Clean Your Head

Ear cleaning shop in Wanhua
The giant ear is your first clue.

Here’s something you might not have seen before: a professional ear cleaning service in Wànhuá District 萬華區! When I shot this photo while riding around a couple of months ago I assumed it was a run-of-the-mill ear, nose, and throat doctor with a quirky sign out front. Turns out this is a famous shop by the name of Ěrqiāng Qīnglǐ de Jiā 耳腔清理的家 (loosely: “Ear Canal Cleaning Home”) where you can have your ears cleaned by a “professional ear cleaning master” (zhuānyè tāo’ěr shī 專業掏耳師) for about 500 NT. Apparently Yáo Bīn 姚賓, the octogenarian proprietor, will be happy to show off jars filled with grotesque things he has unearthed over the course of five decades of aural spelunking.

I hadn’t ever heard of this practice before looking up the name of this shop and was naturally curious about its origins. Sleuthing around revealed that the traditional practice of ear cleaning (tāo’ěrduǒ 掏耳朵 in Chinese, literally “ear digging”, “ear picking”, or “ear scraping”) is more commonly associated with Chengdu in southwestern China. For a moment I wondered if the owner of the shop might have been an old soldier from the area but see no mention of this connection in any of the articles I perused.

At any rate, I am not about to try it out, but it’s cool to accidentally uncover another one of Taipei’s secrets, even if it is kinda gross.

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