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CCTV New Year’s Gala 2017 Live Blog

It’s time for the CCTV Gala 2017: the special annual evening variety show that captures millions of viewers on Chinese New Year’s Eve.

Manya Koetse

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The biggest live television event in the world is about to start. Spring Festival is here and that means it is time for the CCTV New Year’s Gala 2017: the special annual evening variety show that captures millions of viewers on Chinese New Year’s Eve. What’s on Weibo provides you with the ins & outs of the 2017 Gala and its social media frenzy, with updates before, during and after the show.

Are you ready for the Year of the Rooster? Like every year, the start of Chinese New Year is celebrated with Chunwan, the CCTV Spring Festival Night Gala (中国中央电视台春节联欢晚会), better known as CCTV New Year’s Gala.

With an average viewership of 700/800 million, or 90% audience share, the event is the world’s most-watched TV show. The four-hour long spectacle, that starts at 8 pm Chinese time, is a both an entertainment show and propaganda platform – it features China’s biggest stars and best performers while also including the current Party propaganda outlines.

Stay with us to watch the gala and to get to know its ins & outs (also see our liveblog of 2016).

Live stream of the Gala on Youtube and on CCTV Gala official website.

Liveblog (now closed) :

27/01 18:34
Are you ready?

A little over three hours to go before the start of the CCTV Spring Festival Gala (央视春晚), the variety show that will entertain families all over China in the last hours of the Year of the Monkey with an evening full of music and performances. This year is the 35th edition of the Spring Festival Gala, which has been broadcasted since 1983. With a viewership of 700 to 800 million people, is the world’s most-watched TV show – bigger than the Oscars or the Super Bowl.

27/01 19:04
What to expect?

What can we expect at this year’s show? Like last year, the show will be broadcasted from various places besides its main venue in Beijing’s CCTV’s No.1 Studio. In 2016, the Gala was aired from Quanzhou, Xi’an, Guangzhou and Hulun Buir.

This year, it will be aired from Harbin, Guilin, Shanghai and Liangshan. Every city has its own hosts, who often welcome the audiences in their own local dialect or language, with performances that are related to the region. Last year the spectacular performance of singer Sun Nan (孙楠) who danced with 540 moving robots reinforced the image of Guangdong as the home of China’s tech startups.

27/01 18:49
The show people love to hate

Just one hour to go! The CCTV Gala will feature a total of 34 different acts tonight, including singing, dancing, and comedy, in a time frame of around 4 hours.

It is a tradition for families to gather around the TV to watch the Gala before the New Year comes at midnight. The Gala usually is as much about entertainment as it is about political propaganda, and it is somewhat of a tradition to comment on the show and complain about it; criticism on the Gala is actually so commonplace that the sentence “there’ll never be a ‘worst’, just ‘worse than last year'” (“央视春晚,没有最烂,只有更烂”) has become a popular saying over the years.

Unsurprisingly, the show also drew much criticism in 2016 when some called the show a “propaganda disaster.” According to many viewers, the spectacle was “way too political” with its display of communist nostalgia, including the performance of different revolutionary songs such as ‘Without the Communist Party, There is No New China’ (没有共产党就没有新中国)… we can probably expect the same complaints on Chinese social media tonight.

27/01 12:31
Tonight’s hosts

This year, the main show of the CCTV Spring Festival Gala will be hosted by familiar faces: the presenters Zhu Jun (朱军), Dong Qing (董卿), Zhu Xun (朱迅) , Kang Hui (康辉) and Nëghmet Raxman.

The 52-year-old Chinese host and actor Zhu Jun is one of the most well-known CCTV faces. He has presented the CCTV New Year Gala since 1997. Dong Qing (43 years old) is also an annual host: she has hosted the Gala since 2005. Zhou Xun is a Chinese actress and singer, who will be on the show for the fifth time. Kang Hui is an influential CCTV news anchor and Nëghmet is a Chinese television host of Uyghur heritage.

Tonight there will be many stars appearing on the show, from kungfu star Jackie Chen to skit actor Pan Changjiang, Olympic star Fu Yuanhui, actress Yan Xuejing, comedian Jiang Kun, and many, many others.

27/01 12:44
The Mascot

It’s almost time to start! In the meantime, a little update on the CCTV mascot. In 2015, the CCTV Gala introduced an annual new mascot for its New Year’s Show. Last year’s mascot Kang Kang drew so much controversy with its unconventional appearance, that CCTV decided to play it safe this year with a traditional Rooster. The rooster will reappear throughout the show in the Gala’s logo. Besides this rooster there is also a more humorous one that appeared in the promotion video of the Gala.

27/01 19:09
Here We Go!

Here we go! This year’s CCTV New Year’s Gala first starts with intertextual references to all the past “hits” of the gala, which has been aired since 1983. This opening act is a much-anticipated one, as the very popular boy group the TFBoys are performing together with beautiful Chinese actresses Liu Tao, Jiang Xin, Wang Ziwen, Yang Zi and Qiao Xin.

They are performing the song “Beautiful China Year” (美丽中国年).

The TFBoys have been very successful in China over the past years. They also appeared at last year’s Gala, and recently won the Weibo Awards for being the most popular on Chinese social media, for which they received nearly 63 million votes. Their performance here tonight might make it more appealing for younger audiences to watch the New Year’s Gala, which generally has a somewhat stuffy image.

27/01 13:28
Theme: National Unity

Tonight’s hosts have welcomed us to this year’s Spring Gala and are introducing us to the other sub-venues from Harbin to Guilin, from Shanghai to Hong Kong. All the while the various ethnicities of China are emphasized. An important theme of this year (and previous years) is national unity, traditional culture and family affection. Previous year there was a special emphasis on the “Chinese Dream.”

27/01 13:32
First Sketch

During tonight’s show there will be various performances, of which nine will be comical sketches. After we have just witnessed dozens of chickens dancing in a somewhat hysterical performance by the “Air Force BLue Sky Children’s Art Troupe”, it is now time for a comical sketch. These sketches often contain some political messages; previous year there was a special emphasis on corrupt officials.

This sketch called “Big City, Little Love” is performed by Liu Liang, Bai Ge and Guo Jinjie. It is about a young man, a migrant worker, who lied to his wife saying he has gone to work in the city where he had a “high position.” In fact, he is a window cleaner for high buildings.

27/01 13:40
“In This Moment”

This is the older song “In this moment” (在此刻) performed by singers Hu Ge and Wang Kai (胡歌, 王凯). (Watch the show live here https://youtu.be/8Tnna8odMvA).

27/01 13:52
“Older Couple”

This second sketch of tonight has some big stars. Cai Ming (蔡明) is a singer, actress, and sketch performer notable for performing sketch comedy in CCTV New Year’s Gala since 1991 – she is known for her sharp language. Pan Changjiang also is a Chinese skit actor and sitcom actor. In his early years, he appeared regularly in the CCTV New Year’s Gala.

This sketch is called “Older Couple” and is about a man who forgot what his wife looked like until Cai comes along and pretends to be his wife. In the end it turns out that it is not him, but her who lost her memory. When she remembers – in a The Notebook kind of scene – the couple falls into each other’s arms.

27/01 13:59
Over to Liangshan

We are now moving over from Beijing’s studio to the venue in Liangshan (凉山), Sichuan province. We first see the dance ‘fire of celebration’, followed by a song titled “Deep Feelings, Long Friendship” (情深谊长). The Chinese singer performing here is named Jike Junyi or simply ‘Summer’. She is a 28-year-old singer who was born and raised in Liangshan. She is wearing traditional Yizu (彝族) minority clothing and sings about the Long March.

Summer’s performance is followed by a catchy tune by singers Li Keqin and Cai Zuoyan, who sing with some Sichuanese touch to it. The fire torches in the background are also an Yi minority tradition.

27/01 14:11
Crosstalk

We’re back in Beijing for this crosstalk (相声) scene by Gao Xiaopan and You Xiancha (高晓攀、尤宪超). Different from the other sketches (小品), crosstalk usually involves two actors with one being the “joker” and the other being the “teaser”.

Other than the other sketches, crosstalk is about word jokes and playing with rhythm and language. This particular scene is about two men looking back on their childhood, and the nostalgic things about being brought up by their grandmother. This scene, that represents some sort of collective memory, will be especially appealing to China’s post-1980s generations who were often raised by their grandparents. Apart from national unity and traditional culture, family affection is one of this year’s themes for the Spring Festival Gala. It touches a sensitive nerve for many, as it makes them think back of their own grandmother.

27/01 14:17
Wow, Li Yanchao

The next performance is a pretty stunning underwater-kind-of-scene with Chinese dancer Li Yanchao (李艳超) stealing the show. The female host says: “Let’s express the hope that in the new year, there will be more patches of grass under our feet, and more blue sky above our head.”

27/01 14:32
The Match-Making Show

This funny sketch imitates one of China’s most popular dating shows If You Are The One 非诚勿扰. They get succesfully matched, but then it turns out that they are actually a divorced couple. This is the 3rd of a total of 6 comical sketches that will be performed tonight.

The main conflict of this sketch is that the woman wants her husband’s attention, while he thinks making money is more important than being his wife’s side – a common conflict in middle-aged families in China today. Since tonight’s theme is family affection, the sketch ofcourse has a happy end with both husband and wife expressing their love for each other.

27/01 14:31
Is this show really live?

Is this really live? Yes it is. But although the Gala is a live broadcast from CCTV’s No.1 Studio, and its other venues across China, every year’s show has a taped version of the full dress rehearsal. The tape of the official rehearsal runs together with the live broadcast, so that in the event of a problem or disruption, the producers can seamlessly switch to the taped version without TV audiences noticing anything.

27/01 19:53
Two stars, different generations

Here are are teen idol Jason Zhang (张杰) and Mao Amin, one of China’s most famous and female pop stars of the mid-1990s. You might notice that Mao Amin’s voice is much firmer and fuller than Zhang Jie’s. In Mao Amin’s generation, most singer got popular because of their skills, not for their looks..

The set of this song is so extravagant and spectacular, that some netizens think that this year’s CCTV gala director, Yang Dongsheng, must be a big fan of Avatar the Movie.

27/01 14:48
Here’s Guilin!

We’re now moving from Beijing to Guilin in Guangxi. The event is performed near Guilin’s famous Elephant Trunk Hill, where various Taiwan and Hongkong singers are invited to sing folk songs. The first song is a well-known traditional Chinese song: the Mountain Song from the famous Chinese movie Third Sister Liu 刘三姐. The scene here seems to include fragments of Zhang Yimou’s Impressions Liu San Jie show.

27/01 14:58
Nostalgia

This year’s CCTV Gala is looking back on previous years. This is the 35th year the Gala is broadcasted, and this edition started with a look back on top hits over the past three decades. This sketch also reflects on the past of the Gala, as the actors have previously performed a sketch here in 1987. Its message is that the society today is not the same as the society of 30 years ago. It reflects on how many people are bystanders, and that few people are helping each other out.

27/01 15:04
Heroes of the Red Army

Time to honour some communist heroes – a recurring part of the CCTV New Year Gala. One of the elderlies honored here is aged 104 was around 22 years old during the Long March.

27/01 15:11
Propaganda Platform?

The Communist and military songs of last year’s Gala annoyed many netizens, who thought the Gala was merely a propaganda platform rather than a variety show. But it is a recurring part in virtually every show.

27/01 15:16
Hashtag #CCTVGALA

On Weibo, the views and comments on the hashtag #CCTVGala (#春晚#) have by now exploded, with over 13 billion views and 52 million comments.

One popular post is that from a netizen who tells she was watching the Gala and the TFBoys with her grandma on an old TV set when her grandmother asked: “Is that boy on the left not feeling well?”

27/01 15:22
Family First

It is clear that family affection is one of this year’s main topics, as all sketches revolve around family relations. This sketch deals with the relationship between children and parents in law. Instead of talking about the well-known daughter and mother in law conflicts, it talks about the relations between son and father in law. Although the father does not like his son in law, the young man is really trying to help him either way.

27/01 15:28
90 Minutes to go!

There’s still 90 minutes to go before the New Year! Main themes of the night up to now: national unity (dancing minorities!) and family affection (marriage and family harmony!).

We have already seen Liangshan and Guilin subvenues, and will still see performances from the venues in Shanghai and Harbin in the coming 1,5 hours.

Meanwhile, Weibo netizens are wondering why the actress from a sketch earlier tonight, the renowned Cai Ming, was copying Elsa from Frozen.

27/01 15:35
Chinese Opera

This is a compilation of songs, such as “One Generation to Another” (薪火相传), by various Chinese Opera performers and troupes.

27/01 19:19
Look at China

This song titled “Look at the mountains, look at the water, look at China” (看山看水看中国) by Lu Jihong and Zhang Ye (吕继宏, 张也) is an ode to China’s different landscapes. It is accompanied by a clip that shows different places in China, from the nature in the south to the big cities in the north.

27/01 16:31
Minority Sketch

This sketch called “A Tianshan Situation” (天山情) focuses on the people of the mountainous area on the border between Xinjiang and Mongolia. The act is mostly spoken in north-eastern dialect, with a slight Shanghai dialect. The sketch is about a train track project in their region that has shocked the cows due the noise, affecting their milk production. When all goes well in the narrative, the Uyghur people finally thank the Chinese Han people for saving their life and everything they have done and for saving their lives – perhaps a somewhat controversial angle…

27/01 16:05
Switching to Harbin

One of today’s subvenues is Harbin, in northern province of Heilongjiang, home to the famous Harbin Ice World. The park has dozens of enormous buildings and sculptures completely made from ice. The city is currently about -20 celcius; perfect weather for acrobatics on ice!

27/01 16:09
These are the Champions

The National Martial Arts team has arrived to the stage. These are all China’s top martial art champions. More than 60 of them, both men and women, are performing together here tonight.

27/01 16:11
Public Announcement

Every year’s CCTV Gala has a “public advertisement” (公益广告) , a movie that is often emblematic of the morals or the guidelines the Party leadership wants to emphasize for the Chinese New Year. With an audience of 700 to 800 people, the show is the perfect propaganda platform.

27/01 19:35
Dancing Pineapples

Yes. We are now watching dancing pineapples and watermelons. Always when you think it cannot get worse, it always does – as many netizens say. This is a song that encourages people to do sports and eat healthy; one of this year’s themes is also to promote good (mental and physical) health.

27/01 19:17
Trusting people

In one the night’s last comical sketches called ‘Trust’ (信任), we see famous comedian Lin Yongjian in a narrative about trusting people. On New Year’s Eve, a taxi customer wants to go upstairs to pick something up – but the taxi driver is afraid they will walk off. The customer is also afraid the driver will drive off. It is during this sketch that Olympic swimmer Fu Yuanhui, one of the most popular social media figures of 2016, pops up for a short role. She performs some tongue twisting sentences in Anhui dialect.

27/01 16:39
Honouring the Astronauts

Time to honour 11 Chinese astronauts.

27/01 19:14
Here’s Jackie Chan! But what on earth is he doing?

In this song that is simply titled “Country” (国家), Jackie Chan steps out with students from Peking University to sing about his love for China (“I love my home”) while doing a dance that entails what looks like sign language. Perhaps not really what you would expect the “kungfu master” to do.

28/01 09:23
Shanghai Dream City

Now over to Shanghai for a song by Chinese singers Coco Lee and JJ Lin about “Dream City” Shanghai. We see a futuristic scene with motors going round in a big metal round set-up in front of the iconic Pearl Tower. It is one of the most spectacular scenes of the night, comparable to that of the dancing robots in 2016.

27/01 16:56
Almost time!

It is almost time for the 12 o’clock moment! Just before we will hear a song by singers Han Lei and Tan Weiwei with what looks like a somewhat cringeworthy company of farmers, migrant workers, hospital staff and soldiers to represent “all the Chinese people.”

27/01 17:01
HAPPY NEW YEAR!

The hosts of tonight’s Gala are wishing everybody a happy Chinese New Year. And of course we at What’s on Weibo are also wishing you a happy Year of the Rooster.

27/01 19:11
“Mother China”

Just immediately after the New Year countdown, here comes a song called “Mother China” (母亲是中华).

27/01 17:11
Interlude

A little interlude clip shows Chinese abroad singing about the “Chinese feeling” (中国心). The CCTV festival is watched by millions of Chinese within the PRC, but there is also a huge viewership outside of China.

27/01 17:19
The last sketch of the night stresses national unity

The last sketch of the night is a typically southern sketch, set during the peak of the G20 Summit in Hangzhou. The story takes place in a community park, where the four protagonists have a misunderstanding. The narrative focuses on people’s good morals, and is full of Jiangsu and Zhejiang dialect.

This sketch, like the one of the “Tianshan Mountains” and the story of the Uighur herdsmen, again shows the theme of national unity.

27/01 18:16
More Family Love

“Leave the Grasslands” (离别草原) is sung by famous singer Yun Fei and the female singer Yun Duo. It is followed by another short film that stresses family affinity.

27/01 17:34
“Stop!”

In one of the last acts of the night with a foreign acrobat, the hosts speak some very clearly pronounced English sentences: “Here are the flowers!” and “Stop!” In a game where a Chinese and a foreign acrobat compete to collect as many flowers within 60 seconds, the Chinese woman wins with 16 flowers versus 15 of the foreign acrobat.

27/01 19:13
Dancing Troupe

Chinese singer Wu Tong sings the song “Deep Feelings” (一片深情) accompanied by a group of male dancers.

27/01 17:48
Unforgettable Night

The last songs of this night are “Magnificent Journey” (壮丽航程, by Yan Weiwen and Yin Xiumei) and “Unforgettable Night” (难忘今宵). The latter is sung by the 72-year-old singer and dancer Li Guyi and the 64-year-old mezzo-soprano singer Guan Mucun. Li Guyi sings the same song every year at the end of this show.

During these songs, the screen behind the dancers show images of the G20, new glass bridges, windmills, and all kinds of big projects that have been established or organized in China over the past year.

The last song ends with all performers of the Beijing venue on stage. The hosts wish everyone a happy newyear. “See you next year!”, they say.

27/01 19:10
Trending after the Gala: “Brother Smile”

Directly after the ending of the CCTV Gala, many Weibo netizens are talking about one person in the audience as observant viewers have spotted the very same man in the audience of the CCTV Gala every year since 1999. The man, who is now nicknamed ‘CCTV Gala Brother Smile’ (#春晚笑脸哥#), was again spotted in the audience tonight.

The man has gone viral over Chinese social media now. Many netizens are extremely curious about the man, wondering how he came to sit from the back of the audience to the front crowd throughout the years. Some also compliment him for not having changed much over the past 18 years.

27/01 18:13
That’s a Wrap!

This liveblog will be closing now. We hope you enjoyed the night!

– By Manya Koetse
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What’s on Weibo is an independent blog. Want to donate? You can do so here.

Sources on Chunwan

Kang, Liu. 2010. “Searching for a New Cultural Identity: China’s soft power and media culture today.” In Suijian Guo and Baogang Guo (eds), Thirty Years of China-U.S. Relations: Analytical Approaches and Contemporary Issues, 197-253. Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers.

Scocca, Tom. 2011. Beijing Welcomes You: Unveiling the Capital City of the Future. New York: Riverhead Books.

Wang Ge. 2015. “Popular Spring Festival Gala language: Sociocultural Observations.” In Linda Tsung and Wei Wang, Contemporary Chinese Discourse and Social Practice in China, 185-200. Amsterdam/Philadelpia: John Benjamins Publishing Company.

Ying Zhu. 2012. Two Billion Eyes: The Story of China Central Television. New York: The New Press.

©2016 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.

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    André Schappo

    January 28, 2017 at 1:18 am

    Actually, 难忘今宵 is growing on me and it is only the second year I have watched the CCTV New Year’s Gala????

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China Arts & Entertainment

Chinese Anti-Bullying Movie “Better Days” Becomes Hit at Box Office and on Social Media

Chinese movie ‘Better Days’ is praised by online celebrities and experts for addressing the problem of campus bullying.

Chauncey Jung

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The Chinese movie Better Days (少年的你) is a hit; not just in Chinese cinemas, but also on social media, where campus bullying – one of the film’s main themes – is a recurring topic of debate.

Over the past week, Chinese movie Better Days (少年的你), by Hong Kong director Derek Kwok Cheung Tsang and produced by Jojo Hui, has continued its extraordinary performance in movie theaters across China.

The drama movie, starring two popular celebrities Jackson Yi (易烊千玺) and Zhou Dongyu (周冬雨), reached more than 1.4 billion CNY (almost 200 million US$) in box office revenue this week, already making it one of the most lucrative movies of this year.

Better Days is noteworthy for its narrative, which focuses on campus-bullying. In the film, high school student Chen Nian (Zhou Dongyu) is struggling with the stress of her gaokao exams when her best friend, who is bullied by a group of girls at school, commits suicide by jumping off a building.

While mourning over the loss of her friend and dealing with the aftermath of her suicide, Chen becomes a bullying target herself. The story takes a turn when she meets the small criminal Xiao Bei (Jackson Lee).

China’s bullying problem, central to this movie, has been an ongoing topic of discussion in online media over the past few years.

In 2016, a prominent elementary school in Beijing ended up at the center of controversy when various bullying incidents came to light. In that same year, a mother’s social media article on her son’s severe bullying at school went viral and triggered heated discussions.

In 2017, one bullying case became big news after a student from a Beijing-suburb area junior high school was reportedly forced to swallow feces from the restroom by his fellow classmates.

According to Chinese media outlet Caixin, China has yet to have specialized legislation against bullying. A 2016 study suggests that one-third of Chinese students experience school bullying on a frequent or occasional basis, and the bully problems are even more serious in rural areas, where more than 40% of the school-age children experienced some kind of bullying during their school life.

The heightened use of social media among China’s younger generations seems to have only aggravated the bullying problem, with campus violence and bullying being filmed and published online, making victims more vulnerable to further harassment. “Extreme bullying videos” even became a concerning online trend over the past years.

Some argue that China’s current legislation on protecting underage children is, in fact, protecting the bullies rather than those being bullied. A China News Service news report suggests that while most bullies are also individuals under 18 years old, penalties of bullying are also undermined because of the protective provisions in the current legal systems on minors.

In addition to calls to toughen related legislation, media commentaries are also calling for more resources to eradicate the bullying culture and toxic environment on campus. Chinese state media outlet Xinhua, for example, recently suggested the problem should be addressed through family education, counselling services, and more training for teachers and practitioners.

By addressing the issue of campus bullying in China, Better Days seems to have won the favor of moviegoing audiences in China. On the Chinese movie commentary site Douban, the film is receiving hundreds of positive comments and high ratings. The movie currently has a Douban score of 8.4 and a 98% “recommendation rate” on Weibo.

Better Days is also praised by online celebrities and experts. Renowned Chinese sociologist Li Yinhe (李银河), actress Ma Yili (马伊琍), and historian Yi Zhongtian (易中天) all complimented the great acting and the themes of the movie recently.

On Weibo, the movie has become tied to anti-bullying campaigns, with people sharing their own experiences and stories on school bullying and linking the film to hashtags such as “Unite in saying no to campus bullying” (#一起对校园欺凌说不#) or “How to combat campus violence” (#校园暴力到底该如何解决#).

By now, the movie’s hashtag (“Movie Better Days” #电影少年的你#) has seen over 540 million views on Weibo.

See the trailer of Better Days here (with English subtitles). Better Days is still airing in cinemas across China and is also played at various theaters in Europe, America, and Australia.

By Chauncey Jung

Edited by Manya Koetse
Follow @whatsonweibo

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.

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China Arts & Entertainment

Top 10 of Popular Chinese Podcasts of 2019 (by What’s on Weibo)

What are Chinese podcast app users listening to? An overview.

Jialing Xie

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As the podcasting industry only seems to become more thriving around the world, What’s on Weibo tunes into China’s podcast market and selects ten of the most popular Chinese podcasts for you.

Ever since it first made its entrance into the entertainment industry, the podcast – a term coined in 2004 – has kept growing in listenership in most Western countries.

The same holds true for China, where podcasts are mainly concentrated on a couple of bigger online audio streaming platforms.

What are the most ear-catching podcast streaming services in China now? While various podcast apps have been competing with each other to attract users with their trending content, Ximalaya is one of the most popular ones as it offers the widest range of content of all major podcast apps in China. The app was first launched in 2013, and has been a top-scoring app ever since.

In terms of popularity, Ximalaya (喜马拉雅) is closely followed by DragonflyFM (蜻蜓FM), LycheeFM(荔枝FM), and a series of other podcast platforms with each implementing different business models.

How do we know what’s trending on these podcast apps? Based on user clicks and other metrics, Ximalaya has its own ranking lists of popular podcasts for five major categories: classics, audiobooks,crosstalk & storytelling, news, music, and entertainment.

DragonflyFM (蜻蜓FM) and other podcast apps also have their own rankings for even more narrowly defined categories, although these rankings often feature the same ‘most popular’ podcasts as Ximalaya and other apps.

To give you an impression and an overview of the kind of podcasts that are currently most popular in China, we have made a selection of trending podcasts across various audio apps, with some notes that might be useful for those tuning into these podcasts as learners of Mandarin (all of these popular podcasts use Mandarin).

Please note that this is not an ‘official’ top 10 list, but one that is compiled by What’s on Weibo based on various popular ranking lists in different categories. Guo Degang’s crosstalk and storytelling podcast, for instance, is ranked as a number one popular podcast on both Ximalaya and Dragonfly FM, which is why it comes in highest in our list, too.

What’s on Weibo is independent and is not affiliated with any of these audio platforms or podcasts.

 

#1 Guo Degang: Crosstalk Collection of 21 Years (郭德纲21年相声精选)

Link to podcast

Category: Crosstalk & Storytelling

Duration: 20-90 min/episode

About:

Guo Degang (郭德纲, Guō Dégāng) is one of the most successful crosstalk comedians in China. In 1995, he founded his own crosstalk society, Deyun Society (德云社, Dé Yún Shè), which aims to “bring crosstalk back to traditional theaters.” Guo Degang has succeeded in making the general public pay more attention to crosstalk (相声, xiàngsheng), a traditional Chinese art performance that started in the Qing Dynasty. Like many other traditional Chinese arts, crosstalk performers are expected to have had a solid foundation that is often referred to as “kung fu” (功夫, Gōngfū) before they can perform onstage. Among the many collections attempted to gather Guo Degang’s crosstalk and storytelling performance, this podcast is probably the most comprehensive attempt thus far to gather Guo’s crosstalk and storytelling – it lists Guo’s best performances throughout his nearly three-decade career.

Tips if you are a Mandarin learner:

This podcast contains a lot of word jokes, special idioms, and cultural and historical context, making it more suitable for advanced Mandarin learners. But beginners, don’t be discouraged! Get your feet wet with Guo’s sense of humor if you like a challenge. Accent Alert: you will hear the Tianjin accent in Guo’s performance, which is also encouraged by the crosstalk & storytelling art genre.

 

#2 King Fafa (发发大王)

Link to podcast

Category: Talkshow & Entertainment

Duration: 1 – 2 hr/episode

About:

This podcast provides a glimpse into Chinese society through the lens of ordinary people and their own stories. These stories range from a Chinese mother going through struggles to give birth to her child in the UK as an immigrant, to the love-and-hate relationship between Chinese youngsters and marriage brokers. Or how about Huawei employees’ personal anecdotes, or a self-made millionaire’s confession on his sudden realization of the true meaning of life? Looking beneath the surface of people’s lives with a compassionate and sometimes somewhat cynical attitude, the talk show podcast Fafa King has won over Chinese podcast listeners.

Tips if you are a Mandarin learner:

Enrich your vocabulary and phrases bank with this daily-conversation based podcast. Suitable for medium-level Mandarin learners.
Accent Alert: you will hear mostly Beijinger accents from the two hosts.

 

#3 Chasing Tech, Teasing Arts (追科技撩艺术)

Link to podcast

Category: Technology & Art / Business podcas

Duration: 30 min -1 hr/episode

About:

This Doko.com podcast allows listeners to get new perspectives on technology, art, environmental protection, and business through the voice of aspiring Chinese youths from within China and abroad. Doko.com used to be a digital marketing agency but now describes itself as a “group of people passionate about the internet, a diverse, interesting and exciting place.”

Tips if you are a Mandarin learner:

Doko’s podcast features interviews between the host and guests on topics mainly relating to art and technology in a semi-formal setting. Listen to learn how to discuss these topics in Mandarin. Accent Alert: you will hear the host speaking Mandarin with a slight accent and guest speakers with various accents of their origin.

 

#4 Let Jenny Tell You (潘吉Jenny告诉你)

Full title: Let Jenny Tell You – Learn English and Talk about America (潘吉Jenny告诉你-学英语聊美国), Link to podcast

Category: Education

Duration: 10 – 20 min/episode

About:

Let Jenny Tell You is one of the most popular podcasts around for Chinese listeners to learn English. Hosted by Jenny and Adam, the podcast offers quite rich and unique content, discussing various topics often relating to Chinese culture and news, and of course, diving deeper into the English language.

Tips if you are a Mandarin learner:

As a language learning podcast, this podcast is actually perfect for intermediate learners of Chinese; it works both ways for Chinese-English learners as well as for English speakers who are interested in learning Mandarin. Because Adam speaks English, you always know what the podcast is about. Accent Alert: Jenny (the host) speaks fairly standard Mandarin with minor accents.

 

#5 Stories Across the Globe (环球故事会)

Link to podcast

Category: Society & Culture

Duration: 20 min/episode (length differs on Podcasts App Store)

About:

A skillful narrator digs into stories behind the news, examining various topics involving cultures, history, politics, international relations. This podcast, by China’s state-owned international radio broadcaster, often comes up as a suggestion on various platforms, and also seems to be really popular because of its news-related stories.

Tips if you are a Mandarin learner:

Well-paced speech with an intimate tone, this podcast is a good source for learning new vocabulary and improving your pronunciation if you are already an advanced learner of Mandarin. Accent Alert: the host speaks fairly standard Mandarin with a Beijing accent.

 

#6 Watching Dreams Station (看理想电台)

Link to podcast

Category: Interviews & Culture

Duration: 20 – 40 min/episode

About:

A fun and informative podcast with varied content coverage, this podcast has a refreshing tone and smooth transitions between narratives and (expert) interview footage. A great source to learn more about what Chinese ‘hipsters,’ often referred to as literary and arty youth (文青, wén qīng) care about with regular mentions of social media stories.

Tips if you are a Mandarin learner:

This podcast has relatively slow-paced speech covering various topics, which helps to make you more familiar with new vocabulary and practice how to explain things in Mandarin. Accent Alert: you will hear hosts speak fairly standard Mandarin with minor accents.

 

#7 Black Water Park (黑水公园)

Link to podcast

Category: TV & Movies, Talkshow

Duration: 1 – 1.5 hr/episode

About:

Learn what’s commonly discussed among Chinese young adults about movies and TV shows through these entertaining conversations between the two good friends Ài Wén and Jīn Huā-er.

Tips if you are a Mandarin learner:

Suitable for medium-to-advanced-level Mandarin learners; highly engaging conversations involving lots of slang and colloquial expressions.
Accent Alert: the hosts speak with recognizable Beijinger accents, so be prepared.

 

#8 The Sketch is Here (段子来了)

Link to podcast

Category: Comedy

Duration: 45 min/episode

About:

With 5.426 billion user clicks on Ximalaya, this podcast featuring funny sketches is super popular and has become a household name in China’s podcast market. It offers a taste of humor appreciated by many Chinese, which is very different from what you’d get from a podcast in the West within the same category.

Tips if you are a Mandarin learner:

Great source to learn colloquial Mandarin and funny ice-breakers, but challenging as humor is intrinsically linked with inside jokes and word play. Accent Alert: the host has what’s considered a soothing voice and speaks fairly standard Mandarin.

 

#9 Ruixi’s Radio (蕊希电台)

Link to podcast

Category: Lifestyle & Bedtime

Duration: 10 min/episode

About:

One way to examine culture is to look at what people generally worry about the most. This podcast, that always starts with the soft voice of Ruixi (the host) asking listeners “Hey, are you ok today?”, focuses on a darker side of society and addresses the social and mental struggles that adults in China are facing. Ruixi’s Radio is one of those podcasts that enjoy equivalent popularity across several podcast platforms, which indicates strong branding. For many people, it’s a soothing podcast to listen just before bedtime.

Tips if you are a Mandarin learner:

The slow-paced monologue using language easy to understand makes a great learning material for beginning learners. Accent Alert: Ruixi (the host) speaks fairly standard Mandarin with insignificant accents.

 

#10 Stories FM (故事FM)

Link to podcast

Category: Stories & Bedtime

Duration: 20 – 30 min/episode

About:

Described by the New York Times as a “rarity in a media landscape full of state propaganda and escapist entertainment,” Gushi FM was launched with the idea “Your story, your voice.” As one of China’s popular audio programs, Gushi FM features stories told by ordinary Chinese of various backgrounds.

Tips if you are a Mandarin learner:

As a collection of monologues that detail stories, describe emotions, and argue ideas, this podcast suits advanced level learners. Accent Alert: in every episode, guests with speaking and telling stories in their own local dialects.

Want to understand more about podcasts in China? We’d recommend this insightful article on the Niemanlab website.

Because there are many more popular Chinese podcasts we would like to share with you, this probably will not be our only list. A follow-up list will also contain other favorites such as Two IT Uncles (两个IT大叔), BBPark (日坛公园), and One Day World ( 一天世界).

Want to recommend another Chinese podcast? Please leave a comment below this article or tweet us at @whatsonweibo, leave a message on Instagram or reach out via Facebook.

By Jialing Xie, with contributions by Manya Koetse

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.

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

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