Shanzhai literally refers to the mountain strongholds of bandits. First borrowed to describe rip-off products, it has evolved to stand for homemade stuffs and is also now popularly used to mean fake, cheap or copied goods.
As counterfeit products already makes up a significant portion of Chinese and Asian market, Shanzhai has become a culture associate to pop and is synonymous of DIY. It’s a Chinese cultural phenomenon who involved a conversation between massive production facility and sharing through the grapevine (and the Internet). Those of Shen Zhen, often family based factories, share list of materials, plans and designs and are in constant improvements of them products. Being a sharing philosophy, Shanzhai consists in copying and enhancing the innovations of others. Most famous of these copycatting is cellphones and you get them often for as little as $20 a piece.
Not simply just imitate but also spend lot of effort on innovation, that shady business makes stuffs as good, in any functional sense, as any other. These mobile phone are extremely rich in creative vitality and surpasses brand manufacturers who stick to the rules too much. Often self-consciously absurd and as a mix of irony and frustration about a late-capitalism, here is some example of Shanzhai designers creativity with those cigarette box-like cellphones. From lung to brain, those cellphones hold cigarette too. What an irony, directly associated with a social phenomenon, when we know that China is the worldwide largest consumer and supplier of tobacco.