As the exam season draws near, miniature canvas book bags — such as the “Chuang Yuan” bag from Taipei Municipal Jianguo High School, designed to match the size of classic Louis Vuitton purses, and the “Mini Green” bags from Taipei First Girl’s High School — have become increasingly popular.
The term “Chuang Yuan” in ancient China was used to describe a person who had passed the final test in a series of national exams as well as an oral exam with the emperor of China.
The bags first caught people’s attention when first lady Chow Mei-ching (周美青) was seen carrying one with the name of Dulan Elementary School printed on it, on April 29, 2009, as she was seeing her daughter, Leslie Ma (馬唯中), off at the airport.
First promoted by the alumni society in December last year for the school’s anniversary, the Mini Green bags were first meant as souvenirs for alumni. However, after their unexpected popularity, they are now the best-selling item at the school’s store and are often out of stock.
A total of 23,000 bags, priced at NT$120 each, have been sold in the past two-and-a-half years, store manager Lai Yuan-peng (賴院朋) said, adding that sales were particularly good during the exam season or when new students arrive.
The record was 500 bags sold in one day, Lai said.
Although many sizes were proposed when the Mini Green bag was being designed, its creators settled on a size that would be roughly one-sixth the size of a standard book bag, with a width of 13cm, a height of 11cm and a depth of 3cm, Lai said.
The bag can be used to carry change, cellphones or other personal belongings, or can be used as a decoration by pinning it to a regular handbag.
The Chuang Yuan bag designed and sold by Jianguo High School is also very popular, with the first batch of 800 selling out in one morning during the school’s anniversary in December, Jianguo High School Director of Student Affairs Tsai Che-ming (蔡哲銘) said.
An additional limited-edition batch of 3,000 bags has also sold out, Tsai said, adding that the sale frenzy prompted the Parents--Teachers Committee to call for a stop to production for the time being.
Sales of the Chuang Yuan bags are expected to resume at the Jianguo High School campus store in about two months, Tsai said.
Priced at NT$150 per bag, Tsai said the Chuang Yuan was designed with practical use in mind and could hold a cellphone and wallet, adding that it was a quarter of the size of the regular Jianguo High School book bag.
Many parents and junior high teachers are treating the Chuang Yuan bag as a “lucky exam” talisman or a present for doing well on practice exams to encourage students to do well.
Taipei Municipal Hongdao Junior High School principal Chen Ching-chen (陳今珍) said she buys 10 Chuang Yuan and Mini Green bags every exam season to encourage students who did not do well in the practice exam.
“I tell them I’m giving you the miniaturized version now and I know I will see you carry the normal sized version in the future,” Chen said.