Shopping finds: Don't eat these walnuts, roll them

Shopping finds: Don't eat these walnuts, roll them
Wenwanhetao walnuts are also popular as ornamental items.

BEIJING - In and around Beijing, you'll often see men rolling two walnuts in one of their hands. Called "wenwanhetao," these are different from edible walnuts. Wenwanhetao were reportedly known as marks of status among the imperial family during the Qing Dynasty and eventually spread among common people.

In addition to promoting good blood circulation by stimulating the palm, wenwanhetao can increase in market value. Shiny walnuts that have been rolled carefully for a long time are popular among people who use them.

A variety of walnuts are available at the wholesale store run by Lu Gong, 40, of Heilongjiang Province in Beijing's famous Pan Jia Yuan Antique Market, ranging from a highly affordable pair costing 2 yuan (about S$0.43) to ultraexpensive pairs costing tens of thousands of yuan.

They are named according to their patterns, with such monikers as "full of stars" or "giraffe pattern."

Told by Lu that the finest walnuts have a special feel, I tried to roll a pair of 10,000 yuan walnuts with a name meaning "Chinese big flower." Maybe it was because I already knew the price, but I felt as if my blood circulation had suddenly improved.

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