Buying things on Taobao

Buying things on Taobao

Do you know what the biggest online shopping site in China is?
It's not Amazon or eBay! It's Taobao, or 淘宝网 [táo bǎo wǎng]!
“淘 [táo]” here means “to pan” as in “panning for gold”, and “宝 [bǎo]” means “treasure”. So 淘宝 [táo bǎo] means “panning/searching for treasure”. It is operated by the Alibaba Group in China, and is a marketplace where sellers can open up online shop pages to sell their goods directly to customers.

In this lesson we will look at some words and phrases related to buying things on Taobao. We will also take a look at some of the interesting goods you can find on Taobao as well as some funny pictures uploaded by buyers. Let's first take a look at a grammar pattern.

只有[zhǐyǒu]…没有[méi yǒu]…

You can find just about anything on Taobao. In Chinese, there is a common grammar pattern we can use to express this by saying “the only limit is what you can think of, there's not limit to what you can buy”.

This 只有..没有 structure can be used in other contexts as well. For example:

Now let's return to the topic of Taobao and have a look at some interesting things that have been on sale there over the years. Some of these items have since been prohibited, so you may not be able to find all of them on Taobao anymore.

Selling IQ 卖IQ[mài IQ]

IQ on Taobao

IQ is for sale for only 0.2 yuan. What you actually receive is a picture with the text “IQ”, or one of Einstein, which is sent to your phone together with a little funny story. You can buy it for yourself or for your friends. These pictures are mostly bought by students, and some say that after purchasing this IQ they felt more intelligent and did not get tired during exams.

You can read more about IQ on Taobao with the Du Chinese app, in our lesson “IQ for sale on Taobao”.

Human Breast Milk Soap 人奶香皂 [rén nǎi xiāng zào]

Human breast milk on Taobao

Yes, it's exactly what it says. It's soap made from human breast milk. One mother who sells these soaps says she used to pour all the milk down the drain, but since it seemed wasteful she decided to use the milk to make soap instead. These soaps are very soft, so they can be used by both adults and children. It is actually quite popular on Taobao.

Boyfriend/Girlfriend For Rent 出租男/女朋友 [chū zū nán/nǚ péngyou]

Rental boyfriend on Taobao

If you were to ask young Chinese singles of today what they fear the most, the majority would undoubtedly respond: being pressured to marry by their parents.
In China, no matter if you're a boy or a girl, basically everyone over 25 and still unmarried has experienced being pressured about marriage by their parents. To avoid being forced into marriage, some even go as far as to rent a temporary boyfriend/girlfriend to come with them home during the holidays. With this rental partner, they make their parents believe they have are already set for marriage to avoid awkward conversations.

You can rent people for other situations as well, but the price depends on the kind of service you want. Here are some examples of common prices:

  • Trip to other cities to visit family – 800 yuan per day
  • Shopping companion – 150 yuan per hour
  • Help release negative energy by listening to complaints – 50 yuan per 20 minutes

You can read more about forced marriage using the Du Chinese app in the lesson “Forced Marriage”.

Seeing these strange items might have you a bit worried, but don’t be afraid. This is just a small part of what's available on Taobao, and most of the products are normal. However, you must be wary of the quality.

Most 网店[wǎng diàn](Online Shop)have pictures of the products they sell. The products often look great in the pictures, but in some cases these pictures maybe not be entirely real. For example, when looking at a dress the model in the pictures may look great, but what you don’t know is what is happening behind the picture.

Behind the scenes of a Taobao picture

The best way to know if the product is good or not, is to look at the 买家秀 [mǎi jiā xiù](buyer's show). This is a section where buyers can upload photos of themselves wearing the product and add some comments. It is probably a safe buy if the product also looks good when worn by other buyers.
Recently, some funny pictures from the “buyer's show” section on Taobao drew attention on the internet. Let’s have a look.

Shirt on Taobao

Robe on Taobao

OK. Let's summarize:

If you want to try to buy something on Taobao, you can read this guide on Tech in Asia, which teaches you how to use it.

Did you enjoy the lesson?
See you next time!

This is the accompanying blog post for our elementary lesson “Having A Mistress“.

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