For sale: A collectible chamber pot

Power of marketing: A screen grab showing the Chinese chamber pot or spittoon being marketed as ‘antique fruit basket’ on Amazon.

IT was a sale that had the Chinese laughing with amusement last week – chamber pots sold as an antique fruit basket on Amazon.

The enamel item – a portable potty or spittoon – is priced at between US$40 (RM160) and US$62 (RM245) on the e-commerce platform.

The Chinese were amazed with the high price of the pot found in nearly every household in the late 19th century.

Although it is hardly used today, it can still be found in the market.

On a popular local e-commerce platform, it is tagged at a price of between 17 yuan (RM11) and 38 yuan (RM24).

On Amazon, the potty has been marketed as antique fruit basket or vintage wine bucket.

The sellers also suggested various uses for the item, including as part of decorations, vegetable holder and even gifts.

“I now understand what the power of marketing means, ” said a netizen.

Another said the item, usually placed at a dark corner or hidden under the table, could finally see sunlight.

“I never imagined that this thing can be so high class, ” the netizen added.

One Internet user was wondering how the buyers would feel if they knew the actual usage of the “fruit basket”.

“Imagine your foreign friends serving you fruits placed in this basket, ” a netizen joked.

Netizens also had a good laugh reading discussions on the reviews and Q&A session of the product.

“It’s amazing, a group of foreigners got into serious discussions on the use of our portable toilet, ” wrote one netizen.

Apart from the United States, the enamel spittoon – which is usually in red and white with drawings of flowers, birds or a pair of Mandarin ducks – is also being sold online in several European countries, using the same marketing strategy.

The netizens went wild, taking pictures and videos on their creative ways of using the item.

Many of them ate or drank from the chamber pot, and some used it as helmet, utensil holder or even pet’s house.

They also photoshopped all kinds of food in the potty.

The hashtag “the other usage of a spittoon” received more than 50 million views on Twitter-like Sina Weibo.

For Malaysians, I am sure this pot is familiar for those born before 1980. Although I have not used it, I have seen it when I was a child.

It was a must-have wedding item for the Chinese descendants and that is why the chamber pot has the Chinese character shuangxi (double happiness) on it.

The origin of this tradition could not be traced. It is however believed that such a practice symbolised that the bride would get pregnant soon.

As the people were making fun of the sale, some Chinese have different views and considered it a way of “cultural export”.

One person said he was not surprised to read the news, adding he had seen foreigners playing mahjong with hell notes.

“Whether a potty or spittoon, it is just the common perception of the majority. Why can’t it be used in other ways?” asked one of them.

Xie Dangwei, a former chief of an enamel factory that also manufactured the potty in Shanghai, shared the same thought.

“This is a container, you can put anything... Do not use our habitual mindset to judge others, ” he told Zhoudao Shanghai media platform.

He said the factory used to export enamel goods worth 170 million yuan (RM107mil) to over 200 nations a year before it closed down 10 years ago.

“But as far as I can remember, there were no orders for spittoon, ” added the 66-year-old, who now runs an exhibition centre on enamel products.

Asked if the prices quoted on Amazon were reasonable, he did not give a definite answer, but said setting the prices involved many considerations, including handling fees, storage, insurance and other charges.

Following the unexpected hit on the potty, business-minded Chinese said they would try their luck on fetching a handsome price on the old male urinals made of clay or porcelain.

They also urged their countrymen to dig out junks under their beds to be put on sale at online marketplaces overseas. Among the items suggested were the black fabric shoes worn by kungfu masters in the movies and huge ceramic containers for keeping preserved food.

Some citizens are happy Chinese products are making ”waves” abroad in whatever way or form.

The netizens are also making fun of foreigners who tattooed Chinese characters on their bodies without checking the actual meaning of the word.

Among the outrageous tattoos were eunuch, diarrhoea, diabetes, faeces, mad and mean fellow, casket seller as well as all sorts of Chinese dishes and animals, including chicken, pig and ape.

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