2016-02-19elementary

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”.

Hover over any word to show translation
zài
(located) at, (to be) in
táo bǎo
淘宝
淘寶
Taobao
 
zhǐ yǒu
只有
只有
only
you (informal)
xiǎng bú dào
想不到
想不到
unable to think of, hard to imagine
de
(used to form a nominal expression)
 
méi yǒu
没有
沒有
to not have
you (informal)
mǎi bú dào
买不到
買不到
unable to buy
de
(used to form a nominal expression)
 

On Taobao, the only limit is your imagination; there's no limit to what you can buy.

Character set
Pinyin

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

Hover over any word to show translation
I, me
de
(used after an attribute)
xīn
heart, mind
inside
zhǐ yǒu
只有
只有
only
you (informal)
méi yǒu
没有
沒有
to not have
he or him
 

I only have you on my mind, not him.

Character set
Pinyin

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:

Hover over any word to show translation
táo bǎo
淘宝
淘寶
Taobao
inside
yǒu
to have, there is
mài
to sell
 
IQ
IQ
de
(used to form a nominal expression)
 
mài
to sell
rén nǎi
人奶
人奶
human milk
xiāng zào
香皂
香皂
soap
de
(used to form a nominal expression)
 
hái yǒu
还有
還有
furthermore, also
chū zū
出租
出租
rental
nán péng you
男朋友
男朋友
boyfriend
 
nǚ péng you
女朋友
女朋友
girlfriend
de
(used to form a nominal expression)
 
yǒu xiē
有些
有些
some
wǎng diàn
网店
網店
online shop
de
(used after an attribute)
dōng xi
东西
東西
thing, stuff
zhì liàng
质量
質量
quality
kě néng
可能
可能
possibly, maybe
(negative prefix), not
tài
too (much), very
hǎo
good, well
 
mǎi
to buy
zhī
(possessive particle)
qián
ahead, before
 
yí dìng
一定
一定
certainly
yào
must, should
xiān
in advance, first
kàn
to see, to look at
mǎi jiā
买家
買家
buyer, client
xiù
show (loanword)
 

On Taobao there are people selling IQ, selling human milk soap, as well as rental boyfriends and girlfriends. The item quality for some online shops is not very good, so before you buy you should take a look at the “buyer's show”.

Character set
Pinyin

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!