Here’s a story you might have heard before…an American goes to a foreign country and in the first week buys something he wants to bring home as a souvenir.  It’s usually something simple; a picture, a novelty zippo, a mini statue of the Eiffel Tower, but in this case it’s a comb made from the horn of a yak.  Now I know what you’re thinking, a comb made from the horn of a yak is pretty cool, not your average souvenir. But ask anyone who’s been to China and they’ll tell you that you can find them just about anywhere, jewelry stores, street vendors, even airport gift shops are likely to have them.  Well this foreigner, knowing no better, bought the very first yak horn comb he came across, and was forced to lug it around for the rest of the journey in his already ladened pack (we’re talking about a big comb here), making sure to pack it so that the fragile bristles don’t break.  An amateur mistake by an amateur traveler.

But that was a long time ago and I’m a different person now.  I do my best to keep my wallet tucked away in my pocket and search for specific souvenirs instead of impulse buying.  But every now and then I come across an object I just simply have to have.  Below is a video of a “musical loop player” that repeatedly plays a series of Buddhist chants and songs. (You may have heard of similar device known as the Buddha Machine made by the American based music duo FM3.)

I fell in love with this thing the second I saw it, A) because it’s weird and B) because I feel like it encapsulates so many aspects of present day Chinese culture.  The songs and chants it plays are deeply ingrained in the culture of China and have been since Buddhism first reached China, yet they’re tossed into a cheap piece of plastic with flashing neon lights, bad recordings resulting in distortion and reverb.  If you think about it it’s almost a perfect metaphor for China today, aspects of an old culture being distributed by modern methods, and no wonder the sound quality isn’t so good.

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