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Charity flea market draws crowds
By Nie Xin

KEEP it or dump it? It's always a question for Gao Liyan, a 38-year-old housewife, whose closet is filled with garments she made herself, from coats to sweaters.

"I like making clothes at home, but it's annoying when there's no place to keep them. My friends suggested I go to a flea market to sell or trade them," Gao says.

So last weekend (January 12-13) she participated in the Charity Flea Market for the first time.

Flea markets featuring second-hand clothes, accessories, home wares, books and CDs are becoming popular in Shanghai, especially among young people who look for creative items. The venues include low-rent restaurants, creative hubs in old factories and shopping malls.

The Charity Flea Market (公益家) is one of the city's largest markets for handicrafts, attracting locals and expats interested in charity, art design, hand-made crafts, recycling and environmental protection.

The flea market, which started in 2008, is usually held once or twice on weekends each month. It moved from a small restaurant on Nanjiing Road E. to 1933 Old Millfun and other creative parks. Now it operates at Shengyuan Plaza in Zhabei District and the next gathering is February 2 and 3.

Last weekend as many as 3,000 people visited 50 stalls.

Ni Jia, a 24-year-old local and flea market regular, says she's glad to find low-cost handmade crafts, magazines, books, clothes, kitchenware, household items, toys, pet items, appliances and artwork.

Ni calls herself a "flea market-holic." She first bought two pairs of earrings made of old porcelain at Liang Weimei's stall at the Charity Flea Market in Shengyuan Plaza.

Guangxi-native Liang designs and makes her own products and has been a regular charity market stall owner for three years since 2010 at 1933 Old Millfun. Today the 25-year-old runs two stalls, one selling scarves, gloves and hats, the other handicrafts, jewelry and small toys made of china from Jingdezhen, regarded as "China's capital of china ware" in Jiangxi Province.

Her DIY accessories cost from 20 to 70 yuan (US$3-US$11), and she earned 300 yuan in one hour on the first day of market last weekend. Daily turnover was around 1,000 yuan.

"The success of the first event surprised me and inspired me to continue this meaningful action," says Zhang Lanlan, the 32-year-old founder of the Charity Flea Market.

She came up with the idea in 2008, while she was working in a Japanese company and volunteering to teach English at a primary school for migrant children in Minhang District.

Japanese have a culture of flea markets and buying and selling second-hand items for recycling and charity. Zhang's Japanese friends inspired her to start her own flea market.

The first Charity Flea Market in November 2008 was relatively small, with only 30 stalls and 500 visitors at a restaurant on Nanjing Road E. It drew Zhang's friends, Japanese colleagues and expats who learned about it from the Internet.

The next year the market moved to 1933 Old Millfun on Shajing Road in the North Bund area.

Through those social network websites like Douban, the flea market became popular, especially among young women who like fashionable and interesting items.

Zhang has quit her job and now devotes all her time and energy to the charity flea market in which she has five regular partners. Many college students who visited the market have become volunteers.

Tan Yue is a university senior majoring in finance and working as an intern at an insurance company. She used to volunteer and help out the organizers. Now she minds stalls.

"Taking part in these activities is a good opportunity for students to get to know the larger society and help us prepare for life after graduation," says Tan. Making friends is a plus.

The market charges each vendor 160 yuan for two days. Tickets cost 1 yuan.

All profit is donated to the primary school for migrant children in Minhang District to build a library and sometimes buy eggs for them. The market also donates winter shoes and clothes and buys eggs for the pupils in Shanghai and other towns.

The market cooperates with other charity organizations too.

"It's very meaningful that our charity flea market can attract other charity organizations to join in. Collaborating, sharing some resources and information gives us more energy to help people in need," Zhang says.

Xingeng Workshop, a charity organization, runs a stall at the Charity Flea Market of handmade soaps, accessories, craft items and plants.

Established in 2007, Xingeng helps underprivileged people with physical and mental disabilities. It operates a workshop where people learn to make handicrafts, which are sold, says Li Fangfang, a 22-year-old Henan Province native who has been working for the organization for two months.

"It (Charity Flea Market) is a good platform for us to exchange ideas and help needy people," says Li.

Since it started four years ago, the Charity Flea Market also attracts middle-aged people who want to save money on second-hand products.

"We hope flea market culture will be accepted by more people who support recycling and charity," founder Zhang says.

Charity Flea Market

Date: February 2-3, 10am-8:30pm

Venue: Shengyuan Plaza, 777 Liuying Rd

Tel: 1351-2191-980, 1376-1993-866

Website: www.gongyijia.com

Other flea markets in Shanghai

Dreams Flea Market

This market is regularly held on the last Sunday of every month along SOHO Liyuan, a creative office space in Huangpu District. Anyone can open a stall for a day, selling items and making friends. A wide range of new and second-hand items is on offer. Food and drinks are available. The market is limited to 20 stalls and two food stalls each month. Stalls measuring 1.5 square meters costs 200 yuan.

Date: January 27, 11am-5pm

Venue: No. 565-9, Level 2, Liyuan Rd, near Jumen Rd

Reservation: Nonrefundable deposits required on Taobao (dreamsfleamarket.taobao.com).

Wuguantang Flea Market

This established flea market is regularly held on the 13th day of each month inside Wuguantang vegetarian restaurant on Xinhua Road. On offer are second-hand items including clothes, accessories, books, CDs and original hand-made crafts.

Date: February 13, 2-4pm

Venue: Wuguantang vegetarian restaurant, 349 Xinhua Rd

Reservations and information: 6281-3695

Customer Service: (86-21) 52920164