You Would Never Believe What a Jar of Fresh Mountain Air from France Sold for in Smoggy Beijing

Artist makes a statement about Chinese air pollution when he puts up glass of Provence air for auction.

Photo Credit: Hung Chung Chih / Shutterstock

A Chinese artist made a strong statement regarding the region's choking air pollution by selling a jar of air he brought back from France for 5,250 Yuan, the equivalent of $852. 

Liang Kegang, who hails from Beijing, visited France on a business trip and returned with a preserves jar of Provence air. He put it up for auction last month. Entrepreneur Li Yongzheng, was the highest bidder among about 100, according to the Associated Press. 

"Air should be the most valueless commodity, free to breathe for any vagrant or beggar," Liang said. "This is my way to question China's foul air and express my dissatisfaction."

The Chinese arts community has been ramping up their protests against air pollution in recent months. Recently, 20 artists wore dust masks and pretended to be dead at a public temple. Last month, they staged a mock funeral for the last Beijing denizen to die from smog inhalation. 

While the artist's jar might be mockery, others in China take the idea of canned air seriously. Chen Guangbiao, an entrepreneur who once attempted to buy The New York Times, is selling canned fresh air for the equivalent of $3 on a Chinese retail site. 

Residents across northern China have been battling through choking pollution for years as industrialization has ramped up. Coal-fueled power plants are the source of most of the pollution, which sometimes plunges Beijing into "toxic twilight." Visibility becomes so limited that flights cannot take off or land at regional airports. Pilots must have special training to land in Beijing.

Health alerts in response to smog are common in Beijing, with the the elderly, children, and those suffering respiratory or cardiovascular illness cautioned against exercising and going outdoors. 


Cliff Weathers is a former senior editor at AlterNet and served as a deputy editor at Consumer Reports. Twitter @cliffweathers.


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