Planet China

A flying pig

Much of the action in Peter Hessler’s classic Chinese memoir River Town: Two Years on the Yangtze, took place in Fuling, where the American was sent to be an English teacher. In the late Nineties the Sichuanese town was a relative backwater, but whenever Hessler travelled he discovered that there was one product from Fuling that everyone in China had heard of: its mustard. On train journeys he’d sing the TV jingle and there’d be instant recognition from his fellow passengers: “All of the Chinese were familiar with Fuling hot pickled mustard tuber and that was the easiest way to tell people where I was from.”

It’s been a couple of decades since Hessler resided in the town but Fuling continues to try and make a splash with its compatriots across China. That said, a recent Chinese New Year initiative seems to have badly backfired. On January 18 a scenic park called Fuling Meixin Wine Town sought to garner publicity by streaming online it’s efforts to get a 75kg pig to bungee jump. The hog howled as it was tossed from the 68-metre riverside platform via an elastic rope. And instead of luring more tourists, the stunt was derided by onlookers as an example of animal cruelty. The backlash online soon led to a rethink and a prompt cancellation of further porcine bungee jumps at the park. An apology was made to the public by management and assurances were given that the pig was ‘okay’ after its plunge – albeit it was also confirmed that the animal had gone to the slaughterhouse immediately after its jump. Presumably those who later feasted on the pork also accompanied it with the town’s far less controversial pickled mustard…

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