Some liken its scent to that of rotting fish. Others say chlorine. But for an honest bunch, the sticky whiff that rides on a hot Beijing breeze, smothering the senses like the innards of a broke-down fridge is – quite unmistakably – the chewy musk of human semen.
You may not have dealt it, but don't act like you haven't smelt it, champ. It's everywhere. And since it's here to stay for at least another three months, it's probably worth getting used to.
But why does Beijing smell like semen? This guy:
Native to China and Vietnam, the Callery pear tree, or Pyrus calleryana
if you're into it, does its stank-dance during its flowering phase, hitting peak pungency mid-spring.
Not ringing a bell? What if we told you the Callery pear tree was also responsible for these suckerinos?
Would that jog your memory? On your car? In your shoe? These shrivelled berries of general uselessness are winter's precursor to the scent, falling a few months before the warmer weather. Now you can pinpoint the hotspots and forecast the stinky doom.
There's a lot of these trees in Beijing and, humorously, they're found most densely in the city's major destinations; the north-south avenues flanking the Forbidden City are thatched with Callery pears.
In summary, there's little you can do but acclimatise to your seminal overlords. Our advice is to take a deep, heady breath and relax. And remember – it's just a tree. Just a big, smelly tree.