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October 29, 2010

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Internet scramble for souvenir rods

Enthusiastic Chinese netizens snapped up 8,000 acrylic rods containing plant seeds from the United Kingdom Pavilion at the World Expo in less than two minutes yesterday, on the website

Each rod is priced at 199 yuan (US$29.76), and the pavilion will donate the proceeds to Cerecare center in Shanghai, a charity organization for the treatment of children with cerebral palsy.

"As soon as I saw the news about the sale on Tuesday, I was determined to get one for my girlfriend, who studied in the UK for six years and is a big fan of British culture and the pavilion," 28-year-old Kelvin Zhang told Shanghai Daily.

"The price was not mentioned in previous announcements, but I had set my maximum limit at 20,000 yuan, which was said to be the price for a rod auctioned off at a charity event."

The young entrepreneur has visited the Expo site five times, four of them with his 25-year-old girlfriend and they visited the UK Pavilion each time.

To ensure he got one, Zhang asked five friends to help by clicking the purchase button at the same time - he ended up getting three rods.

"The more the merrier. I'll keep one for myself and give one to my dad, who has been too busy to visit the Expo and would love a souvenir like this," said Zhang.

The seeds will be delivered to each buyer after the Expo ends when the acrylic rods will be removed, along with a collection certificate and a stamp from the UK Pavilion.

Anyone who is interested in purchasing a rod can wait for the next sale or choose the limited edition seeds which will be on sale later - the proceeds will also be donated to Cerecare.

The original plan was to sell 7,000 rods yesterday, with another 3,000 to follow next month, accompanied with a different souvenir from the pavilion. The enthusiasm for the rods went far beyond expectations and the organizers decided to add another 1,000. is negotiating with the UK Pavilion to add even more rods to future sales.

"I'm pleasantly surprised with the fact that all the rods were sold within 90 seconds, which shows how much Chinese visitors love our pavilion," Carma Elliot OBE, HM consul general at the British Consulate in Shanghai, told Shanghai Daily.

"I believe the bilateral collaborations that have been established during the World Expo will extend continuously, and our friendship will spread to every corner of China just like seeds of the 'dandelion' - the nickname Chinese visitors have given to our pavilion."

Of the 8,000 rods, 1,965 were purchased by netizens from Shanghai, ranking top among all Chinese regions, followed by 1,805 from Zhejiang Province, said the organizer.

The "Seed Cathedral' is made with a total of 60,680 rods, of which 20,000 will be given back to the Kew Millennium Seed Bank and Kunming Institute of Botany, where the seeds came from. The pavilion will also give 1,000 to Chinese schools, as promised in the summer.


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