With only ten days left in Beijing, I’m realizing how many things I’ve left undone. The Summer Palace… Fragrant Hills… the Chinese Businessman Museum!
It’s ugly, so you might not notice it. It’s in Sihui, so it’s hell to reach. It’s expensive, so who wants to enter.
And it’s also a lie.
The museum has nothing to do with Chinese businessmen. It’s all about Shanxi businessmen. Shopkeepers and traders from a small state, hundreds of miles away.
And as the maxim goes, “Wherever there are sparrows, there are bound to be Shanxi merchants.”
They traveled by camel…
…even to Russia.
This dapper pair hawked cha to Old Hairy (老毛子) in Kikhta.
Old Hairy paid with money that looked like this.
I love trannies, too.
Shanxi traders were bold. “Jin Shang merchants were undaunted on the bandit-infested grasslands,” one sign read.
They were also inventors, taking ownership of many of China’s creations. Maotai White Liquor — too often claimed by Guizhou for the name (a town in Guizhou), the factories (Guizhou), the creation (in Guizhou) — was actually created by a Shanxi Businessman. Really!
Same goes for Pockmarked-Face Wang’s Scissors and Kitchen Knives, and even China’s favorite pickles, Liu Bi Ju.
Okay, it all sounded a little suspicious. These boasts sat on the edge of “protesting too much.”
But I wanted to believe in this museum, and in their crazy claims. Even after their misleading name, high ticket price, and inconvenient location, I still felt bad for Shanxi — if not for their businessmen.
After all, Shanxi has been f***ed by the rest of China. The relentless coal mining has left it one of the most polluted parts of the country — which makes it one of the most polluted in the world. It boasts six times the national average of birth defects. Residents are too poor to go to doctors.
At least leave them their pride for yesterday.
Plus, they’ve got thousands of chops and abaci and paddle-scales. Thousands.
And they also have this.
Can you get more awesome?
The Chinese Businessmen Museum (晋商博物馆)
50元 / US$8 admission
“58 Jianguo Road” — possibly — or just follow Chang’an Jie a few blocks beyond Sihui Station. On the south side.
9am to 5pm daily