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Happy Ending to Unfortunate Love Story of Dutchman in China

The unfortunate love story of a Dutchman in China has made international headlines over the past week, as the man waited for over ten days on Changsha airport in hopes of meeting his online Chinese girlfriend who failed to show up. Although the man was even admitted to a local hospital in critical condition, the story now seems to have taken an unexpectedly happy turn.

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The unfortunate love story of a Dutchman in China has made international headlines over the past week, as the man waited for over ten days on Changsha airport in hopes of meeting his online Chinese girlfriend – who failed to show up. Although the man was even admitted to a local hospital in critical condition, the story now seems to have unexpectedly taken a happy turn.

The 41-year-old Alexander Pieter Cirk from the Netherlands recently traveled to China’s Hunan province in the hopes of meeting his online girlfriend there. When the young woman did not show up, Cirk did not give up hope to see her and stayed at the airport day and night. After the man had been waiting at the airport for 8 days, his remarkable story was reported by Chinese local media on June 28.

The story of ‘Peter’ and ‘Zhang’

News of the Dutchman’s failed romance made its rounds on Chinese social media under the hashtag of “Foreign Man Visits Online Girlfriend in Changsha” (#外籍男赴长沙见女网友#). The story was later also reported internationally, from Dutch blog Geenstijl to the BBC and Washington Post.

PETER 3

Although some Chinese netizens saw Cirk, simply referred to as ‘Peter’ (皮特), as the poor victim of an online fake romance, others deemed him a cheat and a swindler. Many netizens initially blamed the girl for cheating the Dutchman: “This girl really is unbelievable,” one netizen writes: “She cheats foreign men and lets them come from so far away.” But others commented: “You can just see he’s a swindler by looking at him, go back to your own country!” And: “He looks like a drug addict.”

Cirk made headlines again when he was admitted to the hospital after waiting at the airport for over ten days, on July 31. The Dutchman reportedly was hospitalized for physical exhaustion and neglecting his diabetes, eating nothing but instant noodles and sleeping on airport benches. Doctors stated that he was critically ill.

PETER BENCH

PETER HOSP[ITAL

According to Tencent News, the man had initially not been in contact with his online girlfriend after arriving in China. But when his story appeared on local news stations, the mysterious girlfriend – who goes by the name of ‘Zhang’ – got in touch with reporters to share her side of the story.

According to Zhang, she had met ‘Peter’ on an online platform only over a month ago and the two hit it off. They had discussed meeting one day, but according to Zhang, this would maybe take place a year from now. When he later suddenly send her a photo of him and an airplane, she thought he was joking and never expected him to really come to Changsha. In the days that followed, Zhang waited online to get in touch with Peter, but could not get hold of him.

Zhang later traveled to Zhengzhou, where she underwent a plastic surgery procedure. It was from the hospital where she learned of Cirk’s arrival and hospitalization. She told reporters she was not able to come and meet him as she was still recovering from her plastic surgery, which was allegedly confirmed by her doctor.

A Happy Ending

A video of the story of the Dutchman has been shared on Chinese social media through video platform Miaopai that shows the man waiting and being hospitalized, accompanied by a cheerful tune. Most netizens find the situation funny, people commenting “this guy is crazy”, or saying “she thought she’d meet a northern European Mr. Perfect, but saw a hooligan instead.”

The story of Peter and Zhang – turn on subtitles for English.

In the meantime, Cirk is no longer in critical condition and he has been released from the hospital. He flew back to Amsterdam on Tuesday, August 2, where he told reporters at the airport that he “took the wrong steps to meet the girl” and that it was “the wrong timing”. He also confirmed he did not have the girl’s phone number upon his arrival in China and that there was no way to reach her.

The story does seem to have a happy ending since various Chinese media outlets now report that despite all upheaval, Zhang still hopes to “continue this romance” with Peter.

Cirk also confirmed that he has now obtained Zhang’s phone number and spoke to her over the phone for 4,5 hours to clear things up. The girl allegedly told him “not to do this again”. Next time, the two can make a proper appointment to meet up.

According to the Dutch Telegraaf newspaper, Sander has arrived home safely and is currently together with his parents in the Dutch city of Den Helder.

The Dutchman’s unfortunate week in China has not made him lose hope on his affair with Zhang: “She is the woman of my dreams,” he tells Dutch reporters. Both Zhang and Peter have confirmed that their love affair is not over yet – it might just be the beginning. For now, they will not meet at any airport, but will safely keep their love affair right where it started: in cyberspace.

– By Manya Koetse

©2016 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

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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 Memes & Viral

Shanghai Disney’s Crystal Castle Sold for RMB 1.8 Million

Shanghai Disney’s cherished object was sold off to the “dirty rich.”

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Who’d spend RMB 1.8 million on a small crystal Disney castle? For most Weibo commenters, it’s just a castle in the air.

Almost three years after Shanghai Disney first opened its doors, its sparkling ‘enchanted storybook’ crystal castle has now been sold for RMB 1.8 million ($276.500).

The minitiature bling bling castle has been an eyecatcher and a much-photographed object at the Disney resort.

Today, the hashtag “1.8 Million Shanghai Disney Crystal Castle Sold” (#迪士尼180万水晶城堡被买走#) went trending on Sina Weibo with some 180 million views, with many people wondering what kind of person would spend so much money on a decorative crystal castle.

According to a Weibo user, the castle was bought by a “tuhao” (土豪), Chinese slang for a “dirty rich” or extravagantly wealthy person (more info).

“Even if was RMB 180 [$27], I still wouldn’t be able to afford it,” a popular comment said.

“I went there just some days ago and was joking about whether someone would actually ever buy it – now it’s sold!”

“I’m happy I was still able to see it [before it was sold],” many commenters write, with hundreds of people sharing their own photos of the little castle. In 2017 alone, the park attracted 11 million visitors.

For the same price of the small crystal castle, the buyer could have visited the park 3706 times during high season (a peak season entrance ticket is priced at RMB 499/$75).

The display where the crystal palace was shined now shows a bronze statue of Frozen.

By Manya Koetse

Spotted a mistake or want to add something? Please let us know in comments below or email us.

©2019 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com

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Meet China’s Latest Internet Celebrity: The “Vagrant Shanghai Professor” (上海流浪大师)

He is the latest online sensation in China, but what is this hype really about?

Gabi Verberg

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Over the past month, the popular short-video app Douyin flooded with videos of the so-called “Vagrant Shanghai Professor” (上海流浪大师), who has conquered the hearts of millions of Chinese netizens. His fans are determined to make the Shanghai drifter more famous, regardless of his own wishes.

It has been nine years since “Brother Sharp” (犀利哥), a homeless man from Ningbo, became an online hit in China for his fashionable and handsome appearance. Now, another homeless man, this time from Shanghai, has become an internet sensation for his poise, wisdom, and modesty.

‘Brother Sharp’ became an online hit in 2009 (image via Chinasmack).

It all started about three weeks ago when an online video of a homeless man who eloquently discusses literature and philosophy went viral on Chinese social media, receiving millions of views within a time span of just three days. The man was nicknamed the “Vagrant Shanghai Professor” (上海流浪大师).

Soon, more information about the man’s identity started making its rounds on the internet. The “Vagrant Professor” is named Shen Wei (沈巍), a 52-year-old who was born and raised in Shanghai. Shen reportedly once worked as a civil servant at the Shanghai’s Xuhui District Audit Bureau, before he took sick leave and started roaming the streets anonymously for more than twenty years.

Persistent rumors started circulating the internet, suggesting that Shen once graduated from the prestigious Fudan University in Shanghai and that he became a vagrant after his wife and daughter had died in a car crash. Despite Shen himself repeatedly denying these claims, the rumors kept appearing in articles and on social media.

Whether he likes it or not, Shen’s quiet days of reading books and collecting garbage are now seemingly over. Within a few days after the first video of Shen went viral, hundreds of people began searching for him near Shanghai’s Gaoke West Road, the place where he usually stays, hoping to catch a glimpse of the ‘Vagrant Professor’ and take a selfie with him.

Hundreds of photos and videos of Chen started flooding the internet, all showing the same image: Shen surrounded by people, holding their phones in his face.

Shen became a true social media phenomenon, even receiving attention outside of China, with both BBC and Washington Post reporting about this man’s sudden rise to fame.

For Shen, his online celebrity status has come at a price. When the crowds became too big, the Shanghai police had to intervene and escort him out of his shelter. While the police were trying to bring Shen to safety, people were still taking his picture and tried touching him. One woman even held up a cardboard sign saying: “Vagrant Professor, I want to marry you.”

Over the past week, Shen hasn’t been seen out in public. Some recent photos of Chen show that he had an apparent makeover when attending a class reunion that was specially organized for him by his former classmates.

As the hype around the ‘Vagrant Professor’ is slowly quieting down, more critical responses to Chen’s sudden fame are surfacing on Chinese social media, asking who this hype really is about in the end.

Many netizens question the invasion of Chen’s privacy, saying that this craze was not so much about Chen himself but more about people’s needs for a dramatic and touching story, and social media users’ greed for more clicks and likes for themselves through Chen. These so-called “like hunters” will try to get as many ‘likes’ as possible to make them feel good about themselves.

Commenters also point out that if it would have been about Chen himself, his ‘fans’ should have left him alone as he requested. Instead, they disrupted his life so drastically that he had to leave the streets he once called home.

On Weibo, one person wrote: “This is how I see it: all these people who took his photo are the real beggars, begging for likes.”

Other people wrote: “Society has gone mad,” and: “Even if you don’t want to be famous, they will just make you famous.”

The fashionable beggar ‘Brother Sharp’ who rose to fame in 2009 initially benefited from his overnight stardom. He received help from social workers, but once he looked like a ‘regular person’ again, people lost interest in him.

Brother Sharp after his makeover.

According to a recent media report, ‘Brother Sharp’ has, again, lost contact with his family and might be back on the street, anonymous this time. Perhaps the story of the ‘Vagrant Professor’ will see a similar ending once the hype has blown over.

By Gabi Verberg, edited by Manya Koetse

Spotted a mistake or want to add something? Please let us know in comments below or email us.

©2019 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com

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What’s on Weibo provides social, cultural & historical insights into an ever-changing China. What’s on Weibo sheds light on China’s digital media landscape and brings the story behind the hashtag. This independent news site is managed by sinologist Manya Koetse. Contact info@whatsonweibo.com. ©2014-2018

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