Contemporary Legend – Beijing, China

Folklore: Urban Legend

I learned it in China, in Beijing, the summer right before high school (maybe around 2002?). My friend (Yin Chao) told me while we were on the street, I hadn’t seen him in a while and I was visiting. We were talking about what changed after I left.

We were walking across the street and he said to be careful walking around because during that year there was a big scare of people poking needles into you. He told me a story. There as an old lady who needed help crossing the street and someone helped her and she stuck a needle in him and that person got stuck with AIDS.

So it was really scary. In downtown Beijing it’s really crowded so you can’t avoid being close to someone. He said it was fading away but he said there were cases in the newspaper for the past year or two.


If one person has a disease, he’ll want you to have it too. He wants to feel balance in his heart, why does he have something and you don’t have it too. You know? He wants you to have it too. It’ll be fair if everyone has it. It’s human nature, basically.

He was warning me to be careful walking around in crowded places. I think Chinese people tend to spread a lot of rumors; they’re just like, maybe there’s like a couple cases they tend to amplify.

For the past century, the communist government has kept control of Chinese people through spreading fear. It could not even be true. I was in Beijing during the Tiananmen Square thing I was two and my mom said she heard gunshots. Maybe nothing happened. Maybe it was just one person shot someone. Maybe the government made a big fuss just to scare people. People said even in the suburbs they heard gunshots but that’s impossible, how can you hear gunshots hundreds of miles away? But that’s just what I heard. But SARS was true, but I don’t know. It’s probably true but people amplify the stories.

My Analysis

“Welcome to the World of AIDS” plays on the fears people have about homosexuality and about this deadly disease. In the 1980s, even up to the late 1990s, not much was known about the disease. People only knew that it could cause rapid death and that once you were infected, there was no cure.  So stories like people intentionally stabbing strangers magnified these fears. As David mentioned, because people walk very close to each other in crowded places in China, it is difficult to keep your distance and avoid touching someone.  This urban legend has also spread across the United States, and people began spreading rumors that you could catch AIDS from toilet seats or other unclean areas.  People just generally were not educated, and there was not much research at the time to support any academic views.