Serendip is an independent site partnering with faculty at multiple colleges and universities around the world. Happy exploring!

Play in Night Market

Cathy Zhou's picture

Play in Night Market

There was a conflict going on in my mind when I found the Night Market is on Thursday, at night. I have midterms on Friday and Saturday, and that should be an intensive night for me. But I know I would go, I know this the first time I saw the ads in Chinatown, it is something that means more than a good grade for me. Night Market is something rooted in my memories, with flashing lights, crowds, sweet smell of marshmallows in the air, and loud bargain sounds.

When I proposed to go there on Thursday, I thought there would be nobody with me, but it turns out that all the Chinese in the class wants to go to the event. When it comes to Night Market in Chinatown, nobody from China wants to miss it.

It’s the first Night Market I went to in Philly, but I feel there’s nothing really fresh and surprising in playing, instead, the fun I found in here is all about familiarity.

Back to my childhood, night market is one big thing to expect in my tiny world. In the summer, my grandparents would take me to a big square after dinner, and there would have little booths standing closely to each other, with colorful lights in the front of them. My favorite things in there are certainly toys----they have the cheapest Barbie and car models, and I was allowed to pick one for each kind. That was my hardest choice to make in my life. My grandparents would hold my hands really tightly and tell me not to walk around in the crowds otherwise I would be caught by bad people and sold to uncultivated villages. I was frightened by the stories they made up, and looked up (I was a short girl) at all the strangers in a very alert gaze. But the night market was beautiful----with all the lights of different colors projected on the items, the bargaining sounds echoing in the grounds, all the snacks with smells that would evoke my appetite,

But they no longer exist when I grow a little older, the government decided to shut down the night markets to keep the city safe.

The next time I went to a night market in Hong Kong, when I went on a walk the night before I took SAT and got lost with my friend. We walked passed the dark street and saw all the lights gathering in a walkway, it turns out to be the Night Market in HK. That was different than what we had in Chengdu, it’s more likely to be a place for adults, we saw people smoking on the streets, bargaining, swearing, laughing, and there wasn’t any food in the booths, just adult magazines, DVDs, and we ran all the way long the street to get out of there. The scene doesn’t have any welcoming atmosphere and drove us away.

When I walk into Chinatown, the place was already full of people, there was a big stage underneath the tablet, we saw the traditional Chinese “Lion performance”, people wearing the huge costume are dancing in the center of the crowds, which is what they have in China when big festival comes. It totally gave me a feeling of free and relaxed, when everyone cheers for the performers. The event was bigger than what I experienced in China, where we only have different small booths lining up on the streets, it is an aggregation of different culture: I saw Korean food, Japanese food, American bands, Chinese performance in the same area. The night was dark, but the lights from all over the streets lighted my night. We went around the street and had snacks, shopped for Chinese food, and went to Dim-Sum Garden for midnight food. That almost felt like China---even there were different cultural elements in there, we still filtered the Chinese part out to enjoy this feeling of familiarity. When I look around the streets, there were different people playing in the place: not only Asians, the local residents also came. But in here, the local Americans with Chinese food in their hands are more like tourists and outsiders than us.

The play in Night Market gave me lots of fun because I feel belonged in the scene, and therefore had many engagements in it, the Night Market in Philly seems like a more welcoming place for me than Hong Kong, because when the event is planned, the idea of a “recreated China” might have existed, that’s why we (Chinese students in America) would feel more comfortable in it. Like how Flanagan wrote about play: “The play space generates player pleasure and engagement, and this understanding translates to light-hearted, collaborative play experiences.” This way, we enjoyed the night market more than

However, I realized that when I think of “night market”, I always compare it with the ones I went with my grandparents back in my hometown, no matter how festive and impressive this Philadelphia one is, when I’m inside the crowds of people, having fun listening to music, it’s always the old pictures in my mind. My play in the night market of Hong Kong and Philadelphia both seemed to serve as a bridge to the short girl in the past. They aroused my memories back in the place I’m familiar with. It’s the same way as how I go to Sichuan’s restaurant when I travel around China, the same way as how I go to Chinatown in leisure time for fun. I tried to see something I’m familiar with in wherever I am. And that way I feel safe in play. Familiarity is the “safe zone” for me in playing.

When I walked out of Chinatown, across the huge tablet, I clearly recognized I am in United States. But the feeling back in the crowded market was just like China. I realized that the “play space” of Chinatown generates me more pleasure than my previous visits to Free Library and Magic Garden, because it is a place resonant with part of my memories. And the memories of it are going to be my future references to other space I go.



Frindle's picture

In the first paragraph, we

In the first paragraph, we see how much the Night Market means to Cathy. Clearly, it is something more important than grades. When reading this, I feel the pull to know more about why Night Market is so important to her, why she has decide that it comes first. In this way, she is playing with me: she's drawing me in to the rest of the essay, giving me just enough information to be interested. She is working to describe Night Market, what she remembers of it, and in response I have to use my own memories from other things I've done and seen to get an idea of what this would be like.

Samantha Plate's picture

Cathy begins the essay with a

Cathy begins the essay with a conflict. Should she go to the Night Market or study? She plays a game by presenting this delima which she quickly resolves saying she knew all along that she would go. She puts the reader in her mindset and shows us that there was a natural draw for her to go to the Night Market, something she couldn't resist. She then uses rapid imagery, like flicking through her memories to give the reader an idea of her experiences without giving the full picture. She plays a game by giving these snippits and it draws the reader in and makes us want to learn more about the Night Market and her connection to it.