China Railway set “impossible” tests for ticket buyers

Chinese Culture

China Railway set “impossible” tests for ticket buyers

Train tickets for the Spring Festival (Chinese New Year) became available on Nov. 25. The need to buy a ticket to spend the holidays with your family usually means they sell out in seconds.

However, many people are complaining that the extremely difficult online verification codes on, the official train ticket purchasing website in China, have greatly hindered their plans.

The verification codes usually require ticket buyers to identify one or multiple items from eight pictures when making orders. The codes are meant to verify that the purchaser is a “real” person and prevent automatic computer purchasing.

However, owing to the low quality of the pictures, and the frustrating fact that some items are unfamiliar to the general public, it has proved extremely difficult for would-be travelers to “solve” the codes, resulting in multiple failures before they can get to the next step of the transaction.

China Railway set “impossible” tests for ticket buyers

Photo from CFP

What’s more, the difficulty of the verification codes is upgraded after a few failures, increasing the picture choices from eight to eighteen.

China Railway set “impossible” tests for ticket buyers

Please identify all the pictures of the Bosporus Strait in the pictures below.

China Railway set “impossible” tests for ticket buyers

“Please identify all the carrot salad.” The problem, as some people point out, is that how can one tell if it’s carrot salad, or just some carrots?

It is estimated that only 8 percent can get the answer right on their first try, according to Beijing-based Internet company Qihoo 360. Only 27 percent can succeed in their second attempt, while 65 percent need at least three tries before clicking the right pictures.

Unfortunately, many found out the hard way that by the time they made it through the tests, the tickets had long been sold out.

According to Qihoo 360, there are up to 581 pictures provided by, which can make up over 300,000 combinations. The pictures cover a wide range of items from daily essentials to those involving scientific knowledge.

China Railway set “impossible” tests for ticket buyers4

“Please identify all Stanley Kubrick’s movies.”

China Railway set “impossible” tests for ticket buyers5

“Please identify the most handsome man.”

China Railway set “impossible” tests for ticket buyers6

“Please identify all the squids and wings.” Netizens complain that it’s hard to tell between squids and octopus. Some people joked that China’s railway authorities are taking up the responsibilities of the Ministry of Education.

Meanwhile, Chinese netizens didn’t waste the opportunity of creating memes on the issue. A series of Photoshopped verification codes have gone viral online for the past few days, in which people are asked to identify a “good-looking man”, celebrities that look really alike, and even the Strait of Bosporus.

When asked why they set such difficult verification codes on its ticket website, the railway authorities told the Legal Evening News that its aim was to curb ticket scalping. However, netizens are calling for a more practical way to crack down on the illegality.

After mounting complaints, China’s official train ticket booking website is to make adjustment to the clarity of the pictures used in verification codes, and will rule out the codes with higher error rate, said China Railway.