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Student stays in Beijing for three weeks without spending penny by disguising herself as socialite

How to live in Beijing for FREE: Student stays in Chinese capital for three weeks without spending a penny by disguising herself as a socialite

  • Art student conducted experiment where she lived for three weeks in Beijing 
  • Zou Yaqi, 23, wondered if unable to afford to live in capital after her graduation
  • She donned knock-off designer handbag, fake diamond ring and velour tracksuit
  • Her disguise meant she was given luxury treatment in hotels and in luxury shops 


An art student who disguised herself as a wealthy socialite and carried a fake Hermes bag was able to stay in Beijing for three weeks without spending a single penny.

Zou Yaqi, 23, conducted an experiment as part of a performance art project where she wanted to highlight capitalism and consumerism and see if she would be able to live in the Chinese capital once she graduated from university.

The student, who attends the Central Academy of Fine Arts of Beijing, shared that she is ‘poor’ but she wanted to ‘break the rules’ and enter the ‘world of the rich’ as a mingyuan, which means socialite in Mandarin.

Zou Yaqi, 23, (above) who attends the Central Academy of Fine Arts of Beijing, disguised herself as a wealthy socialite and was able to stay in Beijing for three weeks without spending a single penny

She claimed that she wanted to 'break the rules' and enter the 'world of the rich' as a mingyuan, which means socialite in Mandarin

She claimed that she wanted to ‘break the rules’ and enter the ‘world of the rich’ as a mingyuan, which means socialite in Mandarin

Yaqi spent hours on Instagram looking at how socialites dress and subsequently she bought a fake Hermes Birkin, which is renowned for being the most expensive handbag in the world, a knock-off diamond ring and a designer velour tracksuit. 

She donned red lipstick and styled her hair with straighteners to achieve the perfect look and fool others.

‘I’m more cautious and casual in daily life, but I had to present an elegant, haughty, and self-confident image,’ she told Sixth Tone

On her first day of the experiment on May 1, Yaqi gained entry to a VIP lounge with a forged entry pass that was valid for the three hours.

She was able to stay for three days and relied on the lounge’s various buffets for her meals, stashing food into a free paper Gucci bag she’d got from a store to aid her socialite disguise. 

Yaqi also walked into a nearby Louis Vuitton store where she was greeted by two sales assistants who abandoned the customers they were serving.

She was shown a £1,000 handbag and offered an exclusive invite to an exhibition for the luxury brand.

On her first day of the experiment on May 1, Yaqi gained entry to a VIP lounge with a forged entry pass that was valid for the three hours

On her first day of the experiment on May 1, Yaqi gained entry to a VIP lounge with a forged entry pass that was valid for the three hours

In a free VIP lounge, the student stashed food into a free paper Gucci bag she'd got from a store to aid her socialite disguise (pictured)

In a free VIP lounge, the student stashed food into a free paper Gucci bag she’d got from a store to aid her socialite disguise (pictured)

She also attended an auction, which she was invited to by a friend, and was given the opportunity to try on a beautiful emerald ring that later sold for thousands

She also attended an auction, which she was invited to by a friend, and was given the opportunity to try on a beautiful emerald ring that later sold for thousands

Yaqi said: ‘I was constantly playing the role all day. I soon got used to the contradiction: My body was dirty and slimy, but I was seen as a beautiful and rich woman by others.’

The student managed to gain access to the public bathrooms, sauna and steam room at a famous high-end hotel by using multiple fake names and the excuse that she’d ‘only just checked out’.

She also attended an auction, which she was invited to by a friend, and was given the opportunity to try on a beautiful emerald ring that later sold for thousands.

At the end of the three weeks, she presented her project with videos she had recorded of her experiences and her Gucci paper shopping bag, filled with stale bread and other food she’d stashed during the experiment. 

She has since received a lot of criticism for her work but she insisted she is merely an artist with honest intentions.

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