Chinese news bites are known to test the reader's capacity for disbelief. Take this story of an old woman in Guangdong province, for example. She reportedly lost a lot of money when termites ate her cash. Apparently, she had put away 400,000 yuan (about $65,000) in a plastic bag in a wooden drawer, but when she retrieved her stash six months later, she discovered a sticky, shredded pile of practically useless bills instead.
According to reports, the unidentified woman then took her money to an Agricultural Bank of China branch, where employees scanned and verified each note. The bank ended up saving most of her cash, but she still lost close to $10,000.
Today, we look at similar news items from China. These stories make for good reading, so we've gathered five of them here.
1. Chinese Man Buys Fake Bank He Thought Up Himself
To imagine something big is one thing, but what can we say of someone who goes out of his way to tell everyone about buying his own pipe dream?
Because he probably had an inspired moment of insight, and presumably some pretend money to spare, rice trader Lin Chunping pulled a bank out his hat and then signed a make-believe check to pay for it. He didn't have to buy his own conceit, not even with some made-up cash, but Lin was probably feeling generous. He thought of a bank and then paid for it because to just imagine something big without buying it is lame and decidedly unremarkable.
But what really separated him from your typical crackpot was the fact that he didn't stop while he was ahead. An ordinary nut would have left it at that, happy with just sealing a silly deal, but Lin, thinking magnificent thoughts, went for broke and rode his cross-eyed horse past the point of no return. In his head he had just done something spectacular, but instead of snickering to himself like a common fool, he chose to comb his hair, wear a tie, and let everyone know about his whimsical achievements.
Everyone believed him, of course, after he got his chance to tell his tale. Because he was in China, everyone took his word for it. The state media picked up his story and made him, in next to no time, the poster boy of China's supposed global dominance. The public, hearing of his rustic roots, immediately embraced him as a hero. The government gave him a place in his hometown's local council because the Party was possibly impressed with how he put one over the Americans.
The yarn he tried to peddle was all dazzle and drama. He apparently spearheaded negotiations to acquire the Atlantic Bank, a struggling 85-year-old institution based in Delaware. Because of his charm and legendary business savvy, the talks only took two years to close out (sizable takeovers seldom happen overnight). After much back and forth, he agreed to purchase the bank for a cool $60 million. He then renamed his acquisition USA New HSBC Federation Consortium Incorporated to round out the transaction. He had nothing to do with London's HSBC Holdings, but Lin was shooting for the moon.
The whole spectacle, which lasted about a month, was eventually shot to pieces after several Chinese journalists finally got to work. They poked around, and found no document supporting Lin's story. They found no Atlantic Bank in Delaware, for that matter. (They did find a place called Delaware, though, which presumably gave the saga a small measure of geographic credibility.)
Lin became the target of police investigations after his lies were exposed. Although he made no money off his claims, he was nonetheless arrested a few months after he supposedly bought the Atlantic Bank. According to authorities, he had been selling counterfeit tax receipts. He had been faking his own invoices as well to avoid paying government fees. In 2013, he was found guilty of fraud and was sentenced to life imprisonment. He had previously spent three and a half years behind bars for credit card fraud.
Fast Facts: Banking is an old Chinese endeavor. Credit transactions were common in ancient China. Redeemable government certificates got their start in the Tang dynasty (618-907), while banking as we know it became a Chinese fixture by the Song dynasty (960-1279).
2. Chinese Crook Returns Contacts (But Keeps iPhone)
Thieves are evil (by definition), but a man from Hunan province also learned that there are more to thieves than meet the eyes.
Changsha resident Zou Bin lost his phone after sharing a cab with strangers. He learned, quite belatedly, that a drunk and his iPhone are really soon parted. Top-heavy thanks to a stag party, Zou took an illegal taxi with three other commuters and then lost his phone along the way. He admitted that he was out cold for most of the trip.
The following morning, Zou tried to get his iPhone back by swamping his own number with threatening messages. He wanted to scare the stranger who took his phone, so he told him he was a bartender.
Bartenders don't always inspire fear, but in China bartenders have implied connections to the mob. "Just have a look through my contacts and you will see who I am," Zou reportedly told the thief. He wanted the thief to know that he had friends in low places.
To Zou's surprise, the thief did more than just look at his contacts lists. Four days after he lost his phone, Zou received a package from the thief. The package contained Zou's missing SIM card and 11 pages of names, numbers, and email addresses. The thief, perhaps feeling magnanimous, had copied Zou's entire contacts list by hand.
"All of the numbers were handwritten," Zou told Hunan's Xiaoxiao Morning Herald. "It must have given him a swollen hand."
Fast Facts: iPhones are not entirely made in China. Technologies like audio components and transmit modules are sourced out to several American suppliers that may or may not have offshore facilities (many of these companies outsource their own fabrication). Batteries and chipsets come from South Korea (via Samsung). Cameras come from Japan (via Sony). Gyroscopic sensors are made in Europe. Assembly happens in various plants in China and at Foxconn in Taiwan.
3. Chinese Man Tires of Shopping, Kills Self
To many women, shopping is therapeutic. A 38-year-old man in Jiangsu province showed everyone, though, that shopping can also lead to suicide.
Tao Hsiao had been shopping with his girlfriend at the Golden Eagle Shopping Center in Xuzhou when he decided to end it all. He had had enough of shopping, so he killed himself. According to reports, Tao jumped seven stories to his death.
Other shoppers reportedly overheard the pair arguing before Tao committed suicide. Tao allegedly told off his girlfriend after she asked to go to another shoe store. She had already bought several pairs, so he let her hear it. He reminded her that they had been shopping nonstop for five hours.
His girlfriend, for her part, supposedly scolded Tao for spoiling Christmas. She called him a tightwad, among other names, while presumably insisting on buying more shoes.
The couple bickered in front of other shoppers until Tao snapped at some point. He threw away their shopping bags and, in one quick motion, jumped over the railings. He crashed into Christmas furnishings as he fell to his death.
Responding authorities declared Tao dead on the spot. No one else was injured in the incident.
Fast Facts: New South China Mall is the world's largest mall (in terms of gross leasable area). Located in Dongguan, the mall has enough space for 2,350 shops. Because of poor market research and impractical logistics, the mall has been a flop since day one. Much of the mall remains unused to this day.
4. Chinese Man Uses Hamburger to Smuggle Pet Turtle
Wanting to be with his pet turtle on a three-hour flight to Beijing, a man in Guangdong province attempted what was previously undreamt of in the history of aviation: He tried to pass off a hard-shelled reptile as a fast-food hamburger.
Security staff at the Guangzhou Baiyun International Airport could hardly believe their eyes when they made out what seemed to be a four-legged hamburger. The curious thing, hidden inside the bag of a man identified only as Li (first name not given), was picked up by X-ray machines on the morning of July 29, 2013. The burger, according to reports, was clearly identifiable.
The four stubby limbs, though, were a mystery. Airport personnel thought the appendages looked like turtle legs, so they asked Li to open his bag.
Li, however, merely laughed at their faces. He told authorities that there was nothing special in his luggage. When questioned, he maintained that he was only carrying a hamburger and was certainly smuggling no turtle.
Airport officials nonetheless insisted on checking Li's belongings. Li, adamant, continued to swear on the ordinariness of his burger, but when it became clear that he and his quadruped takeaway were going nowhere without a proper inspection, Li at length agreed to a once over.
As expected, airport security found a live turtle among Li's effects. The turtle, accepting its role in the drama stoically, was tucked between two KFC burger buns.
Li only got a slap on the wrist for trying to smuggle an animal aboard a plane. He didn't get booked for anything because in China a turtle flanked by two slices of bread can pass for a filling airline meal.
Li told airport officials that he only hid his pet because he couldn't stand being away from his turtle. He exposed his pet to harmful doses of radiation, humiliation, and fast food cholesterol because he loved his turtle so much.
In the end, Li left his pet in the care of a friend. He took the flight to Beijing alone.
Fast Facts: Turtles make for good pets, but in China turtles also make for good food, good medicine, and good keychains. Turtles have always been a part of the Chinese experience, but rampant harvesting has led to decimated turtle populations in China and in Southeast Asia.
5. Chinese Man Drinks Gasoline for Health
Gasoline cures nothing, but to septuagenarian Chen Dejun gasoline is the best medicine. For his health, this laborer from Shuijiang takes no pill from the pharmacy. To keep himself going, he takes a glassful of gasoline instead.
Chen has given up on aspirin a long time ago. When pain hits him, he goes straight to his friendly neighborhood petrol station. In fact, on days when he feels OK, he takes a gulp of gasoline just the same.
Chen began his motor fuel habit in 1969. He started with kerosene, before moving on to gasoline. He took up the practice after over-the-counter pills failed to ease the pain in his chest.
Today, Chen knocks back petrol in sickness or in health. He downs about 4 liters of the liquid per month, or around as much as what a fuel-efficient car consumes on a 100-kilometer run. So far, Chen has put away around 2,000 liters of motor fuel, or just about enough gas to power 60 sedans on a one-way drive from Los Angeles to San Francisco.
While he believes that gasoline is the apple to his health, his petrol habit has unfortunately also kept him apart from his loved ones. His wife Yuan Huibi and their three sons have tried many times to discourage him from drinking gasoline, but their disapproval only made Chen resent his family. Because he doesn't want anyone cramping his style, he moved out of their home in 2003.
Chen has lived alone in a hut on a hill in the Nanchuan district of southwest China's Chongqing municipality ever since. While his family is nearby, he continues to support himself by weaving bamboo and cutting stones. He buys his gasoline from a station at the foot of the hill.
Although motor fuel has zero therapeutic value, Chen remains to this day convinced of its healing power. At any rate, his petrol habit appears to be doing him no harm. Chen has emphysema, but otherwise he looks OK. He has repeatedly turned down free medical care.
Fast Facts: China is the largest energy consumer in the world. China is second to the U.S. in terms of oil consumption, and is first overall in terms of coal consumption. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, China accounts for about half of the world's coal consumption.