Thursday, June 2, 2011

Lakes, Rivers, and Vehicle Washing

In the post "Car Bombs and No-Smoking Ashtrays" I shared some thoughts on the challenges of creating useful symbols to communicate messages.

Near a lake in Chengdu, Sichuan province I saw a sign that doesn't use any symbols and yet still seems to not be achieving its desired effect.

Chinese sign posted on tree

In Chinese the sign says:

Which in English translates to:
It is strictly prohibited to wash vehicles here
Violators will be fined 50-100 RMB [the chinese currency, equivalent to about US $8 - $15]

The sign seems pretty clear to me in its intent and that it is not merely a suggestion.  However, on the other side of the sign I saw this:

man washing motorbike while woman watches

After he finished washing his bike it was only a few minutes before I saw this:

another man washing his motorbike while a young girl watches

To be clear, I did not witness the lady or the girl seen in the photos collect a fine from the two apparent violators.

I can't say how common this practice may be, but I can say that while I was in Jinghong, Yunnan province I saw a similar scene.

car parked in shallow part of a river

My friend and I were confused to see someone drive a car straight into the river.  After watching for several more minutes our questions were answered when we saw the car being washed.  Later, we witnessed others doing the same thing.

However, at least in this case I wasn't aware of any signs saying it was prohibited.  Though, I'm not sure it would have mattered.


  1. those "fine" signs were common in China many years ago, but less seen in the past few years. somebody wanted to warn, or "scare" others in this way, but few people really "fined", so it was actually useless. now we can see many polite signs, but to some immoral people just pretend not seeing them and do what they like. i feel so sorry about this

  2. You can find similar examples in the US. For example people tossing trash out of their car near a "Do Not Litter" sign indicating a possible fine. Maybe the signs are successful in at least reducing such incidents to a level with negligible impact. Regardless, in the US there are various "Do Not Litter" campaigns to help educate people about the rules and why they should follow them. Signs on their own often aren't enough...