Late Night Preparations for an Early Day’s Trade

Preparing a freshly netted catch for wholesale distribution on the dark streets of inner-city Keelung.
Preparing a freshly netted catch for wholesale distribution on the dark streets of inner-city Keelung.

You wouldn’t really know it from visiting during more social hours, but from 2-6am every day Xiàoyī Road 孝一路 in the gloomy Northern port city of Keelung 基隆市 transforms into the largest seafood trading zone in Northern Taiwan: Kànzǐdǐng Fish Market 崁仔頂漁市場.

I took this photo at around 7:30pm during a rainy day wander in the area, and already vendors were un-shuttering their shops, readying their wares, and preparing for the coming morning’s short burst of chaotic commerce. This lone trader was busy gutting some freshly caught squid under the harsh fluorescent lighting outside his business — presumably to sell to restaurants and supermarkets once proceedings get underway.

The sign out front is rather interesting as it actually reads from right to left: 洽利漁行 or ‘Qiàlì Fish Traders’ if you don’t mind a somewhat rough translation. It’s now commonplace for written Chinese to be horizontally oriented, and read left-to-right like most Western languages, but historically texts were originally written in vertical columns and read right-to-left, top-to-bottom. Even with Western influences popularising the former approach, many small businesses — particularly those wanting to appear more traditional — will either stick to the old ways for their signboards or opt for a more hybrid approach as seen in this example. As an extra tidbit, if you look closely you can see two guardian statues clinging to the metal just below the sign itself — though I can’t make them out clear enough to get a positive ID.

For more info on the fish market, Alexander Synaptic has got you covered with this informative piece, including plenty of extra photos of it in full swing.

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