Perhaps the most unexpected discovery in our market tour in Xi’an was a visit to a cricket shop. Yup, a LIVE cricket shop. I should preface this post with the fact that as a kid, I used to collect (find, trade, buy) spiders and keep them in matchboxes and (probably illegally) participate in after-school fights (matches) where the spiders tried to kill or maim the opposing spider. Yup. And I ENJOYED that immensely, as politically or environmentally incorrect as that might be to admit today. I had several fighting fish too. And oddly, I don’t remember particularly enjoying it, but I sat in the audience close to the ring for the historical Ali-Frazier fight billed the “Thrilla in Manila”. I used to marvel at the bright yellow green (my favorite variety) or black spiders in my stable, and went to great lengths to find them the snazziest matchboxes (not all matchboxes were the same) and feed them to make sure they were in fighting form. I’m not sure when this form of childhood amusement died out, but daughter thinks Dad and his barbaric classmates must have lived in the stone ages to take glee from watching spiders duel. But that’s the truth. :) Google fighting spiders as I just did for the first time in my life and it is a “thing” only in Japan, Singapore and the Philippines…
Our guide asked if we might be interested to see a shop with insects, and our curiosity piqued, we headed into this nondescript storefront in the middle of the market.
Dozens and dozens of colorful crickets in their condominiums were on display! Some were making incredibly melodious sounds and potential buyers can apparently sit there for hours trying to figure out which cricket has the most soothing, clear, shrill or natural cricket call of all. Apparently, folks buy these crickets, which don’t come cheap, and keep them in a cage in their homes where they will last for up to six months. You feed them like you would other pets, and in return, in the darkness, or even during the day, they reward you with the sounds of the outdoors/wild. How cool is that? Really cool.
For some reason my photos don’t capture how spectacular the coloration on the bodies of some of these crickets were. And the sounds they make, utterly wonderful!
The store also sells cages, from a few dollars to nearly $100 each, and I had my eye on these fine specimens made of bamboo. I was drawn to the craftsmanship and detailing of the work. I sorely wanted to bring crickets and cages home, but realized that violated several laws that could probably land me in jail.
So I just sat there for a while, much longer than the guide had probably planned on, and ended up buying two beautiful small cricket cages which now sit on a side table in our living room, to remind me of the younger days… Before we left the cricket store, the storekeeper asked if we wanted to fight some crickets (another variety) and Mrs. MM and I each chose a cricket for about $1 each and they were put in a clay bowl and had a quick aggressive fight where my cricket won. Still pick em well, even after all those decades in between… :) Evil grin. The vanquished cricket is sent to the doghouse, the winner is elevated in the eyes of the shop owner, and lives to fight another day.