20,000 yuan eaten by ants gives artist a frame for inspiration

Updated: 2016-02-17 08:21

By Huang Zhiling in Chengdu(China Daily)

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Ruined banknotes buried by farmer in bedroom will be turned into work of art to alert elderly

A 60-year-old farmer in Sichuan province saw a small fortune eaten up when 20,000 yuan ($3,069) he had buried in his bedroom was destroyed by white ants.

But then his fortunes changed, when a young artist in Beijing offered him that exact amount for the ruined banknotes. The artist said he would turn them into a work of art as a wake-up call to alert senior citizens in rural areas about the dangers of storing large sums of money.

Qi Shengli mailed the banknotes on Tuesday together with a brick used to cover the hole where they were buried to Hu Disheng, a 33-year-old artist in Beijing.

Qi, who lives in Goujiao town, Yuechi county, could not remember exactly how long ago he had buried the money in a corner of his bedroom. "It might be one or two years," he said.

He was not comfortable with the formalities needed to deposit money in a bank. "In addition, I might forget the password or number code when I decided to make a withdrawal," he said.

He placed the money, 200 notes with a value of 100 yuan each, in two plastic bags then dug a hole about 15 centimeters deep in his bedroom, placed the bags into it and covered it with a brick.

"When I took away the brick on Feb 10, I found white ants had eaten away most of the banknotes," Qi said.

Four days later, when banks resumed operations after the seven-day Spring Festival, Qi was accompanied by his two sons to an outlet of the People's Bank of China where employees found only parts of 12 banknotes that could be half-pieced together.

The bank gave him 600 yuan after it accepted the 12 half-banknotes.

Huang Jianjun, an information officer with the Yuechi county government, helped arrange for the artist to contact Qi. "While many may laugh at the old man online, an artist from Beijing learned about the story and decided to help," Huang said.

Hu managed to find Qi on Monday and offered to exchange 20,000 yuan for the two bags of ruined banknotes. Qi initially refused, as his sense of honor meant he did not want a stranger to pay for his mistake.

But Hu persuaded Qi that the banknotes were useless in their present state but could be transformed into a work of art that could benefit elderly people by alerting them to the dangers of keeping large sums of money at home.

Hu said he would even fly to Sichuan to clinch the deal if Qi continued to turn down his offer. Moved by Hu's sincerity, Qi promised to send him the banknotes and the brick.


 20,000 yuan eaten by ants gives artist a frame for inspiration

Qi Shengli's banknotes were ruined by ants after he buried the money in his bedroom. Wu Liufeng / For China Daily

(China Daily 02/17/2016 page7)