I’m writing this on September 11 instead of the 10th as I was really tired yesterday and went to bed early; besides, I had to be up at the crack of dawn to catch my flight. I’m writing this in the First Class lounge at the airport as I watch the Chinese version of “You have talent” where individuals come try to dazzle the judges and audience. My favorite thus far has been the boy band; their version of InSync.
Anyway, I want to share yesterday’s adventure as it was such fun and many of you have emailed me requesting I post more. Thanks from the encouragement. I’m pleased to hear from you and love receiving your comments. I’m pleased you feel you’re experiencing this adventure with me; as Jenny stated. You can also post comments on my website as well and I’ll respond. I plan to upload more pictures (I’ve taken over 100 thus far) and even make a slide show video once I return and can download the software my camera needs to connect with the computer. I did create a video for you all when we were out to dinner with Dr. Ma. I’ll post that as well.
So here’s the details about yesterday’s adventure.
I told James (Jian Zhun) I wanted to search for sexual artifacts and so we headed for the Antique Market. It’s a large outdoor complex that has hundreds of merchants gathered around in each other in a big square with indoor stores the size of a large closet bordering them about 30 feet away. It seemed the outdoor vendors were the ones doing the most business. The indoor merchants also had much higher prices.
We were immediately tagged as the “buyers” to watch and offer items to. Not only because I was in search of sexual artifacts but because I was the only American—Foreigner in the market. And it seems I’m a rarity there.
You really have to experience the nuances and the unique “culture” of a marketplace. Unlike the Flea Markets in the US, this marketplace has a sense of anticipation and good natured haggling that goes on in varying degrees and volumes. As the haggling gets started and escalates, passersby stop to witness and you quickly get surrounded. Witnesses then oh and ah as the parties go back and forth and they watch as the purchaser inspects the merchandise. It’s customary for the buyer to adamantly inspect the merchandise pointed out flaws (even if imaginary or due to age). This is done to justify bringing down the price. It’s good for the buyer and also for the seller as he doesn’t feel like he’s “giving away” the item. The negotiations continue as prices lower and the merchant makes faces and claims you’re trying to “steal” the item from him at such a low price. Sometimes they’ll stay firm on an item and James would have us walk away. Sure enough about five minutes later, the merchant would seek us out and offer it for the price we wanted or bring his price a little lower. If we continue to refuse, he’d come back in another five and demand we take it for our “ridiculously low price” or he offers a lower rate still. Typically, you’ll get the item for about two-thirds lower than what he originally asked for.
Another part that I found really charming was that the merchants have a small stool in front of their area. You then sit down (they’re sitting too) and you explore the different items they offer. You can pick them up, examine them, offer your price and then haggle.
James is a master haggler! He smiled shyly as he admitted he loves the thrill of it. Altogether I purchased twelve items total for approximately $287. I’m providing you with the price because you won’t believe all the items I purchased and their ridiculously low price. The most expensive item I purchased was a small Flogger with a fox jaw for a handle that one of the merchants had as a decoration on one of her purses. Her purses are so unique and this flogger was perfect for upclose usage I just had to have it despite her firm price of 300 Yuan (RMB). I didn’t even want to haggle for it. As for everything else we had to haggle even when I wanted the item and James would simply head to another stall.
I learned quickly the “culture of haggling”. James would tell the merchant what I was looking for and they would produce it or say they didn’t have such things as it was against the rules to sell them there. Yet of course, several merchants had various items tucked away here and there. After I perused the item and told James I wanted it, he would haggle. I would pretend disinterest and look at other items. I only asked once or twice how much they wanted while James continued his negotiations. He would then tell me the person’s final price and I would state whether it was acceptable to me. If not, we’d walk away. If James felt he could get a better price, he’d start walking away. It didn’t fail, every time the merchants would approach us in about five minutes to offer the price a little lower and haggle a bit more. Also, you wanted to have the bag you purchased from a vendor showing so this way people knew you were actually buying and not just looking and thus wasting their time.
The first item offered was exactly what I was looking for and my enthusiasm set a very high price; 600 RMB (Yuan) over $100. (See picture above.) I quickly learned not to be so enthusiastic about what I saw especially if I liked it. James would haggle the price and quickly proved to them he was no slouch. He haggled like a pro complete with hand gestures and incredulity at the asking price. He’d look over his glasses at each item, turning it this way and that way, commenting on each apparent flaw it had. We actually walked away from the first item because the asking price was way too high. This was also a strategic move on James’ part as it allowed the other merchants to know we wouldn’t pay outrageous prices and would merely buy from others.
We did end up purchasing the item about 15-minutes later when the merchant approached us and offered it for only 180 yuan after we purchased another item from a different vendor. This particular item was so beautiful and has so much history I can’t believe I found it on the first try. It’s a cooper mirror which was given to young maidens when they were married. It’s thick and has words on the front and the cooper would gleam so you could see yourself reflected in it on the back. It looks like a wheel. The top comes off to review various depictions of sexual acts. Yep, you heard me correctly! Hidden within the mirror is carved depictions of sexual acts. Like anal sex, doggie style, and missionary. There’s eight different acts shown altogether on the inside of the mirror and on the inside lid. I hope you’re able to see the pictures clearly I’ve taken.
The next item I purchased was an actual “Prostitute Coin”. This coin would be purchased from the establishment “manager” for a set fee. You would then present it to the prostitute of your choice. The front of the coin has four words written on it. You read them in sequence. Top, bottom, left, and right as you would say something different to your wife than you would the prostitute. The back side has four sexual acts: missionary with either man or woman on top, standing up, or doggie style. I purchased it for 80 RMB. (Note RMB & yuan are the names used for Chinese currency and are interchangeable. The exchange rate is approximately 5.2 or 6, if you’re lucky. Thus you divide everything by 5.2 to get the US dollar value. Therefore, the coin cost me $15.38 and the copper mirror $34.61.) Ok here’s a funny thing that happened. After purchasing the flogger and the prostitute coin it dawned on me that I was walking through a marketplace “with a flogger and a prostitute coin” and if in ancient times, I could purchase a male prostitute for a little while. I thought that was just hilarious and James and I laughed when we both realized the possibilities.
I also purchased two Female Buddhas or Female fairies made of wood. She’s said to be a female Buddha because she’s emerging from the lotus flower. The craftsmanship is astonishing. You can see every exquisite detail of the woman and the flower.
Another item we were offered once the merchants knew what I was looking for was what’s called a Loving Buddha with his mate joined in intercourse in white cooper. This one is a bit funny because the woman’s breasts are set to the sides of her chest as if protruding from her ribcage. I wasn’t thrilled by it, but it was unique and would make a good addition to my collection.
There was a marvelous snuff bottle that I found made of ox bone. It’s white and black. The detail of this piece is exquisite. On one side you have a couple engaged in oral sex; the man performing it on the woman. He’s is sitting on the ground with his knees bent and feet flat on the ground while she’s standing before him, her forearm resting on his head, her head thrown back in ecstasy. There is a table behind him with a plant on it. And the scene is encircled by a lovely tree. The depictions of the man and woman craved are of an older more traditional Chinese couple. The male having the long ponytail which you see grazing down his back to his butt. The woman has her hair up in a bun at the back. The other side of the snuff bottle depicts the couple engaged in a sexual act where they’re both standing and he’s drawing her to him. There is a tower to the back of her symbolizing prosperity. I’m so pleased we found this bottle. The cravings are exquisite and show every detail including the pleasure on the woman’s face. (I’m going to have to do research on the pieces to see the actual eras they’re from however this one is about 75 to 100 years old as are most of the others.)
A few other minor items found were:
- a little porcelain bottle with nudes depicted on them
- a stone bottle with two craved windows (one on each side) with an inner porcelain carousel depicting nudes in a peek-a-boo fashion
- a stone penis
- a stone vulva
- And a smiling Buddha that reminded me so much of the Buddha at Fahai Temple I considered it an omen to remind me of sacrifices we must make in various parts of our lives. Even if it’s as simple as climbing up a steep flight of stairs three stories up to discover a priceless treasure.
Though I love all the treasures I found, among my favorites is the cooper bottle opener that’s got the face of a bird and body of a frog on one side and the back side has the hand covering the genitals. From speaking with Dr. Ma, a fellow Sexologist and collector of sexual artifacts and antiquities here in Beijing, traditionally the male was often represented as a bird of some kind or a cock (think rooster here not dick). The woman was depicted as a frog. This piece was highly symbolic for me as I saw it as a Chinese version of an ankh which I always wear around my neck.
Funny isn’t it how our cultures vary in how men and women are represented in objects and animal form. I advised Dr. Ma of the fact that in the US men are sometimes depicted as frogs. I shared the story of the princess who has to kiss many frogs in order to find her prince. He thought it quite comical.
All in all, we spent approximately three hours in the market haggling and finding items. I also purchased a stone—nut actually—from South Africa. They make decorative items with them. However, I enjoyed the feel of it and wanted to use it as a worry stone. I’ve seen the same item in the states ranging from $20 to $100. I purchased mine for 20 yuan. The nut stone is placed in water than rubbed until it shines brightly and it’s natural color comes out. There are natural groves in the nut which makes it appear as if someone actually craved it. Think of the grooves on a walnut and you have some idea. Only these are more elegant and the groves are embedded. Typically the color is like a caramel and brown mix, however, some have turned red or green. One merchant stated the nut turned red after he’d used it as a bracelet for a while. Extraordinary!
After the market we went to eat. Again, great choices made by James. Plus, there was one item made of a sticky dough that literally looked like a little white pig. Inside it was filled with meat. Delicious but a bit gooy.
James needed to leave us after lunch to receive his departure certificate from work as he is leaving his current employer to start another job with another firm. In China, you must have your current employer approve your departure from the company. The employer would then write a letter to your new employer advising him that he “releases you from his employ”. Without this letter, your new boss cannot hire you. James stated that everyone has a file that’s transferred from employer to employer which details all the jobs you’ve had and your positions with that company. I’m sure it even has evaluations of your performance in the file. The only time I ever heard of a file like that was in the military. It’s always fascinating for me to discover the various customs of other cultures.
Ok so here are a few tidbits for today:
- The air quality is bad in Beijing. Unlike Los Angeles where you actually see the brown smog, here you don’t but after a few days of breathing the air you’ll start to feel it. At first I thought I’d pulled a muscle in my chest because I’m carrying my backpack everywhere and it gets a little heavy given everything it in. (Water, camera, id info, tissue and wipes, and more. After a few hours, all that really starts to weigh.) Yet, it wasn’t the load of my backpack, it’s the air quality that has me feeling like I’ve spent the day in a smokers’ club. I’ve ensured to drink tea several times a day to help keep my throat clear, drinking plenty of water, and taking two tablets of Airborne to keep my immune system at peak performance. The Airborne has actually helped keep me healthy and has given me energy. I believe Guangzhou’s air quality isn’t much better as it’s also a major district however, we’ll soon learn.
- It’s customary when someone hands you something, they do so with both hands. This denotes respect. You’ll typically see this at the hotels, in restaurants, and other places where you are receiving service of some kind.
- They don’t use the word “bathroom” or “toilet” here. They say “laboratory” like the British do. Trust me, this is very important because when you have to go and you say, “Where’s the bathroom—the toilet?” and the person you ask who does speak English looks at you like you have a hole in your head and has to call over her friends to help decipher your words, it becomes a little embarrassing. Especially when you try to make the gesture of hold it in by crossing your legs and putting your hands over your genitals and they look at you as if you’re in pain. I was actually on the airplane when this happened. For a few minutes there, I thought I was on the first plane “not to have a bathroom.” The word for bathroom is ce suo. The “c” is pronounced with a “t” sound. Definitely a word to remember.
- I have to talk about traffic and the way people drive here. The highway isn’t so bad since the lanes are divided and aside from people using the emergency lane to help them during traffic jams, driving is not much different here than any other city or country. However, inner city driving is mind boggling and nerve wrecking! I consider some of the intersections we crossed, in particular those that have heavy traffic, as a “suicide shuffle”. Just close your eyes for a moment as I describe it for you. The light has changed in your favor and there is traffic coming at you from all directions—crossing in front and behind you, as well as coming at you from either side. Throw into the mix people on scooters and bicycles making their way across your path, plus don’t forget the people crossing the street and picking their way through traffic at the same time. Definitely my depiction of a suicide shuffle. I’m not saying this from a negative standpoint but Chinese driving is chaotic at best. I’ve driven in several countries—the US of course, Germany, Venezuela and Scotland—I refuse to drive in Puerto Rico, talk about crazy drivers (I know, I’m from there)—yet, China is by far the most exhilarating driving experience by far. You definitely have to stay on your toes when driving and have exceptional reflexes as people are either tailgating you (or you them) and cars are jumping in front of you with inches to spare as you’re all driving as fast as you can. I commend my driver for his expertise and ensuring my safety. I will miss him. Everyone should have a driver! smiles.
Today, I’m leaving Beijing and traveling to Guangzhou where I’ll meet with Tracy. Tomorrow Christine and Yuna arrive. Tomorrow, we’ll start reviewing the workshops I’ll perform and go over any further changes they may have. I’m trying to ensure I provide the information they desire while taking into consideration cultural differences and customs. I will also have a few days in which to explore Guangzhou before I leave. They actually set up the workshops so I leave the following day. I have to laugh when I think about them quickly rushing me out of the country after I plant seeds for new ideas on sensuality and relationships. Not to mention, discussing ways to self-empower women. I am really looking forward to presenting these workshops.
One additional note before I end today’s Chronicles of China. I’m the only passenger in First Class. I feel like I have the plane to myself as everyone else is further back in the plane. Definitely the way I want to travel from now on. Smiles.
It’s only 11:44am and already my day has been full of new adventures since I awoke at 5am. For those of you that know me well, you know I’m rarely out of bed before 10:00 a.m. as I work till 3 or 4 in the morning as I provide private consultation for individuals overseas as well and they are anywhere from 6 – 18 hours ahead of me. My day typically starts with me reviewing my emails on my IPhone before I even get out of bed. Showering and getting ready then getting to work by 1:00 p.m. Breakfast for me is about 3:00 or 4:00 pm, I dislike eating within an hour or two of awaking. However, when on vacation or traveling on business, I’m always up at dawn—ready for a new adventure. Well, more tonight.
Please feel free to comment below as I continue sharing. If there’s any questions you have, please let me know.
Live with passion,