color. Hainan is the largest huali producer in China. Hainan huali boasts both beautiful wood grain and wonderful scent. Compared to the huali elsewhere, the oil content of Hainan huali can reach 3.8%, much higher than 0.3% of Thai huali and 0.8% of Vietnam huali. Furniture made of Hainan huali has such a smooth quality that it has both nice color and durability without the help of paint. Therefore, hunting authentic huali becomes an interesting thing to do in the antique market.
Antiques not only witness history, but also enrich a city’s culture. The East Lake Antique Market becomes a window for those who want to know more about Haikou.