A ‘growing’ trend
As I walked through Beijing’s Houhai neighborhood, a flash of green caught my eye. It looked like a fungal infection gone berserk. Sprouts, mushrooms and flowers were emerging from people’s heads, standing straight up like an untamed cowlick.
It was early August, and I had freshly arrived in China. The craziness of city life, I expected. The weeds flourishing in the hair of passersby? Not so much.
Surely this was some kind of environmental protest or an inside joke, I thought. Whatever it was, the trend was fueling a thriving business.
Merchants stood on street corners hawking all kinds of plastic fungi and shrubs. Three yuan for one sprout, five for a pair. Customers clipped their purchases onto their heads and walked off, the sprouts bobbing.
It would have been easy to brush this off as another bizarre Asian trend, a stereotype common in the West. But this being a hard-hitting, investigative article, I had to find out what was behind the mysterious hairpins. I went to the 798 Art District to research.
Sure enough, there was a bumper crop of sprout-headed tourists, and a shopkeeper indicated to me that the film Monster Hunt (《捉妖记》) was to blame. The 2015 Chinese movie featured a doughy little monster with a patch of moss atop his head.
CNN reported a different theory: that the hairpins were inspired by a Japanese emoticon. One smiley face has a pair of green leaves growing on its noggin.
Whatever its origins, the fad was raising some international eyebrows. Major newspapers like The Wall Street Journal and The Telegraph puzzled over the strange display.
The more attention the sprouts got, the more sales surged. China Daily reported that one Taobao retailer sold 28,850 hairclips in a month. Bean sprouts, dollar weeds and mushrooms were becoming the Beijing equivalent of Mickey Mouse ears at Disney World.
There’s always a rush to categorize trends, to make them discrete and understandable. Perhaps the hairpins were a symptom of the cute and childlike “meng” culture. Or perhaps they were a nod to surrealism or cartoons or both.
Who knows? And frankly, who cares? After all, there’s a kind of beauty to the mystery. In a city of 20 million people, a few plastic plants made us all stop and take notice of one another. And together, we all wondered: what the heck is that on your head?
adj. 狂怒的adv. 狂暴地，狂怒地
adj. 离散的，不连续的n. 分立元件；独立部件
vi. 发芽；长芽vt. 使发芽；使萌芽n. 芽；萌芽；苗芽
vt. 兜售，沿街叫卖；捕捉；咳出vi. 清嗓；咳嗽；像鹰一般地袭击n. 鹰；鹰派成员；掠夺他人的人