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What’s Not on Weibo – The 2014 APEC in Beijing

In this new column, we highlight the offline effects of online topics on people’s everyday life in China. This week: The 2014 APEC in Beijing. Interview with Ryan Myers: “Most of the time we have no clue of what is really happening and the measurements that are taken.”

Manya Koetse

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Over the past week, Weibo and Chinese media were overflowing with all news concerning the Nov 8-10 Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC). Even stories that were not actually related to the contents of the summit, like Obama chewing gum or Putin handing a warm shawl to Mrs. Xi Jinping, became much discussed topics online. This year’s theme of the APEC Economic Leaders’ Meeting was “Shaping the Future through Asia-Pacific Partnership”. The APEC leaders, including the presidents of China, America, Russia and South Korea, came together at Beijing’s Yanqi Lake.

The event was also noticeable for those living in the center of Beijing who are not active on social media or news sites. “I surely noticed APEC was going on, both in the week preceding it as during the last week”, says Ryan Myers: “I did not like it at all.” Myers, a U.S. citizen who has been based in Beijing as a Chinese language specialist and teacher since 2007, lives in the center of the city’s embassy district. He describes how the APEC influenced his daily surroundings over the past week: “There were actually very few people on the streets,” Myers says: “A lot of my favorite restaurants were closed, so I had to eat at restaurants I normally would not eat at. On my way home from work, there was police and military everywhere. I had to wait for ten minutes at one intersection where the military police came through on motorcycles. I had actually never seen that before.”

ryan1-1

Ryan Myers, Chinese language specialist and teacher in Beijing since 2007.

The Beijing government has become much more proactive in security matters over the recent years.

The presence of security guards, police and military was noticeable in Beijing before and during the APEC. “Near to my house there is a little hutong [traditional alley] I always take as a shortcut home,” Myers explains: “I walk there everyday. And one day over the past week there was suddenly a group of forty policemen standing in the road. I don’t even know what they were doing there.” In some parts of the city near the third ring road, people were told to stay clear of windows due to heightened security. “One of my friends received a message from her company kindly asking her not to lean out of the windows during these days. It said there were snipers working for national security and they would not want to mistake people leaning out of windows for their target.” According to Myers, the Beijing government has become much more proactive in security matters over the recent years. They also sent out a message to people before Halloween, telling them not to dress up in costumes on the subway for security reasons. The APEC event and its safety measures displays how China is increasingly taking charge of security issues.

Most of the time we have no clue of what is really happening and the measurements that are taken.

Myers smilingly tells how some diplomats visiting Beijing over the previous week made remarks over the limited amount of cars on the streets, thinking that the city’s roads were always this quiet. In fact, it is a far cry from the hectic traffic on average Beijing days; the government took half of all cars off local roads to avoid smog and jammed traffic. The countermeasure had its upside, says Myers: “Everybody said you would never be able to get a taxi during the APEC. But because the roads were clear, people got to their destination more quickly and efficiently. It was actually much easier for me to get taxi’s than normally. And I did not end up getting stuck in traffic.” Taking the subway was a different story. Due to the limited amount of cars allowed on the streets, the subway traffic became extra heavy: “It was extraordinarily crowded. One passenger was actually crushed to death the weekend before the summit when she became stuck between the subway doors.”

“I thought there was thunder on the night Obama arrived,” Myers says: “I later found out it was actually fireworks. I never really know these things because I do not spend a lot of time online. But honestly, I think those of us living in Beijing never know what is going on during these events. Most of the time we have no clue of what is really happening and the measurements that are taken. I don’t think anybody knows. Not even the international media.”

Feature image from Radio Free Asia, 2014 (http://www.rfa.org/english/news/china/shutters-11042014141641.html).

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[box type=”bio”]

koetse.148x200About the Author: Manya Koetse is the editor of What’s on Weibo. She’s a Sinologist who splits her time between the Netherlands and China. She earned her bachelor’s degrees in Literary Studies, Japanese & China Studies and completed her MPhil in Asian Studies. Contact: manya@whatsonweibo.com, or follow on Twitter.[/box]

©2014 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce 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.

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China Arts & Entertainment

“Not Just a Style, But a Mission” – China’s Online Hanfu Movement

What started with a 2003 internet sensation grew into a massive movement – Hanfu is booming on Weibo and beyond.

Things That Talk

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It’s been nearly two decades since the Chinese traditional clothing trend named Hanfu 汉服 first became noticeable as a popular social phenomenon in mainland China. Throughout the years, Hanfu has gone from a fashion style to a full-fledged movement that is flourishing on Chinese social media. Koen van der Lijn reports.

 
When objects meet social media, two websites meet as well. This is a collaboration between What’s on Weibo and Things That Talk (follow on Insta @thingsthattalk).
 

This last Christmas, Hanfu was once again a trending topic on Weibo. Enthusiasts of the traditional Chinese clothing trend posed online in their Christmas inspired Chinese clothing.

It was yet another development in the Hanfu Movement, which has been a hot topic with hundreds of hashtags and thousands of pictures, videos, and stories on Weibo, with the official Weibo Hanfu @微博汉服 account boasting a whopping 1.8 million followers and a Weibo ‘supertopic’ on Hanfu being joined by nearly half a million fans.

“You can also wear Hanfu during Christmas,” post and images by @弥秋君 on Weibo.

One example of the manifold of Hanfu content on Weibo is a video recently posted by Chinese actress Xu Jiao (徐娇). In the short video, which is an advertisement by the e-commerce platform RED (小红书), the actress wears Hanfu in various settings while talking about the meaning behind the fashion. Xu Jiao, being 23 years of age, is part of Generation Z (mid-1990s – early 2010s), who are adept users of social media and make up the mass of Hanfu enthusiasts.

Screenshot of video posted by Xu Jiao 徐娇

Though Hanfu enthusiasts seldomly go out on the streets whilst wearing the clothing style,1 Hanfu sales have been increasing a lot over the past few years.2 Possibly linked to the popularity of Chinese costume dramas, many Chinese youth have started to wear Hanfu in the past two decades. However, it is not just a form of cosplay or a new clothing style. As Xu Jiao says herself in the video: “It’s not just a style, it’s a mission.”

 

Background of the Hanfu Movement


 

It was November 2003 when Wang Letian walked the streets of Zhengzhou in Hanfu. News of his action rapidly spread over the internet through websites such as hanminzu.net.3

Besides online discussions, an article was also written about Wang Letian’s bold move in the Singaporean newspaper Lianhe Zaobao 联合早报, helping spread word about the young man’s actions. This moment was seen as the start of the Hanfu Movement.

Wang Letian in the Lianhe Zaobao of November 29, 2003.

Now, roughly twenty years later, the wearing of Hanfu has developed into a true movement, with many young Chinese participating in the wearing of the traditional Chinese dress. Especially on college campuses, the trend is very much alive.

In its most basic idea, the Hanfu Movement can be described as a social movement that supports the wearing of Han Chinese ethnic clothing. The emphasis on the Han ethnicity is of importance here. Han Chinese make up the vast majority of the population in China, accounting for more than 90% of China’s total population. However, aspects famous outside China for being typically Chinese, such as the queue, are actually of Manchu origin.

The Manchus are an ethnic group from Northeastern China, showing cultural similarities to the Mongols, who ruled China’s last dynasty, the Qing dynasty (1644-1912). Their clothing style has influenced foreign perceptions of China, due to the fact that the Manchus were the ruling class in the last Chinese imperial dynasty.

Image via https://shop60421556.taobao.com/.

Hence the emphasis on the Han ethnicity. Central to the Hanfu Movement is the idea that ethnic Han clothing, as worn during Han Chinese ruled dynasties, such as the Han dynasty (202BC-220AD), the Tang dynasty (618-907), and the Ming dynasty (1368-1644), has much value in its own and should be worn and appreciated by contemporary Han Chinese, just as the ethnic clothing of China’s minorities is appreciated in contemporary China.4

 

The Mission


 

On 4 December 2020, blogger Mi Qiujun posted a video with the hashtag #How to make the world understand Hanfu?#, (#如何让世界了解汉服#), gaining many likes and comments. Showing clips of herself wearing Hanfu in Egypt, the United States, France, and Japan, she tells how she became determined to make people around the globe understand China’s traditional culture after her clothing being wrongly identified as a Japanese kimono at her first stop in Nepal.

Mi Qiujun discusses an important aspect of the Hanfu movement. Hanfu enthusiasts feel that their ethnic clothing is not understood well enough by others, and showing the rest of the world their clothing is a true mission.

Hanfu enthusiasts have found themselves in online quarrellings about what can be defined as Hanfu, and what cannot be defined as Hanfu. It is worth noting that some scholars have disputed the existence of a uniform Hanfu throughout Chinese history.5 Instead, Hanfu is seen to have been popularised by students through the internet, without strong knowledge of Han Chinese clothing traditions.6 This makes it difficult to assess what does and what does not count as Hanfu.

Online quarrelings have therefore become part of the Hanfu Movement. In November 2020, for instance, Chinese netizens found themselves in an online discussion with their Korean neighbours. That month, Chinese actor Xu Kai (许凯) posted a photo of himself in traditional costume from the set of the Chinese drama titled Royal Feast (尚食), which is set in the Ming Dynasty.

A controversial selfie.

After South Korean web users pointed out that the traditional costume worn by Xu resembled Korean traditional clothing named Hanbok, the drama’s producer Yu Zheng (于正) posted a response on social media in which he firmly stated that this clothing was not Hanbok but Hanfu, adding that Korea was a vassal state of China at the time and that only “uncivilized people” would call it ‘Hanbok.’

 

A Nationalist Movement?


 

These kinds of discussions also show another side of the Hanfu Movement. For some Hanfu enthusiasts, Hanfu is more than a mission to let others understand Han ethnic culture; instead, it is a way to construct a purified Han Chinese identity, free from foreign influence.7

Girl dressed in Hanfu while visiting the Forbidden City. Photo by Manya Koetse.

This foreign influence is often linked back to the Manchus once again. ‘Uncivilised practices’ in contemporary Chinese society are attributed to the Manchus. This rhetoric reinforces the belief of Han supremacy, which has existed long before the invention of the internet, where the ‘civilized’ Han Chinese believe themselves to be superior to the ‘uncivilized’ barbarians, such as the Manchus.

This rise in Han Chinese nationalism started in the past few decades.8 The Hanfu Movement thus has followers who are a part of this new turn, where Han Chinese want to restore the glory of their past and turn away from Western and Manchu influences.9

These hardcore Han nationalists are but a small part of the movement. The Hanfu Movement encompasses a large and diverse group of people, who all share a certain belief that Hanfu should gain more appreciation in China and abroad. These are, for instance, some of the comments under Xu Jiao’s video:

– “(…) Xu Jiao speaks for Hanfu!!” (@怪物与约翰)

– “Do not be afraid to doubt, never forget the original intention, Hanfu is a style, it’s a mission, it’s culture, and it’s an attitude.” (@打翻废纸篓)

– “I am so thankful we have you! I really like your work and your attitude towards Hanfu!” (@小瓦肯Shail)

What connects most Hanfu enthusiasts then? Hanfu enthusiasts take pride in wearing Hanfu, and they wear Hanfu simply because they like wearing it. Moreover, they believe it to be important to make others, both in and outside China, gain a deeper understanding of Han Chinese ethnic culture. Hanfu is more than a fad. It is a subculture, it is a style, and for Xu Jiao and many others, it is their mission.

 
By Koen van der Lijn

Koen van der Lijn (China Studies, BA) is a ResMa student Asian Studies at Leiden University focused on Chinese history and its international relations. He is a student ambassador at Things That Talk.

This story was made in collaboration with ThingsThatTalk.net – exploring humanities through the life of objects. Things That Talk is an educational digital project where staff and students produce narratives and metadata about objects in Leiden collections and beyond. A story focused on the background of the Hanfu Movement and objects associated with this movement has previously been published on Things that Talk, go check it out!
 

Notes (other sources hyperlinked within the article)

1 Buckley, Chris, and Katrina Northrop. 2018. “A Retro Fashion Statement in 1,000-Year-Old Gowns, With Nationalist Fringe.” New York Times, Nov 22 https://www.nytimes.com/2018/11/22/world/asia/china-hanfu-gowns-clothing.html [Jan 16 2021].
2 Zhou Xing 周兴. 2020. “Report: Hanfu turnover on Taobao platform exceeded 2 billion yuan in 2019 [报告:2019年淘宝平台上汉服成交金额突破20亿元].” Dianshangbao, August 2 2020 https://www.dsb.cn/124836.html [Jan 16 2021].
3 Cui Chentao 崔晨涛. 2016. “Han Costume Movement and National Culture Rejuvenation [汉服运动“与民族文化复兴的诉求].” Journal of Yunyang Teachers College 36(5): 19-24.
4 Cui Chentao 崔晨涛. 2016. “Han Costume Movement and National Culture Rejuvenation [汉服运动“与民族文化复兴的诉求].” Journal of Yunyang Teachers College 36(5): 19-24.
5 Carrico, Kevin. 2017. The Great Han: Race, Nationalism, and Tradition in China Today. Oakland, California: University of California Press.
6 Zhang Xian 张跣. 2009. “‘Hanfu Movement’: Ethnic Nationalism in the Internet Age [“汉服运动”:互联网时代的种族性民族主义].” Journal of China Youth University for Political Sciences (4): 65-71.
7 Carrico, Kevin. 2017. “Imaginary Communities: Fantasy and Failure in Nationalist Identification,” in The Great Han: Race, Nationalism, and Tradition in China Today, chapter 1. Oakland, California: University of California Press.
8 Dikötter, Frank. 2001. “Nationalist Myth-making: The Construction of the Chinese Race.” Human Rights in China, 27 April https://www.hrichina.org/en/content/4573 [16 Jan 2021].
9 Carrico, Kevin. 2017. “Imaginary Communities: Fantasy and Failure in Nationalist Identification,” in The Great Han: Race, Nationalism, and Tradition in China Today, chapter 1. Oakland, California: University of California Press.

Featured image: Photo by zhang kaiyv on Unsplash

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China World

Chinese Couple Murdered in Cambodia, Last Moments Caught on CCTV Camera

The bodies of the 38-year-old man and 22-year-old woman were found by the cleaning staff.

Manya Koetse

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On January 13, Cambodian media reported that two Chinese citizens were murdered in an apartment building in the Cambodian capital Phnom Penh.

CCTV cameras captured the chilling last moments of the two as they were taken into the apartment against their will by two men with a weapon.

The victims have been identified as a 38-year-old man from Guangdong by the name of Xiao Bo (肖波), and his 22-year-old girlfriend. The two had just met a few months ago. Xiao was locally also known as ‘Bobo’ (波波).

The man and woman reportedly were first held hostage and then brutally killed by two gunmen in an apartment on the ninth floor of the Phnom Penh building.

The incident happened on January 12 in the LH Residence (澜海总裁公寓) apartment complex. The cleaner found their bodies, after which the police were alerted.

Some media report that Xiao had previously sought help because he was being chased by ‘enemies.’ Cambodian police are currently investigating the case.

Meanwhile, the murders have attracted major attention on Chinese social media, where the hashtag “Chinese citizens murdered in Cambodia” (#两名中国人在柬埔寨遇害#) received 180 million views by Thursday evening.

While many people express shock and sadness over the Chinese couple’s death, there are also those who speculate that the man might have been caught up in gambling and the local criminal underworld.

We will add further details to this story when more news comes out.

By Manya Koetse

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