Cracking the code of Chinese tickets.

Hi folks!

For some reason I’m not fully aware of, I tend to keep conference ID badges, and sometimes also tickets to the various tourist attractions I get to see around the world. This hoarding is getting out of hand – I have a big box of ID badges in the corner of my office, and it’s starting to overflow.

How a New York Times journalist who recently interviewed me reacted to them I think sums up the problem: “What is THAT?” he said, pointing at the bulging box, perplexed :). Must get down to some feng shui soon. It’s not as if I’m going to go through them all one day – pics are much better for trips down memory lane… But I digress – before even beginning!…

…So, to begin… During my recent hidden China vacation, I amassed quite a few entrance tickets to national parks, nature reserves, historical places of interest and other attractions.

At first these look like nothing special – just the usual slips of paper or thin card. But when you have a closer look…


Here are my findings in my attempt to crack the code of Chinese entry tix:

First, check out the numbers on them… 

Seriously massive numerals on many of the tickets, sometimes successive numbers of a series. What be they? Sherlock here worked it out!


– This means ‘invoice code’, probably something like an Employer Identification Number or VAT number. So those numbers being rather long – nothing unusual there.

But this:


– That means ‘ticket number’.

Oh my Google!

Woohhhohoh! 17,733,064 & 17,733065! Those make me and one of my travel companions the 17,733,064th and 27,733,065th visitors to Mount Emei! But that’s only in this series of tickets. Who knows how often they start over from zero – when they run out of space on the tickets? Ah, no – those zeros provide the answer. Adding three zeros would make a billion; another three – a trillion; another zero – a quadrillion! So it’s after nine quadrillion tourists when they start over. How many times have they reached nine quadrillion, I wonder…


Second, on the back of practically every ticket there’s a plan of the area. Very convenient – if you can read Chinese.


Even if you can’t read Chinese, if you walk around tourist attractions for a few days you start recognizing a few common ones. Examples:

入口 – Entrance;
出口 – Exit;
男 – Man;
女 – Woman.

The latter two can be useful when it comes to choosing which door in rest rooms to go for ). Sometimes you’re saved by an English translation or – what are those thingies called? – yes, the two gender symbols.

Third, some tickets actually double up as postcards! Genius! No need to buy separate postcards – just use your ticket! Which many do probably, if the huge quantity of postboxes dotted everywhere are anything to go by… China Post sure does well out of Chinese tourism, I’m sure even better with the help of this simple, clever device :).


And that’s it! My hidden China vacation over. Boo. I’ve seen a lot, but there’s still a ton more that went unseen; there’s bound to be – this is China! But that will all have to wait till next time. For now, back to work…

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