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LIVING IN CHINA

The Weirdest Singles Day Products of 2021

What were the most imaginative products on China’s top e-commerce platform this year?

Each November 11, also known as the “Singles Day” shopping festival, TWOC compiles a round-up of some of the most imaginative products China’s e-commerce merchants have tried to sell online.

With 2021’s edition of the world’s biggest shopping event poised to overtake all previous years’ numbers, with 550 billion RMB’s worth of sales forecast, so too have the weirdest products on e-commerce app Taobao grown even more creative this year.

A once-in-a-lifetime deal or an “IQ tax (智商税)?” Will you regret it when the balance comes due? You decide. TWOC bears no responsibility for any of the listings.

Professional sleep-inducement

professional sleep-inducement

A Taobao shop sells the services of a “sleep inducer” (Taobao)

Price range

30 – 100 RMB per half-hour, or 150 – 600 for a whole day

What?

With insomnia on the rise among China’s stressed-out, phone-addicted millennials, sales of all sleep-aid products have been at an all-time high. The weirdest of the bunch, though, has to be this service: hiring someone talk to you over a video or voice call, tell you stories, play you songs and ASMR noises, and otherwise try to put you to sleep. The service is also available over WeChat and QQ groups, as well as various apps dedicated to tracking and improving the user’s sleep. Some sleep-inducers on Taobao also offer their services in waking you up in the morning, or comforting you when you’re down.

One merchant TWOC messaged on Taobao prices their services by hour, ranks their sleep-inducers by level of experience and “emotional intelligence,” and states that customers can change to speaking to a different service provider within five minutes if they are unsatisfied with the experience. However, if the customer fails to go to sleep, they can only obtain a refund if the sleep-inducer is obviously at fault.

Messages from African children

African children Chinese greeting

Adverts for well-wishes from children in Africa (Zhihu)

Price range

Depends on the content: 50 – 300 RMB all available

What?

What’s Taobao without a whiff of racist exploitation? Screenshots have periodically surfaced online showing e-merchants offering to shoot videos of “African children” (and sometimes “Indian children,” or adults supposedly from an African country) shouting a birthday greeting, wedding wish, advertisement, or other customized messages in Chinese for the client. Often, the children will be standing beside a chalkboard with the same message written in Chinese characters. TWOC was unable find this exact service on Taobao, but did locate plenty of similar listings for customized videos with well-wishes shouted by muscular men, assorted foreigners, “Ukrainian beauties,” and “influencers.”

chinese messages shouted

Taobao merchants selling greetings and well-wishes from “muscular men” and “foreigners” (Taobao)

Face-shapers

chinese face shaper and chinese face roller

These products on Taobao claim to help customers achieve the coveted “V”-shaped jaw (Taobao)

Price range

50 – 360 RMB

What?

China’s would-be influencers go to extreme lengths, including dangerous new forms of cosmetic surgery, to achieve the so-called “internet celebrity face (网红脸)”: pointy chin, high-bridged nose, and Bambi eyes. For the faint of heart, check out the “face-slimming sling,” promoted by none other than China’s top e-commerce influencer Li Jiaqi, which purports to tighten and moisturize the skin and create that desired “V” shape to your lower face if you simply wear it two or more hours a day for one to two months. The “silicone face-roller” claims to achieve the same effect if you roll it over your lower jaws every day.

Want something interactive instead? The “face-exerciser” is a small balloon which you can blow on for a recommended three minutes per day to get rid of your double chin. Or consider the “smile-maker” an instrument shaped like a duckbill you can hold in your mouth for three 15-second sets, twice a day, to achieve curvier lips. For slimming and raising the bridge of the nose, you can sleep with the nose-shaping clamp…if not for all the reviews saying it’s impossible to breathe with it on.

chinese cosmetic aids

The “smile-maker”(bottom left), “face-exerciser” (top left), and nose-shaping clamp (Taobao)

Great Hall of the People ceiling light

Great Hall of the People ceiling

Get that political feel to your next boardroom discussion with this meeting room light (Taobao)

Price range

182.7 RMB (164.43 RMB on Singles Day) for a basic two-tiered fixture 45 cm in diameter, increasing with the size

What?

Boost the dignity of your meeting rooms, or just your apartment, with this light fixture modeled on the famous starry ceiling in the auditorium of the Great Hall of the People, the meeting place of China’s top legislature. The original was designed in the late 1950s by a team of well-known architects including Zhao Dongri and Zhang Bo.

Luck

good luck for sale on taobao

Luck for sale on Taobao (Taobao)

Price range

0.1 RMB per unit

What?

Like the “IQ Top-Up” and “A Lesson” featured in our previous lists, this seems to be the latest iteration of pointless Taobao listings that asks you to send merchants money for no tangible product in return. In this case, you simply purchase as many “units” of good luck as you feel is needed. Reviews indicate it is mostly purchased in order to meet the minimum purchase needed to qualify for free shipping or discounts on the merchant’s other products…and just maybe, ace that upcoming exam too.

Genius toilet paper

china toilet paper math equations

Learn while you poop with the “genius toilet paper” (Taobao)

Price range

A Singles Day deal of 20.8 RMB for six rolls

What?

Chinese authorities may be taking action to reduce the burden of study on primary school students by banning after school tutoring and homework assignment at the lower grades, but the pressure of entrance exams for high school and college remain as high as ever. If you’re worried that your student’s grades might go down the toilet, consider a gift of toilet paper printed with study materials—such as English vocabulary, physics equations, or Tang poetry—so they don’t waste a single moment of potential exam-prep time during the day.

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author

Hatty Liu is the managing editor of The World of Chinese.

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