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Meet China’s One and Only “Spider Woman”

Luo Dengping has become famous as the only woman in a group of “spider men” who climb vertical cliffs of up to 100 meters high, without ropes or safety equipment of any kind, for the entertainment of tourists in China’s Guizhou Province.

Men of the Miao people, in Southwest China, have been free-climbing steep cliffs for centuries. They originally developed this skill as part of a burial custom, to lift coffins of relatives up the cliffs and place them in small caves or just hang them on the cliffside, like the Tana Toraja tribe, in Indonesia. This practice fell into obscurity, but the Miao spider men continued climbing the perfectly vertical cliffs of Ziyun, in order to collect rare medicinal plants said to cure asthma and rheumatism. However, as Western medicine started taking precedence over traditional Chinese medicine, spider men found themselves struggling to support their families. Today, only a few members of the Miao people still practice this ancient tradition, and one of them is a woman.

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The Chinese Town Where Crickets Are Worth Much More Than Gold

Cricket fighting has been popular in China for thousands of years, and with the country in full economic boom, fans of the “sport” are investing more money into it than ever before. One town in particular has built an entire industry around the genetically-superior crickets living in the surrounding fields, and for good reason, as the best specimens can reportedly sell for up to 50,000 yuan ($7,661).

The tradition of cricket fighting can be traced back to the Tang dynasty (618-904), and the crickets found in the fields around the town of Sidian, in China’s Shandong province, have long been renowned for their large size and aggressiveness, both very important features among enthusiasts of the sport. It is said that several of China’s emperors favored Sidian’s crickets for their high win rate, and today’s rich spend absurd amounts of money for exceptional specimens that can give them an edge against their rivals.

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The Annual Cow Dung Cake Battle of Kairuppala

Every year, the people of Kairuppala, a village in India’s Andhra Pradesh state, engage in an epic cow dung cake battle that often leaves dozens injured. They believe the tradition brings them good health and prosperity.

Legend has it that Lord Veerabhadra Swamy, a fearsome form of the Hindu god Shiva, and the Goddess Bhadrakhali fell in love and decided to marry. In order to tease his beloved, Veerabhadra Swamy declared that he did not want to marry anymore, which enraged Bhadrakhali and her clansmen, who decided to teach the deceitful groom a lesson by beating him with cow dung cakes. The other side retaliated, but the goofy battle ended in compromise and the much awaited celestial wedding. Today, the devotees of Kairuppala village celebrate their union by reenacting their mythical battle using the same unconventional weapons.

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The Cruel Spanish Tradition That Kills Tens of Thousands of Greyhounds Every Year

You probably already know about bullfighting and the controversy surrounding this ancient tradition, but there’s another less known tradition that claims the lives of tens of thousands of Spanish hunting dogs every year. And worst of all, nobody seems to want to do anything about it.

Galgos, or Spanish greyhounds, are an ancient breed of hunting dog that was once raised only by Spanish noble families. Today, these beautiful animals have been reduced to tools that modern-day hunters dispose of in a variety of gruesome ways as soon as the hunting season ends. The traditional explanation for their cruelty is that if the dogs have shamed their master by not performing to their expectations, this dishonor must be washed away by torturing and killing the animals, but in reality, it’s all about cutting costs. It makes more sense to them to buy new Galgos from a breeder for about 10 euros a piece, than spend money on feeding the ones they already own until the next hunting season. So they just get rid of them in the most appalling ways imaginable.

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Adult Adoption – The Secret to Preserving Centuries-Old Japanese Family Businesses

Japan has one of the highest adoption rates in the world, with over 80,000 legal adoptions recorded every year. Yet when it comes to adopting children, the Asian country is lagging way behind most developed countries. That’s because around 98% of Japanese adoptees are bright young men in their 20s and 30s.

At the same time, while studies have shown that family-controlled businesses are generally unsustainable over long periods of time –  mostly due to the fact that business acumen and intelligence are only partially inherited – it’s interesting to see that not only are a third of Japanese corporations family-run, but they are also clearly outperforming professionally managed companies in almost every way. Statistics show that family firms are more profitable, have a higher market valuation and increased sales compared to their rivals. Even more curious is that giants like Suzuki, Toyota or Matsui Securities have managed to keep it all in the family for over a hundred years, and other family businesses for even longer than that.

But what does the remarkable success of family business have to do with the high rate of adult adoption, right? Well, in Japan at least, these two curiosities are very closely linked. Prior to the Second World War, civil code in Japan decreed family wealth could only be passed down through male lines, traditionally to the first born son. So families with no male heirs or with sons deemed unsuitable to take over the family business turned to adoption, but not the kind most of us are used to. Instead of simply adopting a baby or a young boy, they adopted young men who displayed the intelligence and knowledge of business required to ensure that their name and legacy endured until the next generation. And while the law no longer prohibits people from passing down their fortune to female heirs, the age-old tradition of electing a ‘mukoyoshi’ (or ‘adopted son-in-law’) is still very popular in Japan.

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China’s Increasing “Bride Price” Makes Marriage Virtually Impossible for Poor Bachelors

The shortage of women caused by China’s one-child policy, combined with the country’s economic boom over the last two decades have made marriage a grim prospect for poor men in rural regions. These two factors have bumped up the “bride price” to hundreds of thousands of yuan, sometimes even millions, obscene amounts that most men can’t hope of raising without taking a bank loan.

The bride price is a a centuries-old Chinese tradition that survived and even thrived in the Communist era. It’s similar to the Western tradition of dowry, only it requires a prospective groom to pay the family of the bride for permission to marry her. In the 60’s and 70’s, the bride price was paid in modest gifts ranging from a simple thermos to bedding. During the 80’s television sets and refrigerators were popular gifts offered as bride prices, but since the economy started to grow in the 1990’s, the payment switched to hard cash and the sums demanded by the family of the bride have been rising ever since.

But perhaps the best explanation for the ever-increasing bride price is the gender inequality in China. During the days of the one-child policy, the preference for males strong enough to work and later look after their elderly parents led to a huge increase in sex-selective abortion and even infanticide of female babies. As a result, Harvard researchers claim that today there are 118 men for every 100 women in China, and the proportion is actually worse in poor rural regions.

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Man Spends a Full Month Decorating His Home for Christmas

People generally love decorating their homes for the winter holidays, but how many of us would actually put a whole month into making sure that the whole place is filled with Christmas decorations? Well, one man does it every year.

43-year-old Jack Baremans, from Etten-Leur, a commune in southern Netherlands, has always loved the Holidays. He has been collecting all kinds of Christmas decorations ever since he was 16-years old, and has made a habit of using all of them to decorate his home every year. His collection has gotten so large over the years, that he now reportedly takes about a month filling the inside of his home with dozens of artificial Christmas trees, thousands of ornaments, garlands, wreaths, plush reindeer and polar bears, Christmas lights and pretty much every other decoration imaginable.

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Being a Bridesmaid in China Is So Dangerous That People Are Hiring Professionals

In the Western world, bridesmaids are also known as maids of honor, but in China, they are more like maids of dishonor. From drinking large quantities of alcohol on behalf of the bride to putting up with groping and other forms of harassment, bridesmaids often take part in traditional customs that most people would consider extremely vulgar. And as fewer women are willing to serve as bridesmaids for their friends and relatives, professional bridesmaid rental services are a booming business.

In medieval times, Chinese bridesmaids would dress up as the bride to act as decoys for rival clans and hooligans looking to kidnap her. As centuries past and legal protections for marriages were established, this particular role was no longer required, but maids of honor still retained their protective functions, and their ‘job’ remained as dangerous as ever. Even today, women who take on this responsibility are humiliated, physically or sexually harassed and some end up losing their lives in their attempt to best fulfill their tasks at a wedding. It sounds absurd that an honorary position at what is supposed to be a joyous celebration involve such risks, but in China, it is a harsh reality.

For example, it is customary for Chinese newlyweds to toast bottoms up to every wedding guest, and at big weddings that adds up to a lot of alcohol. In order to protect the honor of the bride, it falls on the bridesmaids to fend off drinking requests and in most cases drink on the bride’s behalf. This often results in alcohol poisoning, and in extreme cases, death. Just last month, it was reported that a 28-year-old maid of honor in Wenchang, Hainan province, lost her life after getting pressured into consuming a large amount of alcohol.

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Fishing with Fire – A Mesmerizing Tradition of Taiwan

For hundreds of years, fishermen in Taiwan have been catching sardines with the help of fiery stick held over the edge of a boat. The fish are so attracted to the light that they jump out of the water and into the nets of the fishermen.

Fire fishing is as simple as it is mesmerizing. Fishing boats head out to sea during the night, and light up a bamboo stick covered with sulfuric soil at one end to create a bright flame. The sulfur dissolves in the water and the gas produced then flashes with fire. Drawn to the light spectacle, sardines jump out of the water by the hundreds at a time and end up in the fishermen’s nets. Sulfuric fire fishing was developed during the period of Japanese Rule and is now practiced only in the Jinshan sulfur harbor.

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Picnic with the Dead in an Idyllic Greek Village

The Pontics are a group of ethnic Greeks who prospered on the shores of the Black Sea between the years of 1914 and 1923. Over 350,000 of their population perished at the hands of the Ottomans, Kemalists and neo-Turks during the Greek Genocide, and those who remained were forced to leave their homeland to seek refuge in Greece. But even today, this small community manages to keep its age old traditions alive. One of their most notable customs is the yearly ‘Picnic with the Dead’.

Every year on the Sunday after Easter, also known as St. Thomas Sunday, several Pontic Greek families in the village of Rizana make their way to the local cemetery to picnic on the graves of the deceased. Many of them bring along folding tables and chairs, table cloths, traditional meals, vodka, flowers, and candles to set in the midst of the marble gravestones. No one is allowed to cry as the day is seen not as one of mourning, but of celebration in honor of the departed. Family members are seen smiling and greeting each other, “Christos anesti” (Christ has risen), while children laugh and play amidst the graves.

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Connecticut Turkey Farm Always Colors Its Birds for the Holidays

Every holidays season for the past six decades, Gozzi’s Turkey Farm in Guilford, Connecticut, has been drawing visitors young and old with its host of decorative turkeys dyed in bright hues of purple, orange, yellow and green.

Bill Gozzi, the farm’s third generation owner, says that the tradition of putting live colored turkeys on display for visitors dates back to the 1940’s, shortly after his grandparents opened the place. It was originally a treat for neighborhood kids, but it grew into something more, and soon visitors from far and wide started visiting the farm to see the dyed turkeys during the Holidays. “My grandmother started it years ago as a fun thing for the kids in the neighborhood, and it caught on and just busloads of kids come now,” Gozzi said. “It’s a tradition for a lot of people. I get a lot of people saying, ‘My grandparents brought me here, and now I’m bringing my kids.'”

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Taiwan’s Betel Nut Beauties – Scantily-Clad Girls Peddling Nuts on the Side of the Road

If you ever happen to visit Taiwan, you might be greeted to the sight of scantily-clad women in neon-lit glass kiosks by roadsides, waiting for men to pull over. Well, they’re not what you think!

These women are ‘Betel nut girls’ who peddle small snacks of tasty, stimulative betel nuts wrapped in betel leaves. They dress provocatively to attract potential buyers, but nuts is pretty much the only thing they sell.

The main roads are filled with around 60,000 such phone booth-style kiosks; they’re so much a part of the nation’s identity that they’re actually featured on old tourist guides. The women who operate the stalls are usually from poorer families, but according to news reports, the job pays more than housekeeping, waiting tables and other conventional jobs.

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Chiara Vigo – The World’s Last “Sea Silk” Seamstress

The ancient Italian art of spinning ‘sea silk’ is all but lost, save for one woman who still knows how to produce the incredibly rare, almost magical fabric. While modern silk is spun from silkworms, Chiara Vigo can harvest the saliva of a rare variety of clam and spin it into a shiny, gold-like material called byssus.

Legend has it that byssus was the cloth that God instructed Moses to lay on the first altar. It is believed to be the finest fabric known to Egypt, Greece, and Rome. If treated properly with lemon juice and spices, the remarkable material shines when exposed to the sun. It is also incredibly light, so much so that the wearer cannot even feel it touching the skin. It is said to be as thin as a spider web, resistant to water, acids, and alcohols.

Vigo gathers the raw material required to weave the cloth every spring – she goes out diving early in the morning to cut the solidified saliva of a large clam, the Pinna Nobilis, an endangered fan-shaped species of mollusc that is native to the Mediterranean Sea bed. Vigo has mastered a special cutting technique that allows her to take the secreted material without killing the rare creature. 300 to 400 dives later, she is able to gather about 200 grams of material. 

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The Chinese Farming Village Where Everybody Knows Kung Fu

Ganxi Dong, a small village hidden deep in the mountains of Tianzhu in central China, is gaining worldwide attention for its unusually skilled residents. Apparently, everyone who lives in the self-sustaining village is a martial arts expert!

The Dong people, one of the 56 recognised ethnic minorities in China, pride themselves for having shunned the outside world in favor of local tradition. Apart from farming, every villager is well-versed in the art of kung fu, each one pursuing a different style of the ancient Chinese martial arts. They use a range of weapons including sticks, pitchforks, and their own fists.

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Couple Married for 60 Years Celebrate Every Anniversary by Eating a Piece of Their Original Wedding Cake

For the past 60 years, this Florida couple have been celebrating their anniversary by eating a piece out of their wedding cake – not a replica, the original one!

Ann and Ken Fredericks were married on 19 August, 1955 and Ann’s grandmother had baked a three-layer fruitcake for the occasion. The top layer of that cake, baked six decades ago, still exists in a metal Maxwell Coffee House can. “Every year, we unwrap it, pour brandy over it – because you need to moisten it – and we break off a piece,” Ann said.

“Everybody just looks at us with amazed looks when they hear about it,” she added. “Our children are appalled that we would be eating something that’s 60 years old. But believe me, it’s quite tasty, as long as it’s got enough brandy on it. And it’s never made us sick.”

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