Strange things a tourist may see in cities in northern China, such as Beijing and Harbin.

Strange things a tourist may see in cities in northern China, such as Beijing and Harbin.

1) There was some weird fluff flying around the air - what is this?

These fluffy things are from Willow or poplar catkins. Catkin is a long hanging furry cluster of tiny leaves and flowers without petals, produced by trees such as willows, birches, alders, and poplars.

Willow catkins start drifting in the air normally in April. People are warned to wear veils, masks or sunglasses while going outside during the season when catkins from willow and poplar trees float in the air, as they pose potential risks to the health of people's respiratory tract. These fluffy things are Willow catkins, rather than from chemical pollution as some people believe, some people are convinced the air was saturated with pollution, and that these fluffy things are the excess crystallizing in the air.

2) There were people pushing wheelbarrows on the street, hitting a bucket every now and then - what is this?

People riding bicycle carts or pushing wheelbarrow were banging empty buckets to attract your attention and buy your household scrap. Vendors usually used other methods of advertising their services or wares. But they may also be some kind of craftsman, handyman, buyer and seller. In Beijing you get knife-sharpers, scrap merchants, etc.

3) On the way to the airport I saw people on the side of the highway holding signs - is this people just hitchhiking?

Depends what was on the signs. Could be looking for work, but in that case people will usually have the tools of their trade beside them on the pavement. At a guess I'd say advertising restaurants or hotels.

Willow and poplar catkins

Two women walk on a road as willow catkins drift in the air in Beijing, April 13, 2009.
Two women walk on a road as willow catkins drift in the air in Beijing, April 13, 2009.
A cleaner sweeps woolly willow catkins to a roadside in Xuchang, central China's Henan province, April 13, 2009.
A cleaner sweeps woolly willow catkins to a roadside in Xuchang, central China's Henan province, April 13, 2009.
A man walks on the road as willow catkins fly in the air in a community in Beijing, April 13, 2009.
A man walks on the road as willow catkins fly in the air in a community in Beijing, April 13, 2009.
Polishing and drilling, this man is waiting for work of polishing and drilling a hole on the wall
Polishing and drilling, this man is waiting for work of polishing and drilling a hole on the wall

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No Name 7 years ago

That was interesting. Thanks!

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