Archaeological blind-box craze sweeps 2021 Double 11 global online shopping festival
Published: Nov 11, 2021 05:42 PM
Archaeological blind boxes from Henan Museum Photo: Snapshot of Taobao

Archaeological blind boxes from Henan Museum Photo: Snapshot of Taobao

Among the dazzling discounted goods on sale during the ongoing annual Tmall Double 11 global online shopping festival on Thursday, mysterious archaeological blind boxes have risen to the fore as a new craze among Chinese consumers.

According to media reports, about 100 museums have taken part in the shopping festival on Alibaba's e-commerce store Taobao. The sales of museums' cultural and creative products have surged by more than 400 percent since the first day of pre-sales on November 1, becoming one of the most popular items during the shopping festival.

Many heads in charge of museums' cultural products told the Global Times that their bestselling items have been archaeological blind boxes.

Song Hua, director of the Henan Museum's Cultural Products Department, told the Global Times on Thursday that about 200,000 yuan ($31,285) blind boxes from the Henan Museum were sold as of Thursday noon. 

These archaeological blind boxes are just like those found at blind-box sellers like Pop Mart, but instead of things like jewelry or bobble heads, the mysterious contents inside are models of real cultural relics unearthed from archaeological sites such as ancient coins, bronzes and jades. These boxes also usually come with instruments such as shovels, brushes, gloves and masks that visitors use to "excavate" the model relic from a block of clay.

According to Song, the blind boxes have been in short supply almost every day and so are sold in limited quantities. Many of the staff members in the department including Song have become customer service representatives to handle queries from early day to late at night.

"The craze for the museum's cultural creation products basically stems from our country's cultural self-confidence," said Ma Xiaolin, curator of the Henan Museum. 

According to the museums' official Taobao stores, each archaeological blind box ranges from around 20 yuan to over 100 yuan in price. More expensive boxes can include more models of cultural relics or just one relic of higher value. Meanwhile, some blind boxes include some extra gifts for the customer. 

For example, the archaeological blind box sold on the Taobao store of the Xinjiang Museum also includes some Xinjiang cotton seeds, which earned thumbs-up from many buyers.

Archaeological blind-box Photo: Courtesy of Sanxingdui Museum

Archaeological blind-box Photo: Courtesy of Sanxingdui Museum

On Monday, Tmall also teamed up with five museums to select 15 cultural relics for a series of witty archaeological blind boxes. Some museums like the well-know Sanxingdui Museum have also launched some updates to their archaeological blind boxes including one that contains the head-turned-kneeling bronze-figure that was just unearthed in September.

Currently, foreign museums' Taoao stores like the British Museum have not launched these types of blind boxes.

According to statistics, most customers are in their mid-20s, accounting for 40 percent. Many young Chinese have been sharing videos of themselves "digging for treasure" on video-sharing platform Bilibili, where these videos have easily earned millions of views.

"The emerging blind-box craze stems from consumers' yearning for the mystery of historical relics. They can gain feelings of anticipation and pleasure while unpacking a blind box, and enjoy the fun of the excavation process, which is a kind of spiritual release," Lin Wei, an employee from the Sanxingdui Museum, told the Global Times on Thursday.

He added that many parents now also like to purchase the boxes for their children as a way of popularizing traditional Chinese culture.