5 of the weirdest offerings from China's Singles' Day

Singles’ Day online shopping festival in China brought in $100 billion in 24 hours. A jar of sunlight (above) was one of the weirder items offered for sale.
PHOTO: Tmall

China’s annual online shopping festival Singles’ Day has come a long way in 11 years.

Launched on Nov 11, 2009, by e-commerce giant Alibaba Group Holding – owner of the South China Morning Post – as a celebration for people who are not in relationships, it has since overtaken other major shopping events including Black Friday and Cyber Monday in the United States, and is used as a bellwether for trends in Chinese consumer spending.

This year, shoppers spent a record US$74 billion (S$100 billion) in 24 hours. Here are some of the quirkiest things they could buy on the various e-commerce sites taking part.

1. Shrunken skull

A miniature skull, one of the weirder items sold online on Singles’ Day.
​​​​​​PHOTO: Tmall

For less than US$5, people can get their hands on a miniature model skull. It is meant for people to practice drawing and painting, and it comes in all sizes and colors.

But apparently, some buyers have used it for more nefarious purposes. As one comment says, “It has scared my friend to death”.

2. A jar of sunlight

A screen shot of a jar of sunlight sold online on Singles' Day in China.
PHOTO: Tmall

A “creative gift for your friends and children”, read the ad for this product – a jar with a solar battery in its lid.

During the daytime, you can leave it open to charge and “collect sunlight”; at night, when you put the lid back on, the battery powers up the lightbulb inside the jar, turning it into a colourful lamp. Singles’ Day buyers could snap one up for between 29 yuan (S$6) and 59 yuan, depending on the size.

3. Live medical leeches

You could even buy live medicinal leeches. 

For 38 yuan, Singles’ Day shoppers could buy five live leeches. While they were being sold by a pet shop, they were advertised for use on the human body for medical purposes.

The shop gives instructions on how to use the leeches: keep the room temperature at 20 deg to 26 deg C, wash your skin, and place the leeches on your skin. After they finish sucking your blood, they fall off.

4. Have your fortune told online

This gentleman offered to read your fortune online.
PHOTO: Tmall

An elderly gentleman in a sweatshirt and glasses looks straight at you, above a caption that reads “Providing answers until you are satisfied”, in an advertisement for online fortune telling.

For 35 yuan, he promises to tell you about your marriage, career, financial luck, education or anything else you ask, once you provide him with the date of your birthday.

More than 2,000 people have left comments about the product, with many saying “extremely accurate”. But most know it’s just for comfort. As one commenter wrote: “I don’t care whether he’s accurate, I just wanted to calm myself during the difficult times.”

5. Noodles customised with your name

Someone was offering bespoke noodles printed with a name.
PHOTO: courtesy of Tmall

For a heavily discounted 28 yuan (down from 87 yuan), you could have your name, blessing or anything else – even the entire Book of Songs – written on noodles. The idea is to surprise a loved one when you cook them dinner.

One buyer said her friend was surprised when she cooked her noodles for a birthday, and found the words “happy birthday” printed.

This article was first published in South China Morning Post.