Travellers in Taiwan often find themselves enchanted by the dulcet green hue of jade. Our friend, Liezl, is one of them, and I accompanied her on her quest to procure some of the beautiful stone at Taipei’s Jianguo Holiday Jade Market. The weekend jade bazaar is nestled under an elevated highway like a little cave; inside vendors snake their tables down in the endless windowless gloom.
The market is full of bangles, Buddhas, teapots, trinkets, pendants, combs, earrings, and silvers for as far as the eye can see.
Some stalls are neatly arranged, whereas others are completely chaotic. We found one stall selling a beautiful jacket with a hefty NT $5000 (£110) price-tag. The lady was nice enough to let us try it on before asking the price; when she told us she gave a wry smile.
The market contains both real and fake jade, and the same with silver too. Liezl was set on getting the real deal, I on the other hand was only concerned with getting pseudo-goods for the inexpensive price they should be. Beads and bangles are sold all around the market for around NT$100 (£2.20), but pendants and genuine jade products can reach up to NT$30,000 (£665).
The impression I got quite quickly was that bartering was certainly key, but that you don’t haggle the same way as you do in mainland China. For sure in most markets in Taiwan, things are priced pretty close to their worth and haggling usually only saves you the pennies. China, on the other hand, was a bubonic hub of ferocious haggling. You’re expected to barter down to at least half the initial price, but a realistic good price would be 20% of the initial price. In Taipei’s Jade Market, I’ve read that haggling is certainly required, unlike in the street markets, but not to the same extent as in China. You should be trying to buy for about 60% of the initial price.
I think perhaps the Taiwanese are too friendly to be true hagglers. In China whenever I walked around a market, the vendors were like snapdragons; their only concern was making as much money as they could off of you, especially if you’re a foreigner. The Taiwanese seem to be too good at heart: they let you walk away from their stall, in China they chase you, you ask for a lower price and they usually cede if it’s not a ridiculous difference.
Say: The essential phrase: “duō shǎo qián?” (How much does it cost?), which you should follow with “tài guì la” (it’s too expensive). If you can understand Chinese numbers too, it will hold you in good stead. I’ve often found that sellers are likely to lower the price if you speak a bit of broken Chinese, rather than appear to be a completely dumbstruck Westerner.
Buy: all sorts. In fact, I only bought two silver leaves to make into earrings and a copper-wire Egyptian-shaped necklace that I now need to find a pendant for. Not any jade at all! To be honest, it’s a good place just to browse and get an idea of what’s around.
Research: what you’re buying. I found this article really useful as it’s a more comprehensive guide to shopping at Taipei’s Jade Market from a first-hand perspective.
Read: Adventure Smells’ post on Getting Jaded, In A Good Way to learn a bit about faux-jade in Yilan’s night market.
Beware: The market is long and repetitious, soon you will start to see the same thing over and over again, so by the end you’ll probably feel jaded.
How to get there?
Once in Taipei, take the MRT to Da-an Station. Walk along Sec.3 Xinyi Road to Jianguo South Road and turn right. Walk all the way through the flower market and the Jade Market will be straight ahead of you under the elevated highway.