Now there is a restaurant in Beijing where you can spend ancient Chinese money to buy “donkey burgers” (lurou huoshao 驴肉火烧).
An article in the November 26, 2012 edition of the Beijing Evening News (beijing wanbao 北京晚报) describes a restaurant that sells donkey burgers with the prices denominated in ancient Chinese money. Donkey burgers are a specialty of Baoding (保定) and Hejian (河间) and consist of chopped donkey meat and vegetables placed between two buns.
A sign hanging in the restaurant states “Money from the last 500 years may be used to buy donkey burgers here”.
Donkey burgers actually originated during the Ming Dynasty when soldiers had nothing to eat and so killed their horses and put the meat between two buns.
“Little Yan” (小闫), the owner of the restaurant, has a “new” menu hanging on the wall (see photo). The menu has various old coins and paper money attached and beside each is written how many donkey burgers each will buy.
For example, three common Ming or Qing dynasty “cash coins” (small bronze coins with a square hole in the middle) will buy one donkey burger.
A “one dollar” banknote (一元钞票) with the portrait of Sun Yat-sen (孙中山) issued during the Republic of China (1912-1949) will purchase 10 donkey burgers.
However, a silver dollar minted during the Republic of China era will buy 80 donkey burgers.
“Little Yan” explained that he was poor growing up but still liked to collect old things. While working for wages in Beijing, he would go to the antique market at the Baoguo Temple (报国寺) to learn the prices of ancient Chinese coins and how to tell authentic coins from the fakes and reproductions.
Even though his “new menu” with ancient money prices has been hanging on the wall for more than a week, “Little Yan” concedes that no one as yet has come in to buy his “authentic” Hejian donkey burgers with old money.
He is not bothered, though. He admits that he did this for fun because people find it interesting that they can come and buy food with ancient money. He says that even when people come in but do not want to eat, he is still happy just to discuss ancient Chinese coins with them.
“Little Yan” also has a confession to make. Although he has genuine ancient Chinese coins in his collection, the specimens he has attached to the price list on the wall are all fakes.