In the 2000s, UCLA’s Hong Kong Student Society (HKSS) hosted night markets in Bruin Plaza, inviting a variety of vendors to sell traditional Hong Kong street food and merchandise. Among the products sold were curry fish balls, dim sum, boba, zodiac jades and jewelry. Although this no longer takes place on campus, we can continue to celebrate unique aspects of APIDA culture by understanding more about Chinese night markets and what they symbolize.
Originating in China with the Tang dynasty during 618-907 AD, night markets are a “cultural melting pot” for the APIDA community. They began naturally as an economic grassroots setting for neighborhoods to sell and share resources; vendors would set up shop along the street and everyone – men, women, children and grandparents alike – would mingle.
Although the commodities being traded within night markets change with the times, the communal and close-knit feel of these markets is timeless. To many APIDA individuals, night markets are not just a chance to shop and consume our ethnic foods; they also serve as a center for social interaction. Rarely do we find an environment as culturally rich as these night markets.
“When people stroll night markets, […] they want to indulge in the special consumer pleasures and feelings that arise from being amid the noisy hubbub and chaos of crowds,” Shuenn-Der Yu, a researcher at the Academia Sinica’s Institute of Ethnology, said. “People feed off the crowd’s energy.”
Today, night markets are less common in the United States, but a notable one is the 626 Night Market that takes place every summer in select California counties. The closest one to UCLA is located at the Arcadia Racetrack — only 45 minutes away from campus. If you’re looking for a chance to experience a traditional Chinese-style food market, 626 Night Market is the right place for you. They boast a unique lineup of vendors and products: handmade jewelry, anime posters, caviar rolls, plant-themed ice cream cups, shakeable ramen and even cotton candy burritos. To properly celebrate APIDA culture is to immerse yourself in it, so check it out if you can.