Taiwan’s Funeral Strippers Dance for the Dead

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Ok, what’s the last thing you’d expect to see at a funeral? So maybe stripper isn’t the first thing that pops into your head, but you have to admit it’s pretty darn strange. Apparently, in Taiwan, bringing a stripper to the funeral is an important part of the grieving process.

Taiwan’s funeral strippers would have probably remained a mystery to the western world, if not for the efforts of anthropologist Mark L. Moskowitz, who wanted to show US audiences what real culture is. His 40-minute documentary, Dancing for the Dead: Funeral Strippers in Taiwan, sheds light on the bizarre practice through interviews with strippers, government officials and common folk.

Funeral strippers are apparently a pretty big part of Taiwanese culture, especially in rural areas. Up to the mid 1980s, this kind of raunchy performances took place all over the island, even in the capital city of Taipei, but after authorities passed laws against it, it disappeared from urban settlements and moved to the country. The laws aren’t as easy to enforce there and people seem to enjoy going to a funeral knowing they’ll get some adult entertainment. Strippers usually arrive on the back of diesel trucks known as Electric Flower Cars, and perform in front of the dead and his mourners. The scantly-dressed girls do pole dancing, sing, and some even come down  from their stage to interact with the audience (sit on their laps, give lap dances, shove their heads into their breasts, etc.).

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Artificially Dyed Frogs Are the New Craze in China

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Just like tattooed gold fish and live turtles sealed in keychains, artificially dyed frogs have been sold in China for a few years now, despite complaints from animal activists and warnings from animal welfare experts.

It seems regular frogs weren’t cheerful-looking enough for some people, so they decided to add a bit more color to mother nature’s design, through modern technology. Using various devices and techniques, including lasers and bombarding the poor amphibians with large amounts of industrial chemicals which are absorbed by their skin, they create what is known as colored frogs. The colors are vibrant and apparently last for up to 4-5 years.

For some reason, many Chinese seem to like these radioactive-looking frogs, and they are in very high demand at aquariums and ponds across the country. Some even buy them as pets for their children, and vendors say people “like the bright colors because they are so cheerful”. Unfortunately, few of them understand that the high doses of chemicals are lethal as indicated by signs like “Not for human consumption” on the side of their tanks. Experts say thousands of tropical frogs could die as a result of this colored frog trend.

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Matchmaking Event Held Only for China’s Rich Bachelors

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Chinese bachelors (with enough cash in their bank accounts) who wanted to find a nice hot girlfriend, had a chance to pick from 60 beautiful women parading in swimsuits, during a rich-only matchmaking event, in Wuhan.

Beautiful girls dressed in sexy swimsuits parading on a small stage set up on a beach – that sounds a lot like a beauty pageant or a fashion show, except for the audience made-up almost exclusively of men who couldn’t take their eyes off the beautiful contestants. It was actually a special matchmaking event addressed to China’s rich bachelors. The 60 girls who paraded in front of their potential boyfriends had qualified from a previous round, and tried their best to prove they made suitable arm-candy.

In order to gain admittance to the event, the men had to pay a 99,999 ($15,425) fee and provide proof they owned assets of over 30 million yuan ($4,627,000) or had an annual income of at least 1 million yuan ($154,237). So the next time you’re in China and you see a hot  chick, check your pockets before making your move, you may have to qualify for a date.

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Indians Swallow Raw Fish to Cure Asthma

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India is known for the wide variety of folk remedies for various ailments, and one of the most popular right now is the raw-fish-swallowing therapy practiced by the Goud family, in Hyderabad.

Asthma is one of the most serious respiratory conditions a person can have, and since conventional medicine doesn’t offer a permanent cure, many are willing to try any kinds of treatment, no matter how bizarre. One of these is the fish swallowing cure offered by the Goud family, for the last 166 years. Every year, during the month of June, hundreds of thousands of people flock to Hyderabad to try this unusual remedy, on the day of Mrigashira Karthi. Around 500 volunteers administer the miracle cure: live 2-inch to 3-inch long murrel fish which have been fed a drop of the secret herbal formula the Goud’s claim cures asthma within three years.

Ingredients for the medicine are collected two-three months before the big day, mixed the day before using water from the Goud family’s well, and administered to asthma sufferers free of charge. The patient is advised not to eat or drink anything four hours before swallowing the raw fish and two hours after. Also, he must be aware that he must come back for the cure three consecutive years, if he wants to get rid of the asthma permanently.

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India’s Ram Ram Bank Gives Whole New Meaning to Banking

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It has no guards, no locks, offers no interest or credit schemes, and doesn’t event deal in money. Still, India’s unusual Ram Ram Bank, in New Delhi, serves over 5,000 happy customers, with more signing up every day.

Ram Ram Bank was established 25 years ago, by Tewari, a retired school teacher from Sitapur, who quit his job in 1983, after his guru advised him to devote his life to Lord Ram. He got the idea of opening a bank where people could deposit their “Ram naam” (pieces of paper with the Lord’s name scribbled hundreds of times). He didn’t need any security, since the writings were of no use to mere mortals, and all he had to do was deposit them and ocasionally take them to be displayed at a temple in Ayodhya, the birthplace of Ram.

Scribbling Ram naam notes has always been very popular in India. Some people say it helps them connect with God, others say the faith helps them work harder to achieve their goals, but all of them claim that writing Ram’s name just makes them feel better. In the past, everyone who wrote these holy notes traveled to Ayodhya themselves and deposited them at the temple, but in this day and age fewer people find the time to do it anymore. That’s where the Ram Ram Bank comes into play. All a person has to do is write his Ram naams every day and send them straight to the bank, or hand them over to one of the many volunteers around the city, at their own convenience.The pieces of paper are deposited in a small room, and taken to Ayodhya every six months.

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This Is What I Call a Smoking Car

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In celebration of the World Anti-Tobacco Day, campaigners in Mumbai, India, have created an impressive life-size car model from 200,000 cigarettes. The smokable installation was placed on display in a Mumbai shopping mall, where it attracted the attention of everyone who passed by. But it was the message in the background that really caught my eye; apparently an average smoker will make short work of the 200,000 cigarettes in just a few years…

India is currently the second largest producer and consumer of tobacco, after China. At least one fifth of India’s population (roughly 241 million people) consume tobacco in some form.

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Thai Temple Offers the Ultimate Chance at Rebirth

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Wat Prommanee, a Buddhist temple, 66 miles northeast of Bangkok, offers believers the chance to lay in a coffin for a few moments, then rise up and feel reborn…

I for one find coffins to be really creepy and I wouldn’t dream of lying down in one if someone paid me all the money in the world, but at Wat Prommanee people actually wait in line and pay a fee for a chance to do just that. It’s one of the strangest ceremonies in the world, but one that has been rising in popularity ever since the temple started practicing it, over six years ago. Nine colorful coffins dominate the main hall of Wat Prommanee Temple, and hundreds of people lie down in them every day, playing dead for about a minute and a half, listening to religious chants, and rise up at command feeling cleansed and relaxed.

Wat Prommanee basically offers a daily resurrection service that many Thais believe washes away bad luck and helps prolong their life. It makes sense that people wish for a second chance in life, especially when confronted with serious issues, but lying down in a decorated coffin hardly seems like a solution. I mean, what if it doesn’t change anything, right? Well, they just go back and do it again. The ceremony apparently relaxes them and gives them positive thoughts, so many people come back to Wat Prommanee Temple for the chance to be reborn several times over a few years. All they have to do is pay a small fee.

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Thai Temple Interior Inspired by Modern Sci-Fi Movies

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You’d probably expect temple murals to depict religious themes and Buddha, but the Wat Rong Khun temple in Chiang Rai isn’t your ordinary holy place, as you can easily tell by the murals.

According to Wikipedia, in 1997, Thai artist Chalermchai Kositpipat volunteered to carry out the work for Wat Rong Khun’s ubosol (the temple’s assembly hall) at his own expense, but he changed the original plan so drastically that it  began drawing in both local and foreign tourists, eager to see the white wonder. Just like Barcelona’s Sagrada Familia cathedral, the unconventional Buddhist and Hindu temple is still under construction and some say it won’t be finished in the next 100 years.

Wat Rong Khun is entirely white, to symbolize Lord Buddha’s purity, and the mirrors used signify his wisdom, which “shines brightly all over the Earth and the Universe.” There is also an impressive bridge across a sea of human hands reaching out towards the sky, but perhaps the most interesting thing about this unique temple is its interior artwork. The imagery is painted in golden tones, depicting sacred animals and spaceships alike. That’s right, futuristic spaceships piloted by robots, ans superheroes like Superman in flight, that’s what’s painted inside Wat Rong Khun. Other scenes you might recognize show popular characters like the Predator, Neo from Matrix, Spiderman, Batman, and even creatures from the Avatar movie.

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Chinese Woman Performs Surgery on Herself

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Wu Yuanbi, a 53-year-old woman, from Chongqing, China, has recently performed surgery on herself, with a common kitchen knife.

Wu, who works as a migrant worker, has been suffering from a chronic condition known as Budd-Chiari syndrome, for the last 13 years. This causes her stomach to gradually fill up with large quantities of fluid, rendering her unable to work and making id difficult to perform even the most simple tasks. Back in 2002, Wu and her family used all their life savings to pay for a medical procedure in which doctors removed 25 liters of fluid from her belly. Unfortunately, a relapse of the condition followed, and the woman found herself in need of a second surgery. However, she and her family were too poor to pay the 50,000 yuan ($7,686) fee, so Wu Yuanbi was forced to do something truly shocking.

One day, after her husband, Cao Yunhui, left for work, the woman slit her stomach open with a kitchen knife, desperate to relieve the pressure that had built up inside. She had to endure excruciating pain for several hours, until her husband came home and found her lying in a pool of yellow fluid and intestines. She was immediately rushed to the hospital with a 10 cm-long cut across her stomach, and saved by the medical staff. Wu later said “If I had passed away, I would have at least spared my family the trouble of looking after me.”

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Japan’s Mouth-Watering Plastic Food Displays

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Fancy menus may be enough for most restaurant diners around the world, but not in Japan. Here, image is everything and before going in for a bite, people want to see exactly what the food they want to order looks like. That’s where Japan’s realistic plastic food displays come into play…

Japanese fake food models can be traced back to 1917, but it wasn’t until 1926 that a restaurant owner decided to use them in a glass casing, to attract more customers. His idea was a big hit and people flocked to his venue hoping to get a serving of the delicious meals displayed outside. Soon, other restaurants followed his example and fake food display making became a lucrative business. In 1932, Iwasaki Ryuzo set up up a company that made and sold fake foods to restaurants and today it’s Japan’s top plastic food manufacturer. Business is very lucrative, as estimates show it produces revenues of billions of yen every year. For an entire menu, executed to perfection, luxury restaurants will pay up to one million yen.

In the old days, fake food models were made from wax. It was melted and pored into molds made from kanten (a seaweed jelly), but today manufacturers use silicon molds in which they pour liquid plastic and heat it up until it hardens. Modern materials and techniques apparently make the food considerably more realistic.  Restaurants send fake food makers the exact item they want replicated, along with photos. Silicon is poured around and over the disk and solidifies into a mold, which is then filled with liquid plastic and cooked in an oven. Then comes the really hard part – getting the details right. Oil based paints, regular brushes, air brushes, knives and carving tools are all part of fake food artist’s arsenal, but they all keep their techniques a secret.

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Taiwanese Hairdresser Makes High-Heels from Human Hair

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Owner of a small hair salon in the small Taiwanese city of Taichung, Tsai Shiou-ying has recently attracted media attention with a series of original artworks made with human hair.

After winning various awards and prizes for her hair-cutting skills, the 54-year-old hairdresser decided to explore her artistic side by using discarded hair to make various works of art. She recently showed off some of her creations, including beautiful brooches, a life-size pineapple made from hair, a rat sculpture, and her pride and joy – a pair of high-heel shoes. “I personally love high heels very much, but I am flat-footed. I can only look at them and try them on, but if I buy them they will only be stored away until mold grows. I can’t wear them, so I want to make a pair of heels that I really like. This way, even if I can’t wear them, at least I created a work of art,” Tsai told Reuters.

A single pair of “hairy” high-heels takes a whole month to make, and Tsai Shiou-ying needs hair from at least three people, usually friends and neighbors. She says only real hair can be used to create her unusual artworks, as artifcial hair simply can’t handle all the heat and super glue she uses. Tsai is now planning to start work on hair dresses and corsets.

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China’s Incredible Fruit Pit Carving Art

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The miniature folk art of fruit pit carving has been practiced in China for centuries, and is still praised for turning useless fruit stones into valuable works of art.

Nut carving (Heidao), which refers to both fruit pit and walnut carving, became popular during the Song Dynasty (960-1279), and by the time of the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) it had become one of the most appreciated art forms in mainland China, with royalty and high-ranking officials considering it fashionable to wear carved fruit pit accessories. Even today, intricate nut sculptures like those made in Suzhou, Yangzhou, Weifang in Shandong and Guangdong Province are famous for their level of detail and unique characteristics.

Often referred to as “an uncanny work of art“, fruit pit carving requires a series of skills and tools in order to produce a fine piece of art. One needs exceptional three-dimensional carving skills, a great deal of patience and most importantly, he has to be familiar with the irregular texture of a fruit pit. Peach stones are the most commonly used material for nut carving, and despite its many bumps and holes, a seasoned fruit pit carved can immediately tell if a pit is right for the artwork he has in mind.

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Ting Mong – Cambodia’s Creepy Scarecrows

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If you ask me, common scarecrows are creepy enough, but the Cambodian Ting Mong carry real firearms and instead of birds they scare off evil spirits.

Scarecrows usually belong in  the fields, protecting villagers’ crops, but in some Cambodian villages you’ll see them in front of houses, by the gate, or on garden paths, and you can bet they’re not there to scare some man-eating birds. Ting Mong are a part of old Khmer culture, and even though Budhism came to Cambodia thousands of years ago, there are still some rural areas where people believe in spirits and their power over the living. These creepy “scarecrows” are actually guardians who ward off evil spirits and protect against disease and death.

Many Khmers believe a powerful force is embodied in the Ting Mong, which will keep spirits from coming inside, and to make them even more effective, they equip the life-size dolls with real or sculpted weapons. Some carry machetes and swords, while other carry modern weaponry like revolvers, AK47s and even sculpted bazookas. Even a bad-ass spirit wouldn’t dare approach a Ting Mong carrying this kind of firepower.

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Card-Throwing Master Slices through Cucumbers

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Bai Dengchun is a 23-year-old card-throwing artist whose lightning-fast plastic cards can slice through fruits, vegetables and eggs. The young master doesn’t look very strong, but then again, neither do most of the Chinese martial arts experts, yet they kick ass in every cheesy kung-fu movie I’ve ever seen. Okay, so that wasn’t the best comparison, but the point is despite his skinny appearance, Bai Dengchun is able to throw a plastic card through a cucumber from two meters away.

Bai has been practicing his throwing card technique since he was just six years old, constantly improving his skills, and he is now able to slice through cucumbers, watermelons and eggs. His unique talents earned him a spot on China’s Got Talent, and even though he didn’t win, he got some well-deserved exposure.

While some say a plastic playing card turns into a lethal weapon in the hands of a master like Bai Dengchun, I doubt even he could actually kill a person with it. Maybe it would pierce the skin, but the structure of the human body doesn’t exactly resemble  that of a cucumber.

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Korean Girl Removes Make-up after Two Years

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Doctors recommend women remove their make-up every night before they go to sleep, in order to prevent damage to their skin, but a young South-Korean girl chose to wear her make-up mask full-time, for the last two years.

20-year-old Bae Dal-mi first discovered make-up when she was just 14. You could say it was love at first brush, and ever since then, the young Koream developed her make-up talents to the point where she became so dependent on it that she didn’t want to remove it anymore. As she kept applying ever-thicker layers of make-up on her face, the mirror became the most important item in Bae’s life and she declares “I wanted to look perfect at all time, I even slept with the make-up on.” Shae wasn’t satisfied with her appearance, and said she wanted to have plastic surgery in 10 different places.

For the last two years, the young girl never used make-up removers, so her mother, exasperated by Bae’s behaviour, contacted a TV station and told them Bae’s incredible story. During a variety show, dermatologists managed to convince Bae Dal-mi to finally remove the layers of make-up, and after a specialized check-up they found her skin was two times older than her actual age. All because of an obsession with beauty…

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