Taiwanese Chewing Gum - Betel-nut

New arrivals in Taiwan might be forgiven for thinking they've just stumbled across the scene of a recent and bloody murder on encountering strongly red stained pavements in places. Rather than the residue of some misadventure, it is merely the dried expectorations of betel-nut (bin-lang).

Betel nut, the seed of the Areca Palm is chewed over much of South East Asia, it is a mild stimulant and is said to be habit forming. Long term use has been linked to cancer (oral) tooth loss and other conditions though some schools suggest that these consequences may be more likely due to chemicals added to increase the release of alkaloids into the bloodstream.

Right: Betel-nut packaging is characterised by pictures of attractive young women in bathing suits

Bin-lang packaging

Betel-nut beauty

Left: Betel-nut Beauty outside roadside kiosk.

Unique to Taiwan is the phenomenon of the "Betel-nut Beauty" (binlang xi shi). Glass fronted roadside kiosks house scantily clad young women, giving testament that the Betel-nut barons are fully aware of the power of sex in advertising. Betel-nut Beauties (binlang xi shi) are named for Xi Shi, a legendary beauty who lived during China's Spring and Autumn period.

Betel Nut Girls of Taiwan - Michael Turton's image gallery

Betel nut (right) is the seed of the Areca palm and is chewed in many parts of Asia.

The nut is prepared with the leaf of the piper betel climber and slaked lime which combine to deliver a slight "buzz". Betel-nut is considered to be addictive and long term use can lead to cancer of the mouth. Habitual chewers develop heavily stained teeth and gums. Despite its popularity (perhaps 20% of Taiwanese males), the chewing of betel-nut is considered by many to be low-class.

Betel-nut

Right: A police officer advises a bin-lang girl about appropriate manner of dress.

As competition heated up among vendors their outfits became more and more racy though more recently the government has introduced a set of guidelines governing standards of dress.

In Taoyuan County this standard basically consists of three noes in respect to breasts, belly buttons and buttocks. Some felt the measures went a bit far.

"I have a beautiful body, and I also love to show my pretty clothes to the customers. What's wrong with that?"
- "HSIAO JU"

Betel-nut girl and policeman

Belet-nut Articles and Links

Facebook - Tobie Openshaw's Beetle-nut beauty page
The Bin-lang Files - The story of the nut
David's Guide to Taiwan - Betel-nut page and links
Taipei Times - Health Officials take on Betel-nut Business
Asia Times - Betel nut brouhaha exposes disagreement
Betel Nut Girls of Taiwan - Michael Turton's image gallery

Betel-nut packaging