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20 Ways to Use Tiger Balm

For most Chinese, Tiger Balm is a classic from grandmother’s cupboard. Reason enough for Sina News to publish a “20 ways to use Tiger Balm” on their Weibo account.

Manya Koetse

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For many, Tiger Balm is a childhood household item. But for those born after the 1990s, the little red tin is something they only know from their grandmother’s cupboard. Reason enough for Sina News to publish a “20 ways to use Tiger Balm” on their Weibo account, instantly turning it into a trending topic (#清凉油的20个用法#).

 

Update 2018: Also read our tips on how to use Tigerbalm by Chinese social media users here.

 

“For the majority of the post-1980 generation, tiger balm is part of their past,”   Sina writes: “But for many post 1990-ers and 00-ers, it’s a historical relic. Tiger balm has so many benefits – it is really a good thing from the past. It’s a jack of all trades!” Sina and other media have shared a list of the various ways to use tiger balm.

What is known as ‘tiger balm’ in most western countries is better known as ‘soothing balm’ (清凉油 qingliangyou) or ‘essential balm’ (风油精 fengyoujing) in China; a hot/cool and fragrant balm or oil containing menthol.

imageTiger balm, essential balm and soothing balm (picture by WhatsonWeibo).

The original Tiger Balm was developed in Birma in the 1870s, by the China-born herbalist Aw Chu Kin. Different to what the name suggest, Tiger Balm does not contain any ingredients related to the tiger. The balm, containing menthol, mint oil, clove bud oil, cajuput oil and camphor, was named after Aw’s son, whose name literally meant ‘Gentle Tiger’ (Aw Boon Haw, 胡文虎). He was the son who later inherited the recipe of the balm, and turned Tiger Balm into a household name together with his brother.

Apart from the original Tiger Balm (虎標萬金油) there are various brands available in China’s stores, available from drug stores to supermarkets. According to Sina Weibo, this top 20 list contains various ways to use this household classic.

Check out our top 20 list

(Please note that this original list was published by Chinese media. If you’re in doubt about tiger balm usages and/or allergies, consult a doctor before using.)

1. Stung by a mosquito? Tiger balm can help take away the itchiness by applying it directly to the sting.

2. Tiger balm is the perfect insect repellent, as mosquitos and wasps do not like its strong scent. Leave a tin of tiger balm in every corner of the (bed)room during summertime, and leave the lid open. Mosquito’s will not enter a room that reeks of tiger balm.

3. Wooden or bamboo furniture affected by bugs can benefit from treatment with tiger balm. Put some balm on every termite hole of the affected furniture, and they will die out.

4. For those with rheumatic pains, tiger balm can be used as a painkiller by applying it in the lower back area, legs, and directly on sore muscles and bones. Apply as many times as necessary.

5. You’ve been painting the house, and now there are paint stains all over your hands and arms that are not easy to remove by water. Put some tiger balm on a cloth and thoroughly wipe your skin with it. After a couple of minutes, the paint will start letting go, and you can easily pull it off.

6. Weibo suggests that a bad body odor can be cured by the longtime use of tiger balm. Regularly apply tiger balm to the body, the list suggests, and the bad body odors will disappear. You will reek of menthol instead.

7. Got diarrhea (拉肚子)? Rub some tiger balm in and around the navel area, and cover it with the palm of your hand for two or three minutes to let the hotness work on the belly. You can also rub a little bit of balm in between the tailbone and anal area for full effect, the list suggests.

8. The list also suggests to use tiger balm when your baby has an inflamed bottom. Applying tiger balm to the anal area is said to provide some soothing relief. (We are not sure about this one, please always first consult a doctor before applying this balm on babies!)

9. For the early signs of a soar throat, apply tiger balm around the neck area before sleeping. Generously rub it around the neck with the palm of your hand, and your throat will feel better in the morning.

10. Throbbing toothache may feel better after applying some tiger balm to it. Put some balm on a cloth, and rub it into the affected area around the tooth.

11. For mild burns: lightly apply the balm to the afflicted parts. It can help alleviate the pain and avoid blisters. The earlier the balm is applied, the better.

12. Corns and calluses on the feet may disappear after consistent use of tiger balm. Smear the balm directly on to the corn. The list, like this blog, suggests that the balm is warmed with a burning cigarette to improve the balm penetrate into the corn, and to repeat it every day, one to three times a day.

13. Tiger balm is an excellent remedy against headaches. Rub some tiger balm on both temples and reapply if necessary. Be careful not to get the balm in your eyes.

14. When you got a cold and have a stuffed nose, it might help to put some balm right underneath and around the nostrils to let your nose clear up.

15. If you get carsick or seasick easily, moisten the lips with some balm to prevent nausea.

16. Just as tiger balm might help when suffering from diarrhea, it might also help with constipation. Rub some balm around the belly area to ease the stomach.

17. German soccer players have discovered that applying some balm to your chest and calves can help to alleviate the pain associated with fast running.

18. Tiger balm can also be useful when removing the remnants of stickers; rub some in, and you can peel it right off (as also suggested by Vision Times).

19. For those suffering from cold feet in winter, tiger balm might be the solution. Rub the cream into the feet to help stimulate and improve circulation.

20. Bye bye bad smells! Freshen those stinky sneakers and shoes by putting some open packages of tiger balm where you keep your shoes.

Out of Tiger Balm or still not have it in your cupboard. You can order Tiger Balm online from various places:

Buy here:
Tiger Balm White Ointment HR Pain Relief 30g (Big Size)


By Manya Koetse

©2015 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

Manya Koetse is the editor-in-chief of www.whatsonweibo.com. She is a writer and consultant (Sinologist, MPhil) on social trends in China, with a focus on social media and digital developments, popular culture, and gender issues. Contact at manya@whatsonweibo.com, or follow on Twitter.

22 Comments

22 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Dian

    August 4, 2015 at 5:26 pm

    Thank you for sharing this. However, I am pretty sure you mean 拉肚子 instead of 辣肚子 in the 7th way. As a native Mandarin speaker, I don’t think I have ever heard of hot stomach…

    • Manya Koetse

      Manya Koetse

      August 4, 2015 at 5:31 pm

      Thanks for your comment, Dian, it has been adjusted!

  2. Avatar

    Brenna

    May 2, 2016 at 9:56 pm

    Do not put under your nose! I tried it the other night because I saw this, it burned so bad. I had to rub it off my face!

    • Avatar

      Jill

      June 14, 2016 at 6:05 pm

      Hello Brenna,
      My 70 yr old aunt turned me onto Tiger Balm when I started getting horrible migraines 2 years ago. I now put very very little across my forehead, down the bridge of my nose and a tiny bit (so little) under my nose. It does take a few seconds to get used to the smell but it’s not a horrible smell. And I’m sorry it burned you, but I’ve never had it burn me. The only times I’d heard someone say it burned some was when they used too much in one area. I literally swipe my finger over the top of the balm and spread it where I need it. I never actually take a scoop or any solid part of the balm (that too me is too much). I hope this helps and you try it again in the future. It really has worked for me and I continue to tell others about it.

  3. Avatar

    Gavan

    May 20, 2016 at 2:32 pm

    Thank you for useful sharing, so I guess someone want to know more about use tiger balm as directed on label http://balmtiger.com you can have a look it.

  4. Avatar

    Shahpaar

    July 16, 2016 at 8:00 am

    I jokingly refer to it as my best friend. I suffer from headaches and terrible migraines, and Tiger Balm does wonders. I rub it on my temples, forehead, bridge of my nose and around my nostrils. I have been using it almost 29 years, and for me it’s a miracle worker with my pain.

  5. Avatar

    Yasmin

    August 6, 2016 at 7:28 pm

    Hey, I’m about to buy 1 from Aliexpress. I remember the one in the 80’s was dark color but this 1 today is yellow. Is this the same item as the 80’s?

  6. Avatar

    Gilly

    September 8, 2016 at 10:20 pm

    I have just bought some of this today from a cheap shop. It cost 98 pence for 2 jars. I used to use zambuk so I am hoping this is as good.

  7. Avatar

    Andrea Wood

    October 23, 2016 at 5:38 pm

    I have been using Tiger Balm on sore joints and bones. The pain is decreasing, but whatever is wrong seems to be coming out of my skin in the form of redness and blisters. Do you have any idea what would have been wrong for this to be happening? I assumed that I was just having an allergic reaction at first, but then I noticed that I have no skin problem where I accidentally (later on purpose for testing) where there is no pain, but MAJOR reaction where I feel that deep pain. Any ideas what is happening?

    • Avatar

      Kim

      December 28, 2016 at 11:53 pm

      Hi, did you get shingles? Just a thought

  8. Avatar

    Babar

    October 24, 2016 at 1:50 pm

    i know ppl who eat this , they put it in hot coffee or tea, i was shocked every time , i barely can smell it

  9. Avatar

    henock

    December 21, 2016 at 8:10 pm

    What happen if I used the cream on my face

  10. Avatar

    Anna Estruch

    January 19, 2017 at 10:02 pm

    Is this product good for nail fungus?

    • Avatar

      Theresa

      February 16, 2017 at 10:16 pm

      Anna it is good for nail fungus. Unfortunately the nail will turn color and you have to wait for the nail to grow out but it does work for fungus. Tea tree oil actually works best for nail fungus and no discoloration.

  11. Avatar

    Bert

    April 6, 2017 at 1:01 pm

    I had someone tell me to put the balm on the tops of my feet to help with sleep. Fall asleep faster and sleep more solid. ??
    I’m combing the internet to find anything on this one and so far, not finding anything. I used some of the self stick pads a while back for tennis/golfers elbow. Only thing that helped with the pain. I keep them in supply. Going to put them on the top of my feet tonight. For better sleep, I’ll try anything.

  12. Avatar

    Manuel

    April 17, 2017 at 8:58 am

    Really good Article Manya, I guess I would add where you can buy some of these, if you are in Australia you can check http://www.tiger-balm.com.au

  13. Avatar

    Missy

    July 3, 2017 at 5:45 am

    I recently burned my arm with an industrial steamer. Some of the skin has broken open. It’s very sore. My doctor said to keep it moist all the time. A&D ointment or Vaseline. A friend was overseas and burnt his calf on a motorcycle and a premed student in a restaurant gave him tiger balm and he said it healed it in 5 days. But the ingredients sound like it would burn an open wound.

    • Avatar

      Katby

      July 6, 2017 at 5:15 am

      My daughter had an insect bite in Thailand a couple of months ago that went bad and was told to put tiger balm on it….3 days and it was better. I use it on midge bites here in UK as I get a bad reaction to them and it is amazing stuff.

  14. Avatar

    Xolani

    April 12, 2018 at 2:31 pm

    Hi
    Does this product Tiger balm helped when you have a problem with early ejaculation?
    If is yes please explain to me how and when. someone told me that I should rubbed my penis it will help. please reply on my email address.

    Thank you looking forward to your responds

    kinds as
    Xolani

  15. Avatar

    Tiger Balm

    May 18, 2018 at 11:01 am

    Hi Manya, it is indeed an inspiring article to show what advantages the Tiger Balm can do for us in our everyday life. Many people are just aware of the regular usage of muscle pain and against flu related issues, but very view people actually know that it is the grandparents secret weapon against so many things at home. The
    Tiger Balm Uses are far beyond ones imagination. All the best, Sunisa 🙂

  16. Avatar

    Ryan

    June 24, 2018 at 11:37 am

    What is the difference between the red and the white??
    I’ve only used the red and I know it is AMAZING for Burns, headaches, and Grandpa’s sore legs, joints and muscles from RA. HES HOOKED! lol. Wasn’t sure if the white would be better for his pain relief?

  17. Avatar

    Erica

    August 14, 2019 at 6:30 pm

    i put this on a milk burn after I read this article. Boy was that a mistake. It burned and swelled up. Please do not put this on any wound.

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China Health & Science

Distrust and Despair on WeChat and Weibo after Death of Wuhan Whistleblower

Dr. Li is now the face of the coronavirus crisis.

Manya Koetse

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First published

The confusing information flows on the tragic death of Dr. Li are emblematic of the deeper problems behind the Wuhan pneumonia outbreak. Li is now the face of the Coronavirus crisis.

Many Chinese netizens had a sleepless night tonight as reports and posts poured in on the passing of Li Wenliang, one of the doctors who first tried to raise the alarm about the coronavirus outbreak in late December.

Individual posts expressing anger, distrust, and despair flooded Chinese social media after various sources, including the Party news outlet Global Times, first reported that Li had died earlier on Thursday, then later claimed that the young doctor was still alive but in critical condition, only to be followed by more reports stating that Li had passed away at 2:58 AM on Friday.

The 34-year-old doctor Li Wenliang was one of the eight ‘whistleblowers’ who tried to warn his colleagues about the Wuhan virus outbreak in late 2019, but was censored and reprimanded by local police for making “false comments.”

He later became infected with the virus himself while working at the Wuhan Central Hospital.

At a certain moment on early Friday morning, both the hashtags “Li Wenliang Is Still Being Rescued” (#李文亮仍在抢救#) and the hashtag “Dr. Li Wenliang Has Passed Away” (#李文亮医生去世#) were trending on Chinese social media at the same time, with netizens’ anger and confusion growing.

The Wuhan Central Hospital confirmed Li’s death in an online announcement the early hours of Friday morning.

As discussions flared up on Weibo, netizens soon discovered that many posts were deleted, that only “blue V” Weibo accounts (verified official government, media, website, business etc accounts) were able to publish posts about Li’s passing, and that news relating to Li was seemingly kept out of the top search lists on Weibo.

In response to this, the hashtag “Can You Manage, Do You Understand?” (#你能做到吗?你听明白了吗#) surfaced on Weibo, which is a reference to the letter Li was forced to sign earlier this year for “disturbing public order.”

Many netizens are not just expressing their anger and sadness over the death of Li, but also about the way it was reported and the distrust in media, authorities, and social media platforms that comes with it.

The letter Dr. Li was made to sign acknowledging that he was “making false comments.”

By early Friday morning, the phrase “Can You Manage, Do You Understand?” seems to have become a protest slogan for freedom of speech.

The messiness of Chinese media first reporting his death, then claiming Li was still on life support, and then the definite news of his passing has struck a nerve among netizens as it also epitomizes the handling of the Wuhan virus outbreak itself.

Some Weibo users suggest that official media purposely changed the narrative on Li’s passing to control the public opinion on the issue.

Many people express their frustration about not being able to trust supposedly trustworthy sources.

“They wouldn’t let him live when he was alive, they wouldn’t let him die when he was dead,” some write.

“Our hero, rest in peace,” many commenters say.

Dr. Li is survived by his pregnant wife and their first child.

For more information about the main social media trends in China regarding the coronavirus, also see our article on the 8 Major Trends in Times of 2019-nCoV.

By Manya Koetse, additional research by Miranda Barnes
Follow @whatsonweibo

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©2020 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

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Backgrounder

Coronavirus on Chinese Social Media: The 8 Major Trends in Times of the 2019-nCoV Crisis

The 8 main trends defining the online responses to the Wuhan coronavirus on Chinese social media.

Manya Koetse

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Since the outbreak of the new coronavirus becoming big news in China and around the world, there have been few other topics going trending on Chinese social media than those related to 2019-nCoV. What’s on Weibo gives an overview of the most noteworthy online media trends in China regarding the corona-crisis.

 
By Manya Koetse, further research and news-gathering by Miranda Barnes
 

From panic to patriotism, the outbreak of the coronavirus has led to a wide range of different responses from Chinese netizens and online media outlets over the past few weeks.

Although the first reports on the emergence of a pneumonia-like illness in the city of Wuhan came out in late December, it wasn’t until mid-January that the new virus, belonging to the coronavirus family, started dominating the top trending lists on social media in China and beyond.

The hashtag “Nationally Confirmed Cases of New Pneumonia” (#全国确诊新型肺炎病例#) became one of the biggest news-related topics we have ever seen on Weibo, receiving eight billion views by January 25, and reaching a staggering 13,5 billion views by February 2.

As of February 6th, approximately 28,200 cases of the new virus were confirmed, with over 170 cases reported in countries outside of China. The death toll also became much higher than days before, rising to 564. With these numbers, the coronavirus has exceeded the scale of the 2003 SARS outbreak in terms of infected patients.

Along with the quick spread of the new coronavirus across the country, the general mood and direction of the discussions and trends in the Chinese online media environment have also been in constant flux.

At What’s on Weibo, we have been glued to our social media screens, but because editor-in-chief Manya Koetse has been flooded with daily media requests we have not been able to update the site with regular updates (meanwhile, @manyapan did post regular updates on Twitter).

Here, we will highlight some of the main social media trends we spotted during the outbreak of the new Chinese coronavirus, now and over the past weeks.

 

TREND #1:

Online Backlash against the Eating of Wild Game

As an online media panic broke out around January 20, when a third person had died of the new Wuhan virus, one of the main trends to come up on Chinese social media was an online backlash against the eating of wild game (as reported here by Jessica Colwell).

The backlash flooded Weibo after the downtown Wuhan Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market (武汉华南海鲜批发市场), selling a wide range of dead and alive wild animals – anything from snakes and crocodiles to rats, hedgehogs or bats, – was identified as the suspected source of the deadly coronavirus outbreak.

Image posted by Sina Parenting on February 1st.

Since Chinese researchers linked the novel coronavirus (nCoV-2019) to bats, videos and images of bat dishes and people eating bat soon made their rounds on social media.

Many of these videos were actually unrelated to Wuhan, but were used in condemning the practice of eating (illegal/unsafe) wild game in general.

Around January 23, hashtags such as “Support the Banning of Wild Game Markets” (#支持禁绝野味市场#), “Refusing Eating of Wild Game Starts with You” (#拒吃野味从我做起#), “Control Your Mouth, Refuse Wild Game” (#管住嘴拒绝吃野味#) went viral on Weibo.

As images or videos of people eating bats or other exotic animals soon also spread to Twitter and other non-Chinese social media, some English-language media labeled them as “xenophobic” or “racist” – ignoring the fact that the anti-wild game storm actually started in the Chinese online media environment.

Online information leaflet spread by People’s Daily, “Resisting the Consumption of Wild Game Starts with Ourselves”

State media outlets such as People’s Daily, for example, played a role in the online dissemination of information against the eating of wild game and actually hosted some of these hashtag pages on Weibo.

The main argument behind the backlash is that those eating (unsafe, illegal) exotic and/or wild animals could risk their own health and that of their community and that what you eat is also your responsibility in keeping others safe.

A news story of a man hunting wild animals for consumption made its rounds on Weibo this week.

The backlash against the eating of wild game and online anger against people hunting or illegally buying wild animals for consumption is still ongoing, with some directing their anger against Wuhan people in specific.

This has also triggered discussions on Weibo about discrimination – not against Chinese people in general, but against Chinese netizens discriminating against Wuhan people or even against people from the Hubei province.

 

TREND #2:

Fake News and Censorship

Chinese social media platforms such as Weibo are tightly controlled online environments. When certain sensitive topics pop up, such as the anniversary of the Tiananmen protests, the Hong Kong demonstrations in their early phases, or big political events, virtually all related posts and news sharing will sometimes be removed by online censors.

In the wake of the coronavirus outbreak, this was not necessarily the case. From the start, there was a lot of reporting, sharing, and discussion of the virus online.

However, there certainly has been ongoing censorship of the topic. This was mainly done in the case of netizens reposting videos of chaotic situations in streets or at hospitals, but also in the case of ‘fake news’ posts (mostly called “starting rumors”).

Posts that could potentially trigger unrest or panic also were censored. One hashtag that made its rounds around January 22 was “Escaping Wuhan” (#逃离武汉#), with people trying to leave Wuhan before the city would go on lockdown. That hashtag page was soon completely removed from Weibo.

The comments sections of some posts reporting on controversial or sensitive news were also completely turned off (such as this report addressing local authorities in Wuhan allegedly taking donated face masks).

One Weibo user (@魔女小稀), an alleged nurse, posted a video of people in a hospital hallway on January 24th, claiming that “three [dead] bodies” had been lying in a Wuhan hospital for the entire afternoon covered in white sheets without being removed.

The post and the Weibo user were completely removed from the platform on January 25. By that time, however, the video and allegations were already picked up and reposted internationally.

According to Sina News, the post had been completely false; there were no bodies lying around this Wuhan hospital. If there were people covered in white sheets, it was merely people sleeping in the hallway after waiting for a long time.

This is but one of many examples of ‘fake news’ floating around Chinese social media over the past two weeks, with images and videos being placed in a misleading context, people claiming that patient or deceased numbers were much higher than those reported by the official media, and some even bringing up conspiracy theories about the source of the coronavirus (e.g. that the Americans started it, that it leaked from a biolab in Wuhan, etc).

The problem in this issue is, of course, when do we call it ‘fake news’ and when do we call it ‘censorship’? Amid the chaos and uncertainty of the coronavirus outbreak, it is not always easy to separate the two.

This is also a contributing factor in the general distrust in official media reports that clearly surfaced on Weibo over the past weeks. “I don’t believe it,” is a sentence popping up everywhere on social media.

Spreading online “rumors” is a crime under China’s Criminal Law and is punishable by up to seven years in prison. Although some foreign media outlets, such as this one, make it seem as though it is illegal to share fake news about the coronavirus in particular, it is actually illegal in China to share fake news in general.

 

TREND #3:

Virus Vigilantism

Another trend we noticed on social media during the wake of the coronavirus outbreak is not just a distrust in official media and authorities, but also distrust in fellow citizens.

One clear example that blew up on Weibo is that of a young woman from Wuhan who posted about her traveling to France – and enjoying nice food – despite suffering from a fever and cough. Because she took fever reducers, she claimed to have passed airport temperature monitors without issue.

The post sparked great anger among Chinese netizens and triggered the so-called ‘human flesh search engine,’ with people digging into her personal details.

The incident even led to the Chinese embassy in France investigating the matter. The woman turned out not to have been infected with the virus.

But there are many examples of people exposing and doxing those who allegedly are hindering the collective goal of minimizing the risk of a further spreading of the virus, for example by not self-isolating after visiting Wuhan.

There’s also been widespread online condemnation of people stealing tissue paper from public elevators. Many apartment buildings around China now provide a box of tissue paper for hygienic reasons so that people do not need to touch the elevator buttons.

Surveillance videos of people stealing these boxes have been making their rounds on Weibo and WeChat, such as this lady in an elevator in Chongqing, with thousands of netizens expressing their anger over their behavior – and sometimes naming and shaming them.

 

TREND #4:

Social Media as a Practical Communication Tool

Soon after the scale of the coronavirus outbreak started to become clear, social media platforms such as Weibo were started to be used as practical communication tools for authorities, (medical) organizations, and individuals to spread information or to ask for help.

Social media is now widely used as a practical communication tool for very general matters in the coronavirus crisis (e.g. providing information on how to avoid getting the virus), but also for more specific issues.

Various hospitals in Wuhan, for example, spread digital leaflets online summing up their specific shortages in supplies (face masks, surgical gloves, etc), and how people and organizations can contribute.

Another example is how authorities at various times use social media to search for people who were on board of certain trains or where passengers were later diagnosed with the virus.

But we have also seen individuals reaching out through social media. One woman, for example, reached out to netizens online after she and her husband fell ill and needed someone to look after their children.

Through the help of social media, there are now also local volunteers who help taking care of people’s pets while they are unable to return home to feed them.

One of the hashtags increasingly receiving attention online since early February is “Rescuing the Pets Left Behind in Wuhan Homes” (#武汉滞留家中宠物救援#).

Since January 26, Tencent’s WeChat has also opened a special “epidemic supervision” channel within its app where WeChat users can go to get the latest local information about the virus in their area or ask for medical help.

 

TREND #5:

Propaganda, Pride and Patriotism in Times of Crisis

The outbreak of the coronavirus coincided with the most important holiday of the year in China: the Spring Festival. On Friday, January 24, the CCTV broadcasted its annual Spring Festival Gala (Chunwan), a 4-hour long show that has been airing since 1983. The show is the biggest live TV event in the world, with a viewership of one billion.

The show is usually meticulously planned up to every second – with rehearsals starting months before -, but this year, for the first time ever, it included a segment on the Wuhan coronavirus outbreak. It showed scenes from inside a Wuhan hospital, and the show’s main presenters paid their respects to all the medical workers working day and night.

The event became trending on Weibo under the hashtag “For the First Time in History, ‘Chunwan’ Includes a Non-Rehearsed Segment” (#春晚历史上首次没有彩排的片段#)

It was during this time, with twenty million people under travel lockdown, that the sentence “Jiayou Wuhan, Jiayou Zhongguo” (“Come on Wuhan, Come on China”) was propagated by state media and became widely used on Chinese social media.

By now, the hashtag “Go Wuhan!” (#武汉加油#, hosted by Party newspaper People’s Daily) has over 12 billion views on Weibo.

“1.4 billion Chinese salute you”

Starting from the Spring Festival weekend, Chinese state media began to propagate more positive, patriotic, and nationalistic messages online during the corona crisis, focusing on the unity of China and the dedication and resilience of common Chinese people, with a specific emphasis on medical and army staff.

It is not uncommon, or actually rather common, for Chinese authorities and state media to propagate nationalism in times of hardship (also see our article on online propaganda during the Hong Kong protests).

 

TREND #6:

Quarantine Boredom: From Panic to Humor

From late January, the first humorous memes and videos starting flooding Chinese social media in light of the coronavirus.

Around January 25, there were over forty confirmed deaths due to the new coronavirus and over 1380 known infected patients. Along with the travel lockdown, most of the major tourist attractions across China had shut down, and driving bans were implemented in the city of Wuhan to restrict people’s movements in efforts to contain the outbreak.

What was supposed to be a time of joy and reunion and entertainment (the Chinese New Year) turned into a time of fear and self-isolation for many families in Wuhan and beyond.

Practically locked up in their homes, some people used humor as a ‘defense mechanism’ in times of coronacrisis.

The videos embedded in the thread below are some examples of people making the most of their times in lockdown.

But besides the creative solutions of people avoiding boredom inside the home, there were also many memes going around WeChat and Weibo making fun of the extreme measures taken by people and authorities, such as this photo below that was allegedly taken at a station in Yiwu, Zhejiang, saying: “Some people got off the train in Yiwu but thought they’d ended up in Saudi Arabia.”

There was also this viral image below of an office canteen where people were self-isolating for safety reasons, saying: “Eating at the cantine of my unit now feels more like taking an exam.”

Videos and images of people using sanitary pads, bras, plastic bags, or even fruit to protect their faces due to a scarcity of face masks also continue to make their rounds on social media, with people sometimes mocking neighbors, their friends or family, or even themselves in the extreme and sometimes silly measures they are taking to avoid getting the coronavirus.

 

TREND #7:

Anger against Local Authorities and Illegal Lock-Ins

As panic over the spreading coronavirus has become bigger over the past few weeks, the voices criticizing local authorities and organizations for mishandling the situation have also grown louder.

While loud criticism of the central government is usually censored before triggering bigger discussions, there has been ample criticism of provincial, city, and county authorities and organizations – and not without consequence.

In Hubei, local authorities have been criticized for, among others, initially censoring reports of an emerging new illness in December of 2019.

The mayor of Wuhan, Zhou Xianwang, became a major target of netizens’ anger. In late January, Zhou admitted that he had failed in disclosing information in a timely manner and also “did not use effective information” to improve the local government’s work.

The Hubei branch of the Red Cross Society of China (RCSC, 中国红十字会) also received massive criticism online in early February when it turned out that, while the public donated medical supplies and money, most of it remained in the Red Cross warehouse.

On February 4, Chinese state media reported that the Hubei Red Cross deputy director had been removed from office and dismissed from the leading Party members group of the RCSC branch.

On village and prefecture-level, there has also been public condemnation of how authorities are handling the corona crisis.

Some videos going around social media showed how people, seemingly against their will, were locked up inside their own homes by local authorities after returning from Wuhan (“武汉返乡人员”).

China Youth Daily, the official newspaper of the Communist Youth League of China, also condemned these practices as “illegal” and “inhumane” in an article that has since been deleted.

Through a new WeChat function mentioned earlier in this post, Chinese netizens can now also report any mishandlings of the coronavirus situation.

At the time of writing, there seems to have been some increased censorship, but nevertheless, criticism on local authorities keeps flooding Weibo.

“While people are busy helping themselves and each other, what are the leaders of Hubei and Wuhan doing?”, some people wonder: “Supplies in the hospitals are still scarce, there are still people who are unable to receive help!”

 

TREND #8:

Corona Panic Buying

It was around January 21st when the coronavirus panic reached a peak in China; a third infected patient had died of the virus the day before, the first cases were confirmed outside of China, and several big travel platforms had started to offer refunds or change flights via Wuhan.

Similar to the SARS outbreak in 2003, news of the coronavirus led to waves of “scare shopping” – a trend that also became very visible on social media.

Medical face masks soon sold out in Chinese pharmacies and on e-commerce platforms: around 80 million face masks were sold on Alibaba’s Taobao platform alone on January 20 and January 21st. Those (online) shops still offering face masks exploited the shortage of face masks, and would only sell them at exorbitant prices.

Twenty dollars for a face mask?

Although Alibaba soon announced it would remove sales of face masks from shops that were selling them at unstable prices, the sales and availability of (disposable) N95 masks is still an issue across China, with netizens complaining about it on Weibo every single day.

Another example of consumer panic followed the Jan 31st reports by two medical research institutions on the TCM oral medicine Shuanghuanglian, which would allegedly be effective in combating the new coronavirus.

Shortly after the reports came out, the herbal remedy sold out in stores across the country.

Chinese state media now warn people against “irrational purchases,” saying that the effectivity of herbal remedies such as Shuanghuanglian is still unsure.

Panic buying is a trend that is not just visible on Chinese social media, it is a trend that also seems to be triggered through social media, with rumors and reports of existing shortages of certain products leading to panic.

A clear example is the February 5 run on toilet paper in Hong Kong after rumors spread that the coronavirus outbreak would lead to insufficient supplies.

 

As there are still many new developments and news reports coming out concerning the coronavirus, we will keep on publishing more on What’s on Weibo about what’s trending on Chinese social media. (Also read: Distrust and despair on WeChat and Weibo after the death of Wuhan whistleblower Li Wenliang).

If it’s quiet here, please also follow us on Twitter here and here.

By Manya Koetse, additional research and news-gathering by Miranda Barnes
Follow @whatsonweibo

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