Come explore the unique intersection of private and public life that characterizes traditional markets in the heartland of Taiwanese culture. Combining history and personal stories, this warmly intimate portrait is complemented by vivid illustrations that bring the complex social spaces of these traditional markets to life.
The public markets of Tainan, the ancient capitol of Taiwan, evoke nostalgia for a bygone era of slow-paced living and tight-knit community. Some markets remain staunchly traditional, while others have adapted to the times, but the intimate connections between customers and vendors will always endure. The patchwork of stalls, with piping hot baked goods and vegetables exchanging hands adjacent to shelves of home improvement hardware and racks of undergarments, forms a unique landscape that reflects the livelihoods, lifestyles, and ongoing evolution of the local community.
Through the candid prose of author Chen Chiang-An, readers will tour four of Tainan’s surviving public markets. The historical background of each market is followed by personal stories of a variety of vendors, twenty in all. One fried food stall dates back to the Japanese colonial era, having been run by one family for three generations. A vendor selling undergarments and pajamas recalls the roaring years of Taiwan’s economic miracle. A noodle stall, a more recent venture, was opened by middle-aged partners looking for a career change. The faded tones of Lin Chih-Wei’s abundant illustrations are reminiscent of old photographs, helping to situate these contemporary subjects within an environment well-marked by the passing years.
An intimate visual and textual record, Old Markets, Old City documents the unique characters of four public markets, highlighting the intersection of old and new, public and private, that characterizes these important economic and cultural hubs.