Begging is an artform, one of the few truely imaginative career paths for those of a creative bent in China. Certainly there is no welfare system to speak of and being down and out is a serious business.
You will, in your travels, meet with many strategies to convince you to part with your small change. You will see people in various contorted poses, children will run up and grab you and try to prevent you from leaving, old ladies will look pleadingly at you and touch your arm as you stand in line to buy ice-cream (or some other guilty treat for yourself), and others will drag themselves along the street pitifully but insistently towards you.
But nothing beats walking up a flight of stairs and suddenly being confronted by a prone body and blood everywhere! My god, you think, has there been a serious accident!!? But then you notice the coins and realise this guy's just busking.
Look a bit closer and you realise the pool of blood is very neatly arranged next to him, and bears no plausible spacial relationship to the wound on his hand. Not only that but his wound would hardly have spilt so much blood, and in so short a time that it is still fresh. As a performance artist myself, I know one doesn't ever need to use one's own blood when doing anything cathartic. Abattoirs will happily supply you with all the cows blood or pigs blood you require - at least they used to, and I'm sure they still will here in China.
Unique Suggestions: If you ARE tempted to donate, you should realise that every beggar within eyeshot is watching you. As soon as your generous one yuan coin is dropped into a needy outstretched hand, you will be plagued and sometimes chased by every other beggar around. We were chased down escalators and through malls for several hundred yards by a legless man on a skateboard who had seen us give a coin to an old man. The only way to get rid of him, short of kicking him in the head, was to give him a small coin donation as well.
So how do you tell if someone is genuinely in need? I have no idea, though I sometimes think those who are truely in need would feel enough shame at having to ask for money that they arn't going to be the pushy ones. Nor are they likely to want to employ gimmicks to draw your attention to them. But that's just my guess...
This Manchu City, Hetuala was really quite a boring place to visit. Expensive, 50rmb entrance, there was virtually nothing inside, and almost no information as to what th place was supposed to have been. It is just down the road from the Yong Ling tombs, which though small, are worth visiting. People usually do these two places together after travelling so far out of the way, but be warned, you will find almost nothing of interest in here.
Unique Suggestions: Watch the acted Manchu wedding, quite interesting.