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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 Celebs

Hong Kong Police Find Head of Murdered Model Abby Choi in Soup Pot

“Reality is more gruesome than fiction,” some commenters wrote on Weibo, where the Abby Choi murder case has drawn wide attention.

Manya Koetse

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The gruesome murder of the 28-year-old Hong Kong socialite and model Cai Tianfeng (蔡天鳳), better known as Abby Choi, has been all the talk on Chinese social media this week.

The Hong Kong influencer went missing on Tuesday. Just a week ago, Choi was featured on the cover of the magazine L’Officiel Monaco.

On Saturday, South China Morning Post and Hong Kong Free Press reported that Choi’s partial remains, including her dismembered legs, were found cooked and stored inside the freezer at a village house and that four people had been arrested for murder.

The village house at Lung Mei Tsuen in Tai Po was allegedly set up as a “butchery site” equipped with a choppers, hammer, an electric saw and a meat grinder that had been used to mince human flesh.

Choi was entangled in a financial dispute with her ex-husband’s family over luxury property in Hong Kong’s Kadoori Hill. The persons arrested in relation to her murder are her ex-husband named Alex Kwong, his elder brother, his mother and his father, who reportedly is a retired police officer.

Abby Choi and Alex Kwong had two children together, a daughter and a son.

Cho was last seen in Fo Chun Road in Tai Po on Tuesday afternoon. CCTV footage captured her before she went missing. Choi was supposed to pick her daughter up on Tuesday together with Kwong’s elder brother, who drove her. She was reported missing after she did not show up to collect her daughter.

While earlier media articles reported that some of Choi’s remains had still not been found, news came out on Sunday that the decapitated head had been found in a soup pot. Seeing over 300 million views, the topic went trending on Weibo (#蔡天凤头颅在一大汤煲中找到#), where many people have closely been following the latest developments in the case. Later on Sunday night, the topic hashtag was taken offline.

Local police disclosed that the head remained “intact” although it is believed that someone tried to “smash” it. Some of Choi’s ribs were also found.

“Reality is more gruelsome than fiction,” some top comments said. “What a terrifying family,” others wrote, calling them “inhuman” and “devilish.”

Another topic related to the case also went trending on Sunday, namely that Choi’s ex-husband and his family allegedly had been planning the murder for a month (#蔡天凤前夫家1个月前开始布局#, 180 million views).

Some Weibo bloggers said the case reminded them of another well-known and gruesome Hong Kong murder case, namely the 2013 murder of Glory Chau and Moon Siu. At age 63, the couple was murdered by their own 28-year-old son Henry Chau Hoi-leung and his friend. After killing them, the two chopped up Chau’s and Siu’s bodies and cooked their remains and stored them inside the refrigerator. The 2022 crime film The Sparring Partner (正義迴廊) was based on this story.

About the Kwong family, some Weibo users write: “Too bad that Hong Kong law does not have the death penalty.” Capital punishment in Hong Kong was formally abolished in 1993.

By Manya Koetse 

 

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China Arts & Entertainment

South Korean Actor Yoo Ah-in Dropped as Brand Ambassador in China after Propofol Scandal

The current drug scandal involving Yoo Ah-in also has consequences for the South Korean actor’s activities in China.

Manya Koetse

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The South Korean actor Yoo Ah-in (刘亚仁) has become a trending topic on Chinese social media for getting caught up in a drugs scandal in his home country.

Yoo Ah-in (1986) is an award-winning actor who is known for starring in various well-known dramas and renowned movies, such as Voice of Silence, Burning, and Hellbound.

Yoo is currently being investigated for alleged illegal, habitual use of the anesthetic drug propofol and has been banned from overseas travel.

On Thursday, the hashtag “Yoo Ah-in Admits to Using Drugs” (#刘亚仁确认吸毒#) received over 310 million views on Weibo, where several accounts reported that Yoo allegedly started using propofol in 2021.

Yoo issued a statement via his management, saying he is cooperating with the police in the investigation. He also apologized for causing concern among his fans and followers.

The drug scandal also has consequences for the actor’s activities in China. Liu was the brand ambassador for the Chinese men’s clothing brand Croquis (速写), but Croquis immediately removed him as their representative after the scandal.

Croquis issued a statement saying the company has been closely following the latest developments regarding the investigation into the actor’s alleged drugs use, and stated that they have “zero tolerance” when it comes to drug use and therefore would temporarily take all content offline in which Yoo represents their brand.

South Korean media reported on Feb. 9 that Yoo is among a group of 51 people that is part of an illegal drug use investigation initiated by the Food and Drug Administration, which found that Yoo went doctor hopping and “hospital shopping” to obtain multiple prescriptions.

Propofol is a sedative that is widely used by anesthetists for the induction and maintenance of general anesthesia and for long-term sedation. Over recent years, the abuse of propofol in South Korea has been getting more media attention.

Although propofol is classified as a controlled substance in South Korea since 2011, the recreational use of the drugs has been a problem and various celebrities have previously been charged for illegally using the drugs.

On Weibo, some people say that there indeed should be “zero tolerance” for drug abuse among celebrities and artists, but there are also those who think Yoo Ah-in’s drug abuse is a result of his alleged (mental) health problems, and that he needs help instead of punishment.

By Manya Koetse 

 

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Spotted a mistake or want to add something? Please let us know in comments below or email us. First-time commenters, please be patient – we will have to manually approve your comment before it appears.

©2023 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

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