This article from Vice describes a journalist's trouble spending a Chinese banknote that frightens nearly every person it's presented to.
I have a very special Chinese banknote. It’s only worth ten Yuan, but it might be the most precious object I own. The front of the note shows a drawing of the former leader of the Communist Party, Mao Zedong. Rumour has it, he spent every night with the young, virginal daughters of different farmers, because he believed popping cherries was the key to eternal youth. But that little factoid is not what makes this banknote so special. What’s special about my banknote is that in China – a country where everything is about money, money and more money – nobody accepts the damn thing. It’s practically worthless. And I now understand why.
At first sight, it was just an ordinary 10 Yuan. Mao, a small rose and the official logo of the Communist Party were on the front, while a charming Chinese mountain scene with rivers was on the back. But if you look closer, you’ll see the stamps. Amy pointed them out to me a few days after the incident. There were Chinese characters on the bill that didn’t belong there. “This is anti-Communist Party,” she said. “The note says you have to abandon the Party in order to be free.”
In China, protesting against the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is dangerous – especially if you disrupt the public peace. And in China this is a pretty broad concept. Just take Weibo, the Chinese version of Twitter, for instance. If you are retweeted more than 500 times on Weibo with a message that the CCP deems inappropriate, you’ll end up spending years in prison. Every form of protest is suppressed and severely punished. And still, there I was with this banknote of ten Yuan in my hand telling me to leave the Party. How was this possible? In China, it was impossible to answer the question. Nobody wanted to discuss the bill with me. But the more people turned me down to talk about it, the more I wanted to solve the mystery of my strange banknote.
After my trip in China, I travelled to the Netherlands. Although, I was finally beyond the reach of the CCP, I didn’t even know where to start in terms getting to the bottom of the banknote. So, I brought it with me to Amsterdam’s Chinatown to ask some Chinese-Dutch folks exactly what it means, hoping they’d spill the beans or point me in the right direction.
On a rainy day, after cowardly passing by ten times or so, I stepped into a Chinese acupuncturist’s office. Behind the counter, I found a man who was about 40 years old, sporting a white coat. I told him my story – that a restaurant in China wouldn’t accept my banknote and that I had no idea why. The man grabbed the note from me and analysed its front and back. Then he glared at me and threw the bill in my face. “This is not good,” he said. “This is a bad movement against the Chinese Communist Party. This is Falun Gong. This is not good at all.” That’s the only thing he would to say about it. Before it got too awkward, I quickly thanked him and ran out of the store.
I finally found someone willing to openly discuss my strange Chinese currency – sinologist Stefan Landsberger from Leiden University translated the stamp on the bill in the following way:
How many prophets have warned
Humanity knows great decay
Retreat from the ranks and levels of the Chinese Communist Party
And wait for the moment till the Great Law will guard peace
The note that I intercepted was printed in 2005. It has, including the stamp, been able to circulate among the people of China for a maximum of nine years, without the CCP ever finding out about it. The most recent stamped bills were printed in 2011. I wonder if still, somewhere in a secret place in China, someone is stamping banknotes with Mao, a rose, a charming Chinese mountain scenery and a bold protest slogan.
To read the complete article, see:
I Have a Chinese Banknote That Everyone in China Is Scared of
Wayne Homren, Editor
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