In Depth

What is the 21-day bitcoin challenge?

Chinese tech enthusiast trying to survive using only the digital currency

A bitcoin enthusiast is attempting to live on 0.21 bitcoin (about £1,000) without using any other currency in a 21-day challenge being tracked in a new documentary series. 

Airing on iQiyi, one of China’s Netflix equivalents, the show follows He You Bing as she attempts to pay her way using just a smartphone containing a fifth of the digital coin

Her goal has been to find and fund her accommodation, food and other basic necessities using cryptocurrency transactions through her mobile, while travelling around Beijing and the southern city of Shenzhen, says cryptocurrency news site NewsBTC.

The challenge is particularly tough in China, where authorities recently banned commercial venues from hosting events promoting bitcoin and other digital currencies.

Unsurprisingly, You Bing has encountered a number of setbacks during her journey so far.

On the first day of the challenge, You Bing was unable to find a food vendor that accepted bitcoin. Instead, she was forced to survive on “four packets of ketchup” and food samples from a supermarket, before sleeping in a 24-hour McDonald’s, says crypto news site Chepicap

On the third day, she ended up in hospital, after becoming “very weak from not eating properly”, the site continues.

However, You Bing had already gained a sizeable following through social media, many of whom then offered her food in exchange for the cryptocurrency. 

Now, with three days of the challenge left to complete, You Bing has built up a list of hotels, restaurants and public transport ticket providers that accept bitcoin transactions.

Fans say the documentary shows that it is possible to live on digital coins alone, but as TechCrunch notes, there is still a long way to go before bitcoin, or any other cryptocurrency, becomes suitable for “broader consumption”.

And that could prove tricky, with growing presence of “scam coins” in the cryptocurrency market having soured the technology’s reputation in recent years, the tech site says. 

Bitcoin’s fluctuating value will also put off many vendors - along with other fans considering attempting You Bing’s 21-day challenge. 

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