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The Exotic Outdoor Chinese “菜市场 Food Market”

Nov. 23, 2016

There are many differences between life in western countries and life in China. One similarity is that we both need to eat, obviously! However, the way we go out for grocery shopping is often quite different.

The Supermarket

Over the past 100 years, in the USA most notably, the most common way to go out for grocery shopping has been to shop at a huge indoor store called the “supermarket,” or “超市 (chāoshì)” in Chinese. These often enormous grocery centers have prices clearly listed and buyers know exactly where to find what they need. Very few surprises! Western visitors in China will still be able to find a “超市 (chāoshì) supermarket” in large cities, but in the countryside, these modern supermarkets will not be as common.

Food Market

Although the supermarket has gained popularity in China with Chinese shoppers, Chinese families in the countryside, and many city-dwellers still prefer to shop at the more traditional (and exciting!) “菜市场 (càishìchǎng) food market.” The characteristics of a traditional Chinese market is that they are “热闹的 (rènào de) lively and noisy” and that the cost is “便宜的 (piányi de) cheap.” Be prepared for a wave of sights, smells and sounds when you hit the 菜市场 (càishìchǎng). You may want to wear boots, not flip flops!

In addition to being a great place to shop and take pictures, the “菜市场 (càishìchǎng)” is a wonderful place to practice your Chinese! First, you can try out your vocabulary, because there are “种类多的 (zhǒnglèi duō de) multiple kinds of” food available at the “菜市场 (càishìchǎng).” Also, you can practice your numbers and negotiation skills because you can “砍价 (kǎnjià) bargain” here. Be confident and practice in a realistic, natural way!

Let’s break down “菜市场 (càishìchǎng)”:

菜 (cài), noun, vegetables or food;
市场 (shìchǎng), noun, market.

Examples of “菜市场 (càishìchǎng)” used in a sentence:

1. Jīntiān qù guàng càishìchǎng ba, jiā lǐ méi cài le.
   今天    去   逛       菜市场      吧,家里 没 菜 了。
   Let’s go to the food market today. There are no vegetables at home.

2. Tiān ā, càishìchǎng de dōngxi bǐ chāoshì piányi duō le.
   天  啊,  菜市场      的  东西    比  超市    便宜   多  了。
   Oh my god, the groceries in the food market are much cheaper than those of the supermarket.


1. If you want to practice your negotiation skills, you can shop at a Chinese:

A. 超市 (chāoshì)
B. 菜市场 (càishìchǎng)
C. 家 (jiā)
See Answer

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Great article thanks!

Hi T. Thank you for the comment. And I’m glad that you like this article. (*^__^*)

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