Wednesday, September 1, 2010

My Visit to the Madian Stamp Market in Beijing, China

It’s sad that Mr. Bin, the stamp seller, would not be able to read this blog and see his picture on the net because just like Twitter and Facebook, Blogger is also restricted in China. There is broadband connection is every Shangri-la hotel in China but there are so many sites you can’t visit. Our eloquent guide Jason, who majored in English and international tourism, told us that since the “Chinese workers union revolt”, early this year, most blog sites were restricted; and he lost several Facebook friends.

We went to the Madian district which was a smooth 45 minute ride from our hotel (luckily there was no traffic that morning) to look for the Stamp and Coin market which was located at No. 23, Huangsi Street, Xicheng District, (tel. number: 62040626). The staff at our hotel was kind enough to call the number to verify their address and to translate the address into Chinese. They hailed a cab and told the driver to take us there, further instructing us that the ride will cost between 30-40 yuan. It is a good idea a take pictures of your want list on your camera or camera phone so that you can show them the exact item you are looking for. Majority of the Chinese nationals doesn’t speak a word of English so common words like music and stamps are alien to them. So, I also got the Chinese for stamps (youpiao) and music (I forgot now) before we left. When they saw the picture, they immediately knew what I wanted.

In July of this year, China Post issued a set of foreign musicians in stamps- Bach, Beethoven, Haydn and Mozart, and I wanted to get these from its original country of origin. I was able to obtain all the four stamps (in strips of 4) and the first day covers. I was also able to buy the stamp of Tai Chuan-Hsien, the composer of the Banner song of Taiwan and a sheet of musicians from North Korea. I was also looking for the first day cover of the China anthem composer Nie Er, but it wasn't available, so I got a block of four instead.

The seller asked us where we were from, and after telling them we were from the Philippines, he displayed a sinister grin and pointed his fingers to his head- like a gun- and conveyed his dismay on the recent hostage taking by a disgruntled Filipino military man, killing 8 Chinese nationals. Bang bang bang…he said chuckling as he announced to the other stall vendors we were from the Philippines. He was very cordial and quick to get the items. It was a good thing that I had a picture of the stamp I wanted on my phone.

China has slowly evolved from a hard core communist to a quasi-democracy/capitalist country. Although with some restrictions, you can do whatever you want in China. Although they need to smile more, it's people are now tourist friendly. I learned many things in our short visit to China. I learned to respect their people and culture and to admire the many wonderful things they have contributed to the world. Basing on what I saw and experience, China's economy will surpass that of the United States in the next 20 years. Indeed, the dragon has awakened, and we, the rest of the world are now trembling.