QR Codes Thriving In China
Written by Sue Gee   
Sunday, 17 September 2017

A Chinese village had built a giant QR code covering more than 12 acre in an attempt to cash in on the Chinese craze for using QR codes.


This QR codes story, picked up by the BBC from an item in the South China Morning Post, caught our attention because it had been so long since we'd talked about, or even noticed them. Interest in QR codes may have died out in the the US and the UK, but is still vital in Asia where they are widely used as a payment mechanism.

According to journalist Sarah Zheng:

QR codes – machine-readable patterns of black squares on a white background – are ubiquitous in mainland China, used in settling bills at restaurants, renting out shared bicycles, and even giving money to beggars. 

This code has been created by in Xilinshui, which has the distinction of being  “the most beautiful village in Hebei” province. Using funds intended for its renovation and development villagers have planted about 130,000 Chinese evergreen juniper trees, which are native to northeast Asia, between 80cm and 2.5m in height in a square who sides are 227 metres in length, so measuring over 50,000 square metres.

It was back in 2012 when we reported a Record Breaking QR Code which gained a Guiness World Record for being 29,000 square metres. This was a maze built with maize on a the  Kraay Family Farm in Alberta, Canda which constructs a new maze on an annual basis. More recent mazes have used other themes. According to the Guiness World Record website the largest QR code, since 2015, is in Xu He, Cangzhou, also in Hebei province in China. It measures 36,100 square metres with the length of each side being 190 metres - so the Xilinshui QR code is clearly larger. Rather than attempting to set a new record the code has been created to promote tourism and gain income. Scanning the code, which is only easily possible from the air, with a smartphone or tablet on which WeChat is installed, will take you to the tourism website where you can find information or make a donation.qrchina

While for us QR codes no longer attract the attention they used to, when novel uses cropped up regularly, see Robot Navigation Made Easy With QR Codes and QR Codes For Memorials in China, and other parts of Asia they have become mainstream. In another South China Morning Post story, Stephen Chen explains how QR codes are:

driving China's rapid shift towards a cashless society

He cites a finding by internet consulting firm iResearch that payments made via mobile devices by Chinese consumers last year reached 38 trillion yuan (US$5.5 trillion, HK$43 trillion), more than half the nation’s GDP and 50 times greater than mobile payments in the US. Commenting on the dawn of “codeconomy” Chen Yiwen, a professor and researcher with the Institute of Psychology, Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing says:

“China has started the transition to a cash-free economy faster than anyone could have imagined, largely because of the viral spread of two-dimensional barcode. It creates a new economy based on scannable codes.”

Meanwhile in the US it is NFC (Near Field Communication) that is making cash a thing of the past and we have seen scannable codes like Microsoft Tag, a multi-colored variant of QR codes, come and go and QR codes themselves relegated to appearing on food packaging.

Could there be a revival of scannable codes? One twist to the story is that Apple has belatedly espoused the technology, including a native QR code reader built directly into the Camera app of iOS 11, presumably to appeal to the Chinese and Asian markets. However, iOS 11 also sees a expansion of the onboard NFC chip support to allow it to read NFC tags that are not directly to do with Apple Pay. So whichever cashless technology predominates your smartphone can play the role of wallet.

More Information

Chinese village builds giant QR code in field in effort to connect with visitors 

Related Articles

Record Breaking QR Code

QR codes dead?

QR codes gaining acceptance

QR Codes For Memorials

QRPedia - simple but effective

Microsoft Tag Bows Out


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