Shops and Commerce

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The Spring Festival Along the River provides a wealth of detail on the varieties of commercial activity of its day.  Kaifeng, like other large cities, had developed into a vast trading center, in addition to being the political seat of the country.  This economic expansion was aided by an increasingly sophisticated transportation network and the establishment of trade guilds that specialized in movement of commodities over land and through the Grand Canal by large-scale merchants and itinerant peddlers.  The more easily goods were moved throughout the country, the more local specialization in production was possible, and overall production as a result increased dramatically.  


What kinds of shops are depicted in the image below?  What do you make of the overall placement of these kinds of establishments in relation to each other? Is this a busy district?  Based on the activities you see taking place, can you guess what time of day it might be?



A close-up view of vendors on the rainbow bridge, below, shows a different type of commercial setting.  

What advantages and disadvantages do you think this particular location might have had for the stall operators?

The gentleman seated at the center of the table is a prognosticator by trade; his signs advertise his fortune telling abilities.  

Who do you think his clients might be, and for help with what types of questions would a prognosticator be consulted?




The scene below is framed by the following signs: across the front, The Family of Assistant Zhao; next to the women, facing front, Care for the Five Wounds and Seven Injuries and Deficiencies of Speech; perpendicular to the shop front, facing right, Regulation of Alcohol-related Illnesses and Prevention of Injury, Genuine Prescriptions of the Collected Fragrances Remedy.  

What do you think is occurring in this scene? 

These vendors' tables are located just off a busy street corner near the inner city wall.  Compare their situation to that of the small merchants on the  rainbow bridge (above, the second image on this page). 

How would the type and volume of business have varied by location? How would strategies of attracting customers have differed?



Note: the signs behind the fence identify the permanent shops behind these temporary vendors; the larger sign to the left (behind the seated man) is for a wine shop of "Premium Quality", and the other narrow sign to the right (partially obscured by a column) indicates a silk merchant's shop.


What are these men doing?


Do you think this endeavor is a private enterprise or a public service?

What trade are these men practicing?  How do you think their business was impacted by technological and economic development during the Song ? 


What do you think might be the purpose of the scaffolding-like structure that sits on top of this building?  How are other buildings in the painting elaborated in appearance? What kinds of activities seem to be happening here?


Move on to Means of Transportation