Article by Nicholas F.Corliss
Xi’an is the type of city that truly comes alive at night, especially during these hot summer days. People gather together for various reasons: enjoying BBQ (KaoRou), stretching those limbs in coordinated dances, enjoying favorite drinks at a local watering hole. The list goes on. No matter the reason, it’s hard to miss the electric feeling in the atmosphere and a sense to want to join in on the fun. Breaching the cultural barrier isn’t always smooth for a foreigner, however there’s a place which makes you feel a part of the family all the same. It’s the night market at Zhong Shan Gate (just north of East Gate) called YongXingFang (永兴坊).
It’s not difficult to find, as you’ll be able to see the crowds pouring in and perhaps catch a live singing performance. With those catchy Chinese tunes bouncing around inside your head, you’ll begin exploring the area, which is littered with stalls selling traditional Shaanxi snacks and small trinkets. When I went there, I opted for one of my favorites, HuLuJi (葫芦鸡), which you can find in the central congregational area. They hand you some spice and a pair of gloves and you’re free to tear it apart piece by piece, grabbing whichever part tickles your fancy. No chopsticks required. Coupled with an ice cold TsingTao, there’s not much that can measure up to the experience.
If you’re already quite full, then you can head to the “wine drinking/bowl breaking” spectacle which generally draws enormous crowds. You will file into line; pay the nice attendant while he prepares rice wine in a shallow clay bowl. You will then take the tray along with you to the pile of broken bowls, proceed to make your cheers (or prayers, whatever you’re into) drink the wine from the bowl and smash it into the pile. Make sure when you throw the bowl it smashes or else it doesn’t count! This is designed to be enjoyed with friends, so if you’re in a group then it’s something everyone can join in on. Don’t forget to ZhanPian while you’re there!
These are just a few of the many possibilities at YongXingFang. Stalls are designated based on the area of Shaanxi which they represent. There are a variety of different roujiamo’s for instance, each with their own pizzazz and spin on the classic many of us have grown to love. There’s a number of sweets available too, persimmon cakes (one of my personal favs), candies, mulberry juice, ice cream, nut treats, and more. For all you noodle lovers out there, they have the classic Biang-Biang Style, as well as single “belt-sized” noodles which are sure to make you slurp.
As I introduced, people go out at night for a number of different reasons, however YongXingFang seems to contain just about everything you’d want. As you’re winding through the maze of tight alleyways and brushing by your fellow Chinese citizens, there’s a familial feeling to the whole experience. Attendants are friendly and some even know a little English. If you valiantly claim, “Wo Yao Yi Ge! Duo Shou Qian?” they’ll likely flatter you by saying, “Ni De Zhong Wen Shi Hen Bang!” That’s what comradery, community, and courtesy is all about.
Nicholas is an educationist and technologist. He enjoys being active by way of athletics, travelling, and gallavanting.