The story of the strange mushroom found by villagers on the outskirts of Xi'an, China, starts off like another fabled discovery in Xi'an: in 1974, villagers digging a well discovered the terracotta army sculptures, a vast collection of warriors and horses buried to guard China's first emperor in the afterlife.
This time, villagers drilling a new well found a weirdly shaped fungus-like object — some kind of mystery mushroom, they presumed.
Confused by the discovery, the people of Liucunbu village contacted their local TV station for help. Xi'an Up Close, an investigative program, sent reporter Ye Yunfeng to get to the bottom of the story.
And here's where the tale takes a turn toward the absurd, as chronicled by the Shanghaiist in a piece titled "'Mystery mushroom' which leaves Xi'an villagers befuddled turns out to be artificial vajayjay."
Ye, a young, female reporter, earnestly reports on the mushroom discovery in a TV news piece that has since gone viral in China, attracting millions of views, according to the Shanghaiist.
"When we dug down to about 80 meters deep, we fished out this long, fleshy object," a villager told Ye. "It's got a nose and an eye, but we have no idea what it is!"
Ye describes the mystery object: "As we can all see, this looks like a type of fungus, on both ends of which you'll find mushroom heads."
"On this side, you can see what looks like a pair of lips," she adds. "And on that side, there is a tiny hole which extends all the way back to this side. The object looks very shiny, and it feels really fleshy and meaty too."
The villager is convinced it is a type of lingzhi mushroom, called a "taisui," according to the Shanghaiist. Ye observes that this rare type of mushroom is found deep underground, and was perhaps even eaten by the first Chinese emperor, Qin Shihuang.
"When the Emperor Qin Shihuang was on the hunt for the secret to longevity, it is said he discovered this lingzhi was the answer," she explains.
Viewers who saw the Xi'an TV report, broadcast on Sunday, easily identified the "fleshy and meaty" mushroom as a masturbation toy, with a fake vagina on one end and a fake anus on the other.
Owning up to the embarrassing oversight, the TV show issued an apology through its account on Sina Weibo, a Chinese microblogging website:
"Hi everyone, one of our news reports which aired last night has made everyone laugh. This incident has been widely followed, shared and commented on," the open letter said.
"As our reporter was still very young and unwise to the ways of the world, this report has brought great inconvenience to everyone. We'd like to take this opportunity to thank everyone from the bottom of our hearts for your criticism and correction. Please forgive our oversight!"
Meanwhile, The Beijinger compiled the reaction of Chinese netizens on Weibo. Comments included:
"How pure are the reporter and the cameraman!"
"Who threw that in the well? The whole village is ashamed now."
"Which company made this? The quality is so good."
"The news team has apologized to the audiences, but how can they explain it to the villagers?"