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China’s “Super-Shocking Shanzhai Trains”

Shanzhai, as defined by ChinaSMACK:

山寨 = shan1 zhai4 = literally “mountain stronghold” in reference to historical warlord holdouts that were outside of government control. A “shanzhai” edition product thus refers to products outside of government regulations that are widely reflected in the numerous fake and knockoff electronics/commodities made in China today. The term “shanzhai” can also refer to things that are improvised or home-made and are generally crude in both form and function (the closest English equivalent would be “ghetto”).

Thus, a shanzhai train:


This photograph of a van-train is one of a set that that has been doing the rounds on the Chinese internet. Southern Metropolis News trawled through the forums to find out who had originally posted the pictures. Not everyone believed it was real - a spoof (egao) perhaps, or maybe something made for a TV drama series.

The reporter decided the first person to post the pictures was someone going by the name of Longqian at the Gearer forum, who said they were taken on November 11 at a work site in the suburbs and seemed to be transporting coal. There was no mention of where they were taken, but according to the poster’s registration details, he/she is from Xi’an in Shaanxi.

From November 20 onwards, they started spreading under the title “Super-shocking shanzhai train.” Hence my title. Various people started to post information about this kind of hybrid. Some of them run on private tracks belonging to big enterprises. But they also run on normal lines, like this one photographed at a station in Guizhou last year:


And it’s not just vans. There are motorbike-trains as well:


Perhaps this could be the solution to the Spring Festival travel crush, joked one commenter.


One Comment

  1. Bill wrote:

    Because the energy efficiency of running steel on steel, putting rail wheels on vehicles is a very common practice among rail maintenance operation in Americas and Europe. Some even use hand cranked vehicles on rails.

    Monday, November 24, 2008 at 8:51 am | Permalink

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  1. China Journal : Best of the China Blogs: November 24 on Monday, November 24, 2008 at 12:44 pm

    […] DIY trains running on real tracks embody the spirit of “shanzhai,” (“things that are improvised or […]

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