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China Arts & Entertainment

Old Teacher-Student Traditions in Modern Times: The Fight Between Guo Degang & Cao Yunjin

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The recent public falling-out between famous Chinese comic dialogue actors Guo Degang and his pupil Cao Yunjin has got Chinese netizens talking about traditional teacher-student relations in modern-day China.

Recently, the argument between two famous comic dialogue (xiangsheng) actors Guo Degang (@郭德纲) and his student Cao Yunjin (@曹云金) has drawn much attention on Chinese social media. The 30-year-old Cao accused his 43-year-old teacher of exploiting him while serving an apprenticeship.

aaaCao Yunjin and his teacher Guo Degang.

Guo Degang is one of China’s richest celebrities and biggest ‘crosstalk’ star. Xiangsheng (相声) or crosstalk is a traditional Chinese comedic performance that involves a dialogue between two performers, using rich language and many puns.

On August 31, Guo accused two of his students, Cao Yunjin and He Yunwei, of disobeying and betraying him as their teacher. Guo also announced that he would “cleanse his courtyard” and expel the two “astonishingly shameless students” from his xiangsheng school. He even accused Cao of “betraying his teacher for gold”.

 

“Students were hindered in personal growth because of the devoutness and loyalty that was expected of them.”

 

Five days after Guo’s announcement, his former student Cao Yunjin responded that Guo should not “morally kidnap” his students, but instead give them more freedom to pursue their personal careers. It soon became clear that teacher Guo had a very different perspective on his student’s future than the students themselves.

In an article published on Sina Weibo, Cao writes that as a student of Guo, he was paid only a small portion of his performing income. He also accused him of unfair demands in doing housework and sharing the rent.

He further claimed that his personal further development was hindered by his teacher. Although he also expressed his respect and gratitude to Guo, he said that students were hindered in personal growth because of the devoutness and loyalty that was expected of them.

On Sina Weibo, the hashtag “#Guo Degang Cleans Out His Courtyard” (#郭德纲清理门户) attracted 490 million views within a few days.

 

“Who is a master one day, will be a father for always.”

 

Apart from Guo and Cao’s popularity as Xiangsheng actors, the breach between the two mainly drew wide attention because it brings traditional ideas about the teacher-student relationship in modern society up for discussion.

Similar to apprenticeship in Europe, many trades in China are transmitted to younger generations through individual or small scale teaching. In China, this holds especially true for the business of art and entertainment. Famous Peking Opera actor Mei Lanfang (梅兰芳), for example, had many students under his own opera “Mei School” (梅派).

meilanfangOpera actor Mei Lanfang was both a performer and a teacher.

One Chinese expression says that “who is a master one day, will be a father for always,” (一日为师,终身为父) – it is emblematic for how Chinese teacher-student were traditionally perceived to also involve some sort of filial piety.

Not only is a student often considered a part of the family, his role also entails moral obligations towards the teacher; respect him, obey him, and fulfil a son’s duty towards him. Traditionally, honoring the teacher was seen as a dominant aspect within apprenticeship.

 

“Even your own son will rebel if you control and supress him too much.”

 

It is within the context of this kind of traditional intimate teacher-student relationship that Guo accused his student of failing moral obligations. But for Cao Yunjin, who was born in the post-1980s, his relation with Guo was more professional, and simply entailed learning a trade to establish a future career.

In his blog, Cao mentioned that one of the reasons for the conflict between him and his teacher was that he was trying to find a middle ground with Guo, as he made him act in of two of his films with little or no payment. “Honestly,” Cao writes: “I don’t even know how I can survive if I don’t have income.”

He also said he wanted to develop his own career “and give a better life to my mother”, but claimed this was seen as “betrayal” by Guo.

On Weibo, many netizens support Cao. In a survey under the hashtag #郭德纲清理门户, 52.3% of the 230,000 participants sympathise with Cao. These netizens argue that teacher-student relations should adjust to modern society, and place more emphasis on individual interests and encouraging independence.

“It is true that a one-day teacher is a lifetime father”, writes one netizen, “but even your own son will rebel if you control and suppress him too much”.

“Kidnapping people with morality is immoral in itself”, another netizen writes: “And don’t forget that Cao did pay tuition. Guo is just a teacher, nothing more”.

 

“A country has its laws and a family has its rules.”

 

But there are also people who defend the traditional teacher-student relationship. Many argue that Cao owes his career completely to Guo, and that he should be grateful for that: “A country has its laws and a family has its rules”, says one netizen, “These rules may be outdated, but you should obey them all the same since you joined the trade on your own will.”

No matter who gets more support, Guo and Cao’s split brings forward a dilemma of China’s modern-day xiangsheng industry: teachers may want to preserve the traditional filial responsibilities of students; but the students, often from a younger generation, expect a business-like contract with their teacher.

The Guo-Cao affair might be an indication that in a rapidly modernising China, it is only a matter of time before more cracks will start appearing in the performing art’s old tradition of honoring the teacher as the dominant factor in education.

-By Diandian Guo, edited 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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Diandian Guo is a China-born Master student of transdisciplinary and global society, politics & culture at the University of Groningen with a special interest for new media in China. She has a BA in International Relations from Beijing Foreign Language University, and is specialized in China's cultural memory.

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China Arts & Entertainment

“What Is Peppa?” – Viral Ad Campaign for ‘Peppa Pig’ Movie Makes the British Pig More Chinese Than Ever

It’s the Chinese new year of Peppa Pig.

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A new ad campaign for the upcoming Peppa Pig movie features a grandfather living in rural China who goes on a quest to find out what Peppa is. The commercial is a huge success on Chinese social media, and strikes a chord with netizens for touching upon various societal and cultural issues. Peppa is more Chinese than ever now.

“What is Peppa?” That is the question that is currently going viral on Chinese social media, with the hashtag #WhatisPeppa (#啥是佩奇#) receiving a staggering 400 million times on social media platform Weibo at time of writing.

The reason for the trend is an ad campaign, titled ‘What’s Peppa’, promoting the Peppa Pig Celebrates Chinese New Year film, a production by Entertainment One and China’s Alibaba Pictures.

The promotional video (5:39 length, watch featured video), that came out via various online channels on January 17, focuses on a grandfather living in a remote rural village who is anticipating the Spring Festival reunion with his son and his family, who now live in a big city.

The grandfather, named Yu Bao, wants to know what gift to get for his little grandson. When calling his family on a bad connection through his old 2G mobile phone, the word “Peppa” is all he gets from his little grandson before his phone breaks down. But what’s Peppa?

Yu Bao then goes on a comical mission to find out what Peppa is: looking it up in the dictionary, asking his friends -who are just as oblivious as he is-, and asking the entire village.

At the local shop, it is suggested that ‘Peppa’ is some kind of shampoo.

Eventually, one of the female villagers, who used to be a nanny, knows what Peppa is. She tries to explain it to Yu Bao, who now even seems willing to paint his own pig pink for his grandson. She explains that it is a pink cartoon pig whose face looks somewhat like a traditional fire blower.

With some guidance, the grandfather then goes to work and creates a unique ‘Peppa Pig’ gift from a metal air-blower to surprise his grandson during Chinese New Year.

But much to his disappointment, he then receives a phone call from his son, who tells him they are not coming home for Chinese New Year – before the connection drops again.

As grandpa, sad and lonely, is walking by the side of the road, his son suddenly appears in his car, telling him that the connection dropped too soon; he was not just telling him the family was not coming for Chinese New Year, he was trying to tell him that they invited him to come to their home instead.

When the family is finally reunited, it is time for the proud grandfather to show the result of his difficult quest for Peppa to his grandson.

The grandpa’s mission is complete: he gives his grandson a one-of-a-kind Peppa Pig.

The commercial ends with the entire family enjoying the upcoming Peppa film in the cinema together. When a friend from the village calls the grandfather to let him know he finally found Peppa thanks to his new smartphone, Yu Bao says: “It’s okay, I found Peppa already!”

The last shot of the video shows Yu Bao’s friend, a sheepherder, standing with his new phone, while someone in the back plays the tune of the Peppa cartoon. The big slogan on the wall is partly based on a popular catchphrase from another Chinese ad, and says: “At the start of the New Year, don’t accept gifts; the whole family goes to the city to watch Peppa instead.”

 

What’s Peppa Pig?

 

Peppa Pig is a popular children’s cartoon that first aired as a British animated television series (produced by Astley Baker Davies) in May of 2004. It took more than eleven years before the show was officially launched in the PRC (CCTV/June 2015).

The Peppa Pig family, including George.

Since then, Peppa Pig has become one of the most popular programs for preschoolers in China. But not just preschoolers love the pig; it has also become highly popular among young adults, who wear Peppa t-shirts, Peppa watches, and are major consumers of China’s thriving Peppa industry.

In 2018, Chinese popular short video app Douyin (also known in English as Tik Tok) removed approximately 30,000 short videos relating to British cartoon Peppa Pig from its platform, as Peppa had turned into somewhat of a subversive symbol to a Chinese online youth subculture dubbed ‘shehuiren‘ (社会人) (read more here).

This news item led to some confusion in Western media, where it was often suggested that Peppa was completely banned in China. She is, in fact, not banned; she is now more popular than ever.

 

Peppa the Movie

 

Amid the huge success of Peppa in China, it was announced in the summer of 2018 that Chinese tech giant Alibaba was working together with Entertainment One on the release of a Peppa Pig movie especially for the Chinese market, as this year’s Chinese New Year is the start of the Year of the Pig.

The movie, titled ‘Peppa Pig Celebrates New Year’ (小猪佩奇过大年), is set for a nationwide release on February 5, the first day of the Chinese Lunar New Year. This is the most popular time for big blockbusters to come out, as many people are free during Chinese New Year and have the time to go out to the cinema together with their families.

The movie itself revolves around Peppa and little brother George and their parents, who are having a reunion for the Spring Festival. It features various Chinese traditions, and of course, something unexpected will happen.

 

Why This Peppa Ad Campaign is So Brilliant 

 

The Peppa ad has really struck a chord on Chinese social media for various reasons. The video was directed by Beijing director Zhang Dapeng (张大鹏, 1984), who also directed the actual Peppa movie, and the campaign is also sponsored by China Mobile.

What this ad campaign does:

It mixes the love for Peppa with the warm feeling of Chinese family reunions during Chinese New Year.

It presents a nostalgic idea of the Chinese village community, where neighbors come together and look out for each other.

It touches upon the issue of China’s rapid urbanization, that has caused many villages to become deserted and isolated as younger generations have settled in the cities.

It highlights how China’s digitalization is leaving behind its elderly population (read more here).

It shows the strong grandparent–grandchild relationship; usually, Chinese grandparents play an active role in raising grandchildren, something that has been changing due to younger generations moving to the city.

In other words; the advertisement completely draws the figure of Peppa Pig into a Chinese socio-cultural context, where it symbolizes the strong connection between Chinese families amid China’s rapid urbanization and digitalization.

By now, the Peppa campaign is making its rounds from Weibo to WeChat and elsewhere on the Chinese internet, with some online sellers already offering a remake of the Peppa present for sale as a collector’s item. Bloomberg reports that Chinese stocks connected to Peppa Pig have surged after the clip went viral yesterday and today.

“I give this video 100 points!” some commenters on social media write, with others saying it has made them tear up. “This already is the best ad campaign of the year.”

Peppa was already a famous figure in China, but with this viral hit and the upcoming movie, the British pig really has become a part of China’s popular culture and media environment: it’s the Chinese new year of Peppa Pig.

 

By Manya Koetse and Miranda Barnes

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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China Arts & Entertainment

Living the Dream: Chinese Architect Designs Stunning Six-Story Communal Living Space

This architect from Guangzhou turned her dream of living together with friends in a creative workspace into reality. The building is a hit on Chinese social media.

Gabi Verberg

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While living together with your best friends in one big house might be a dream of many people, this Chinese architect turned the idea into reality by transforming an old factory into a modern museum-like work- and living space. Through her work, the architect aims to change views on China’s urban living spaces.

Guangzhou architect “Michelle” (米歇尔 or Mi Xiao 米笑) and most of her friends work in creative industries. A few years ago, they found that their work and lifestyle required a more flexible and multi-purpose living space; a place where they could live and work together as a small community while also showcasing what they do.

In 2012, the six friends found a workshop in an old abandoned sugar factory, built in the 1950s, located in Guangzhou’s Panyu district. More than five years later, they had succeeded in transforming it into a modern six-story work- and living space.

news story and a video of the building are now attracting major attention on Chinese social media. On Weibo, the hashtag “Six Friends Transform a Building” (#6个好友改造一栋楼#) has been viewed more than 250 million times.

The communal living space, that has been named Boundless Community (无界社区), covers about 1500 square meter and has six completely separate rooms. Originally, the building was made up of only three stories, each with a ceiling height of six to nine meters high.

With the reconstruction of the building, the architect reportedly “wanted to break with the traditional urban types of dwellings,” where many people live behind locked doors in small spaces. Michelle intended to design the space as a small “village,” where people share their living space.

At the same time, the space also allows people to be creative and share their work with the outside world. All of these ideas resulted in a transparent “museum building.”

The building itself is almost like a museum by allowing people from outside to look into the various studios.

The popular architect is not the only one who is in favor of sharing a living space with her friends. A recent poll on Weibo shows that more than 90% of respondents would also like to live together with their friends; only 10% of the people prefer privacy over a communal living space with good friends.

 

“This is my dream!”, many commenters say, with others calling it “simply magical.”

To read more about changing attitudes on home and living in China, also check out this article by What’s on Weibo. 

By Gabi Verberg

Images via https://sjz.news.fang.com/open/31234746.html.

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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