Chinese Stories in English
If you like small business, you’ll love China. A street vendor is about as small as you can get, and China has millions of them. Here’s a few from Liuzhou.
This one (you can see her leg on the left side of the photo) was
selling snake oil in front of Saddle Mountain Park in Liuzhou. The
critters were real but dead and dried out. The snake oil was
packaged in old Coke bottles which the vendor would let go for
only 10 Yuan (≈$1.61) each. She claimed that external application
would relieve pain anywhere on your body, but especially the
The bowls with black liquid in them are "testers". The vendor
was inviting passers-by to daub some on wherever it hurt, and if
it didn’t work, they didn't have to buy. The guy in the upper right
had just rubbed some between his toes, for athlete's foot, I guess,
and he bought a bottle after he got his shoes back on. I had a bit of a headache but decided not to try the stuff.
China has regulations to govern sales of medicine but is lax on enforcement. Officials get interested if people die after using a product, but aside from that, the rules are often ignored in favor of "let the buyer beware." Even buying from a drugstore can be risky, let alone a street vendor. Many locals find one drugstore they trust and never shop anywhere else.
In the U.S., Tea Partiers want to promote small business by getting rid of regulations, which I think would make the U.S. more like China. The next time someone tells you that regulations are throttling American businesses, ask them to specify which particular regulations they don’t like. Pin them down and
don’t let them get away with generalities, unless you like snake oil.
This guy had a neat little scam going. He had a small cardboard
disc with a "2" on one side and a "5" on the other, written in such
a way that it was hard to tell the difference unless you got a close
look. The same numbers were written the same way on a piece of
paper on the ground. The guy would flip the disc into a bowl and
quickly cover it – gamblers would guess which number had landed
face up and put their money on the appropriate square on the
paper. Strangely enough, the number with the most money on it
almost always seemed to lose.
I couldn't get a good picture because the guy started to pick his
stuff up as soon as I pulled out my camera. I think maybe his dog
warned him. He was right back at it after I walked away, though. I
tried to find him again a few days later, to sneak up and get a
better picture, but he’d disappeared. I assume he moves around
frequently to stay one step ahead of the law (not to mention
The bald guy in the robe is a Buddhist monk. He was selling
prayer beads, amulets, and the like for 10 Yuan each. The sign in
front of his table says “A Lifetime of Peace.” The lady had just
bought a bracelet and the monk was saying a prayer as he put it
on her wrist. (I don't know if he charged extra for the prayer.)
I usually ask for permission before taking photos of people, but
I didn’t this time. Maybe I was thinking of my experience with the
gambler. Anyway, the lady was justifiably unhappy with me. She apparently didn’t like being caught with her superstitions down. I wonder if she thinks that praying to Buddha is more effective than praying to Jesus.
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