Furry Event China: A review of my first Chinese furry con experience
Furry Event China (referred to henceforth as FEC) is a number of firsts for me with regards to attending a furry convention:
- The convention itself was held inside of an event space of a public mall rather than the usual convention center.
- It was my first furry convention experience not of a Western demographic.
- It was the first convention I attended outside of North America.
- Actually, it was my first furry convention at an event that wasn't called VancouFur.
Given this, and an assortment of other differences we will be going over, it was definitely an experience that I will never forget.
My reason for visiting FEC was due to it being a convenient two hour train ride from my home in Hong Kong. A more local flair is certainly easier on my limited budget than going to a Western convention. The FEC was a one day furry con, hosted in Guangzhou on Saturday, July 22, 2017. I decided to make it a weekend summer getaway; which fell in line with the convention theme.
Oops, out of tickets!
"What? How can a convention be out of tickets?" I asked.
In hindsight, I should have probably bought the ticket online via Taobao before coming to the convention like I did for my prior attendances at other furry cons. But seriously, how can the convention run out of tickets? Maybe Furry Event China underestimated the amount of people attending the convention. Guess the opening hour of 10:30am for the purchasing of tickets actually meant “Buy them while stocks last!”.
Is it that hard to print extra tickets? I did not come all the way from Hong Kong for nothing. Watching the con-goers and the fursuiters walking in and out of the convention’s main entrance sure dampened my spirits.
I suppose my knowledge of the logistics behind the quantity of tickets issue is quite limited. Before this one I had attended VancouFur five times over the years. In none of those cases do I remember a time when the tickets ran out, nor the welcome packages containing the conbooks and related attendance passes. Perhaps the convention was basing the ticket availability off from their attendance of last year, and the attendance for this year was a drastic increase from the former?
"So when will there be extra tickets, or more importantly, when will attendance be open to at-door con-goers?" I asked.
I was told to check back at around 2 in the afternoon.
Okay. Guess I will just wait and dawdle around the neighboring mall, and get a nibble while I am at it.
Eventually the afternoon finally rolled around. I asked the volunteer manning attendance and he pointed me to the nearby stairwell leading to the basement. I followed his lead, and I ended up in the car-park. There is absolutely nothing in there besides a bunch of parked cars. So, I went back up to ask again. He clarified that I have to head on out the main exit of the parking lot, go up the ramp, and there will be a door to the left.
I would have missed it if it were not for the line of people and the music pumping out of the event. It was almost like a hidden recluse. Looking in, I finally caught sight of some fursuiters inside. I am finally here. Time to make this trip worthwhile. It is time to have fun!
Currency issues, ¥100 Renmenbi notes, and mobile app dependence woes
I finally made it to the registration booth. The pass costs ¥60. Realizing I had a bunch of ¥100 notes that I wished to split into smaller denominations, I handed over the ¥100 note accordingly. The guy manning the registration had to decline.
"Sorry, we do not accept ¥100 notes."
"Why?" I asked.
The main reason for restricting the means of payment would be that in mainland China, due to the rampant problem of counterfeit money, people are tentative in accepting cash as payment. As the largest denomination of Renmenbi is ¥100 (~$14.81 USD), they have to exercise caution.
Fortunately, I managed to scrounge up enough of ¥20s, ¥10s, and ¥5s to pay for the ticket. Thank goodness I had enough of the smaller denominations, else I'd have to buy something from the nearby shops to break the ¥100 notes up before returning to the back of the line. Even then, the shopkeepers out there may not accept the large bills either!
The payment issue did not stop there. While walking along, I saw something that I wanted to buy. I reached for my wallet and pulled out the correct wad of Renmenbi. Just as I was about to hand the cash over to purchase that sweet art book, the artist had to decline.
The reason? This harks back to my point of the ¥100 note being easily counterfeited. Well, so much for bringing the cash along. Guess I could only window shop. Oh, it’s a limited item only available by offline means? Can a payment with a credit card be made? No? Guess I could consider following the artist through Weibo and asking if they can mail it to me then? Who knew in-person purchases could be such a hassle.
Many of the booths that I window shopped only seemed to accept either of the before mentioned methods. The western equivalent would be that I could only pay for the artist’s products with Paypal.
Hence, the “WeChat Pay & Alipay Only” payment is not just a phenomenon that applies to just the convention, it is a trend that permeates the entire country. Shopping mall food courts only accept these two as well. As many furry related goods cost a good amount, it can be quite the inconvenience if you are the sort to splurge at cons to attend this one. Furry Event China seemed to be made and tailored for Chinese con-goers.
A different experience from Western fur-cons
Given the obvious Asian influence of the furry con, most of the fursuit styles are “Kemono” style, i.e. Japanese fursuits with huge Anime eyes, and tiny snouts. Hence, many of the fursuits I have seen were probably made by Atelier Amanojaku, a prominent Japanese fursuit making company.
As Facebook and Twitter, among many Western social networks, are banned behind the Great Firewall, artists usually advertise Weibo handles. Some do advertise Twitter, Facebook, and other such handles, but they are usually artists from Taiwan or Japan. Hence, if you would like to contact these artists, be sure to create a Weibo account.
Due to the fact that I did not pre-register, I did not get a conbook. But I was able to borrow one for a short while, and from what I can tell, the dealers den constitutes around 80% of the con space, the other 20% being the two headless lounges, i.e. the fursuiter’s changing rooms, and the stage for talent shows and official announcements. There was a section in the conbook for the Founders’ words and featured furries and brands, but that was it. There were no schedules. I cannot say for the rest of the furry conventions in China, but FEC feels more like a furry-themed bazaar than a proper furry convention, given their heavy emphasis on the con space usage as a dealers’ den.
I have observed that the con-goers at FEC are more concerned with anonymity than my prior experience at VancouFur. There were many instances of people donning black face masks to conceal their identity. I am not well-informed as to how the Chinese public perceives furries, but perhaps it may hold potential stigma similar to western perception? Furthermore, given how the concept of “human flesh search engine” is prevalent in China, where people leak photos and videos online in blog and forum posts to expose the identities of others (similar to doxing in the West), it may seem such precautions were necessary for attendees.
As FEC is a one-day convention, commissions were out of the question. None of the dealers advertised a desire to take such requests. The lack of dealers advertising their works beyond selling their artbooks, CD albums, and other pre-created content for purchase was quite surprising.
Would I consider visiting FEC next year should it be held? Most likely not. For my next Asian furcon, it would either be a more international and established furry con such as Infurnity in Taiwan or the Japan Meeting of Furries.