After so many years here, we rarely see anything “new.” But this recently made me do a double-take:
I’ve passed this woman twice now, and each time I asked about her on Weixin (what we use in China instead of Facebook). It’s a handy way to get interesting answers to cultural questions (like that time my superstitious neighbours made me uproot trees I’d planted in our shared grass area). Also, “What turtle?” 什么龟 and “What the heck?!” 什么鬼 are near homophones (shénme guī/guǐ), so it’s fun. You usually get a variety of answers because even if various regions share similar traditions, sometimes the stories and reasons behind them are different. But I couldn’t get much of a consensus on this one, except for: “It’s a scam!”
Weixin friends gave me various explanations. Here’s a sampling:
She’s advertising a traditional turtle soup (very nutritious!) 炖汤很滋补。见过有人停车买。
She’s selling turtles 路边卖老鳖
She’s extorting Buddhists, who will pay her to let the turtle go free (but then she’ll go catch it again!) 悲催的乌龟先生被人贩子以积德行善名义高价卖给有缘人(一般会是信佛教的人)去放生，然后他会偷偷的跟着买家等放生后用一种技巧召回乌龟，继续卖。周而复始……我弟弟亲眼见过，而且这样的人喜欢在河附近的大马路上卖乌龟。有人会做大补的食物买去，也有人会被卖家说服了去放生。“Miserable Mr. Turtle, kidnapped in order to be sold at a high price to those fated to accumulate merit through good works (usually its people who believe in Buddhism) who buy them to set them free, and then he’ll secretly follow the buyer and wait until after its been released, and use a special trick to call the turtle back and continue selling it. Over and over again… My younger brother saw it with his own eyes, also this kind of person likes to sell turtles near rivers. Some people make a really nutritious food to sell, other people will be convinced by the seller to release it for merit.”
Chinese medicine 中药
She’s scamming people (the most common response, but other than saying she’s passing off raised turtles as wild turtles, most people wouldn’t elaborate) 骗人的 / 忽悠人的 / 这个人是骗子
This not-yet-opened overpass arcs between brand new apartment complexes on its way to eventually run past three big shopping malls and a subway transfer station. But one last patch of protested, illegally bulldozedpíngfáng 平房 currently stands in the way.
This is one of at least four regular exercise dance groups in our neighbourhood.
This kind of mass public exercise dancing is called guǎngchǎng wǔ 广场舞, sometimes literally but confusingly translated “square dancing” (think Tiananmen ‘Square’ as in plaza, not line dancing and square dancing). In larger public spaces a block or two away, hundreds of people do this together.
Cold and darkness doesn’t stop them from snaking slow circles around the public spaces in our neighbourhood, but this night at least one of the lights was working.
This rubble marks the last undeveloped plot in that particular city block. The protest banner faces the canal that used to hold Qingdao’s biggest traditional market, which has now been cleared off and is nearly finished its transformation into a riverwalk.
When we first moved to this area four years ago, we saw a couple kilometers’ worth of traditional buildings and neighbourhoods straddling and a massive, unregulated openair market. But from a birds’ eye view you’d see it as an island of Chinese blue collar chaos in a sea of rapid urban consumer-class development — on all sides glitzy malls, expensive apartment complexes, and subway station construction rumbled on incessantly. As fun as it was to live close-to-but-not-in that old school area, we guessed that it’d mostly be gone in five years’ time.
Black on white is the usual protest banner colour scheme (white on black ribbons are for funerals, red on white banners are for government propaganda, and advertising usually uses white or yellow on red).