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China’s Booming Wedding Photography Industry

Wedding photography is a thriving business in today’s China. While Chinese celebrity weddings are becoming more extravagant year on year, ordinary couples have now also caught the pre-wedding shoot fever.

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Wedding photography is a thriving business in today’s China. While Chinese celebrity weddings are becoming more extravagant year on year, ordinary couples have now also caught the pre-wedding shoot fever.

Wedding photos are an important part of wedding ceremonies across the globe, but in China they’re a whole different ballgame; the perfect wedding shoot has become a top priority in the wedding arrangements. China’s pre-wedding photography industry is more booming than ever before.

A booming marriage market

Red Army uniforms and balloons dresses don’t appear to have all that much in common. But visit one of China’s scenic spots on a clear day, and you may discover that they are amongst the growing trends for China’s luxurious wedding photos, known in Mandarin as jiehun zhao (结婚照).

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Chinese wedding photography is slowly becoming an art in itself. The Chinese marriage industry is soaring with an estimated worth of 800 billion RMB (130 US$) billion in 2015. Wedding shoots are one of its key sectors – some photography packages are sold at a staggering $80,000.

Profits stem from the expensive backdrops and costume rentals, along with more modern additions of presentation videos and interactive wedding invitations.

No time for photos

One noticeable characteristic of Chinese wedding shoots is that they largely take place before the wedding ceremony, sometimes months in advance. One explanation for this is that many wedding ceremonies in China follow a set structure involving cultural practices that leave little room for more spontaneous wedding photographs on the day of marriage.

Traditional weddings include lengthy processes such as toasting each guest table by table. Because Chinese wedding ceremonies often last shorter than wedding ceremonies in Europe and America, there is limited time to pose for wedding pictures. By planning pre-wedding photos, couples can pose for hours – taking pictures in numerous locations and outfits.

An additional advantage of planning the photos before the wedding: the photos are ready for everyone to see during the day of the ceremony. Some couples even turn their best photos into custom life-size cardboard cutouts – a photo opportunity for their weddings guests.

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Recent shoots on social media

The reputation of China’s wedding photography industry is gradually becoming more prevalent worldwide as sessions increase in extravagance and expense.

Recent examples of lavish photo shoots have included both traditional and modern scenes, as well as artistic influences. Last year, a Tibetan couple’s pre-wedding photographs went viral on Chinese social media due to the contrast between depictions of modern city-life and traditional Tibetan landscapes. The photographs were reportedly seen by over 80 per cent of WeChat users in China (BBC 2015).

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More recently, a man in Qingdao hand-crafted dresses from balloons for his fiancée to wear during their wedding photos, while another couple’s photographs wearing traditional ethnic minority dress attracted much online discussion.

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The developing ‘trends’ of wedding photography

In today’s social media age, Chinese wedding photographs are routinely shared with a large audience. This has led to various trends in the industry.

One style mirrors the original ‘wedding photographs’ of China’s pre-reform era. Before the popularity of pre-wedding shoots, engaged couples would usually pose for one formal photograph when in the process of obtaining a marriage certificate. In more modern interpretations, couples can be seen to wear Mao-era military fatigues and hairstyles, even holding copies of Mao’s Little Red Book in keeping with photographs of the time, the main difference being that today couples are permitted to adopt whimsical poses and expressions.

for the country

Another recent trend is to stand out from the crowd by taking pre-wedding photos in another country, such as posing under the Big Ben in faraway London. This generally involves more Western-style photographs in suits and white bridal gowns. Transport and accommodation are often organised as part of one photography package.

The most famous example of wedding pictures taken abroad is arguably that of Chinese celebrity Angelababy, whose extravagant pre-wedding photographs in Paris with husband Huang Xiaoming made headlines in both Chinese and Western media (see featured image).

Other popular pre-wedding photo locations and styles include local parks, botanical gardens, amusement parks and indoor studio backdrops, with couples often wearing traditional Han qipao (旗袍) and hanfu (汉服) dress.

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Regardless of scenery or price, most pre-wedding shoots have one thing in common: a production team. Besides a photographer, couples doing photo shoots are often accompanied by stylists and make-up assistants, as well as people taking care of the lighting and wardrobes. Then there are the people taking care of airbrushing and photoshopping the pictures before they are shown to friends and family.

The cost of pre-wedding shoots

As the production level of pre-wedding photography rises, couples in China have been spending increasing amounts on photography packages.

In order to get ahead in the market, there are now companies that have begun to offer additional services including electronic online invitations and wedding videos at comparatively affordable prices. Photo slideshows that can be played during the ceremony itself are available in a range of themes from cornfields to Disney, with some available to purchase for 68 RMB (roughly $10).

Pre-wedding shoots themselves can range from hundreds to (ten)thousands of dollars, depending on the number of locations and the price of the outfits.

Public opinion of pre-wedding photography

Online opinion of pre-wedding photography varies, with some Weibo users admiring viral wedding photos while others scorn the practice.

For wedding photography companies, Weibo is a lucrative platform to advertise their services. With many couples, including the rich & famous, sharing their own pre-wedding pics on the social network site, the business is also booming on Weibo.

Some netizens are critical at the costs involved in extravagant photo shoots. Commenting on the recent story of the couple who wore 56 ethnic minority outfits in their pre-wedding photographs, one Weibo user said: “All I can say is that they have too much money.”

On the other hand, unusual photo shoots can attract admiration, with one netizen commenting on the same story: “What a creative journey!”

The trend of wearing Communist-style uniforms still appears to be popular, with a user named Shufen commenting: “This kind of photo is so much better than the usual stereotypical wedding photos.”

However, many Weibo users express frustration at the constant circulation of wedding photographs- especially when they are single themselves. As one user says: “For the past few months in a row, my news feed has been full of all sorts of wedding photos. It’s crazy!”

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With the growth of China’s emerging middle-class, the trend for pre-wedding photographs is likely to further flourish for the years to come; as couple’s strive to find new and innovative wedding photos, the industry is only set to become more competitive. The honeymoon is not over yet.

By Cat Hanson

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

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Cat Hanson is a U.K. graduate of Chinese Studies now teaching and living in China. She swapped Beijing for Anhui, and runs her own blog on China life: Putong Press.

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    Peter Liu

    December 21, 2016 at 6:58 am

    First of all a great article! It is really a huge market in for example Shanghai. We often travel to Shanghai and visit places like Thames Town, The Bund, Shanghai Gardens and some other scenery spots just outside Shanghai. There are so many pre-wedding photos being made. Everywhere there are small shops offer all kind of wedding photography packages. Many of them all offer the same what makes is sometimes a little lame and not really original. Also some photos are heavily photoshopped. It already happen twice to me, that I did not recognise the people in the photo even though they are colleagues of mine. Awkward. But you notice that something is changing. There are some young couples that are looking for something new and original. Last week I met a great wedding photographer by the name of Lily Chen. She was capturing emotions and not only pictures. Because I really like the way she was working, I checked her website afterwards at lilychenphoto.com For sure she will be at my pre-wedding and wedding in Shanghai.

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Backgrounder

Over a Third of China’s Babies Are Delivered via C-Section – The National Health Commission Wants to Change That

Fear of pain is a major reason for nonmedical cesarian deliveries on maternal request.

Manya Koetse

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Image by Sohu News

China’s National Health Commission wants to lower the nation’s high C-section rates. On Chinese social media, many women argue it should be up to the mother to decide how she wants to give birth.

In 2018 the percentage of deliveries by cesarean was 36.7% in mainland China, according to the latest Report on Women’s & Children’s Health (中国妇幼健康事业发展报告) that was launched by the National Health Commission on May 27.

This means that together with Hong Kong, Taiwan, Brazil, Egypt, and Turkey, the People’s Republic of China (PRC) now has the highest C-section rates in the world.

A World Health Organization report from 2010 estimated that 46% of Chinese babies were delivered via C-section. In 2017, another study found that this percentage was incorrect, although some urban and wealthier regions in China, such as Shanghai, did see C-section (CS) rates as a high as 68% (Black & Bhattacharya 2018, 1; McNeil 2017).

China’s CS rates have recently become a hot topic in Chinese newspapers and on social media. On May 27, the National Health Commission of the People’s Republic of China held a Beijing news conference in which Qin Geng (秦耕), the director, announced that more actions will be taken to encourage natural childbirth among Chinese women.

Qin Geng during the press conference on May 27.

These actions will, among others, include stricter regulation of cesarian section operations and the provision of more support and pain relief for laboring women, as well as a higher hospital income for natural births. The National Health Comission hopes to significantly reduce the number of unneccesssary C-sections without medical indication in this way (Beijing News 2019; Caijing 2019).

Since 1985, the international healthcare community has considered 10-15% to be “the ideal rate” for C-sections, of which the highest percentage are those CS deliveries with medical indications that can actually save the lives of mothers and babies.

Although the worldwide rates for CS deliveries have increased throughout the years, there is no evidence for the benefits of nonmedically indicated C-sections for women or children, according to the World Health Organization.

This is not the first time Chinese authorities try to combat the country’s high CS rates. After reports by the World Health Organization from 2010 and 2015 pointing out the potential hazards of unnecessary C-sections, there have been various state efforts to reduce the number of nonmedical cesarian surgeries.

Besides the introduction of free prenatal education classes, these efforts included monitoring public hospital CS rates and removing bonuses or cutting portions of a hospital’s income once their CS rates reached a certain threshold (e.g. 40%) (Wang 2017, 3). These government initiatives seem to have had effect: the country’s C-section growth rates have slowed down, but were not decreasing yet.

Since the Chinese government announced an end to its one-child policy in 2015, lowering cesarean sections rates has become a more urgent matter, as Chinese couples are now allowed to have a second child.

Although various studies from mainland China and beyond challenge the idea that nonmedical C-sections are less ‘safe’ than vaginal births for single deliveries, this risk changes when a woman who previously had a CS section plans another pregnancy: multiple cesarean sections are associated with additional risks including CS scar rupture and abnormal placental invasion (Biler et al 2017, 1074; Black & Bhattacharya 2018, 2; Liu et al 2015, 817).

 

Why So Many C-sections in China?

 

But why does China have such a high cesarian delivery rate at all? Since the early 1990s, mainland China saw a more dramatic rise in CS rates than, for example, the USA; from less than 10% (with only 3.4% in 1988), China went to one of the highest in the world (Hellerstein 2011; Wolf 2018, 13).

The answer to why this is, is not so straightforward and relates to socio-economic changes as well as cultural factors that come into play.

One reason is that there is a general belief in the ‘safety’ of cesarian births that influence women’s choices for a (nonmedical and planned) C-section (Black & Bhattacharya 2017, 2).

An insightful study into this matter is that of researcher Eileen Wang (2017), who found that anxiety about giving birth and fear of pain is also a major reason for nonmedical cesarian deliveries on maternal request, especially considering that only a minority of Chinese women are given any form of pain relief during labor. Besides traditional concepts, this is also because China faces a shortage of anesthetists and because obstetricians are not always well-informed to prescribe other forms of pain medication (2017, 5).

As noted by Wang, epidurals are denied to laboring women not just because anesthesiologists are too busy, but also because of various other factors: different from a scheduled C-section on their agenda, they are not always available during nighttimes and in weekends to administer anesthesia to women in labor, do not have the time to monitor a patient for hours during labor (whereas a cesarean could be done in an hour), or were not even trained to administer epidurals (2017, 5).

“Giving labor without pain: removing mom’s fear for giving birth” – image by Chinese website http://www.8bb.com/huaiyun/1381.html.

According to Wang, the concerns about labor pain result in more requests for C-sections, both before and during labor. With relatively low awareness and availability of labor pain relief methods many Chinese women simply opt for a C-section as a way to control their pain.

But there are also other factors that contribute to the relatively high rate of women requesting C-sections for nonmedical reasons. One of them is the importance placed in the astrological calendar: having a baby on that one ‘lucky day’ or within that ‘lucky year’ is considered enough reason to plan a cesarian birth for many Chinese families.

In early 2015, ahead of the Chinese New Year, many women rushed to the hospital to make sure their baby was born in the Year of the Horse (2014) as the Year of the Goat (2015) was coming up. There is an old Chinese saying that nine out of ten people born in the Year of the Goat are incomplete and will suffer from great misfortune throughout their life (“十羊九不全”).

Another factor that leads to more cesareans on maternal request relates to the existing concerns among women that vaginal delivery will affect their figure or sex life (Wang 2017, 2).

 

Responses on Chinese Social Media

 

Since the Beijing news conference of May 27, the hashtag “Reducing Unnecessary Cesarean Section Surgery” (#减少非必需剖宫产手术#) has taken off on Chinese social media.

On Weibo, the hashtag page received 340 million views at time of writing. One thread about this topic even received over 28400 comments.

“What do you call ‘unnecessary cesarian’?” one of the most popular comments said: “Isn’t it that so many women in labor choose to have a C-section because natural childbirth is too painful?”

Other commenters also called for a normalization of pain relief in labor, saying that the high percentage of C-sections lies in the fact that Chinese women lack access to “wútòng fēnmiǎn” (无痛分娩) or “painless birth,” meaning vaginal delivery with pain relief.

Some Weibo users also stress that women should have the freedom of choice on how they wish to give birth, saying: “C-section or natural should be my own choice” and “If you leave me no choice I might as well not give birth at all.”

Multiple commenters write: “The lower the C-section rate, the higher the suicides,” referring to an incident that occurred in Shaanxi in 2017 when a pregnant woman committed suicide by jumping from the fifth floor of the hospital after she was allegedly denied a CS delivery.

Other Chinese netizens also complain about the fact that it seems to be men who are promoting the new policies to combat the high C-section rates, writing: “Isn’t there a way to have them suffer the pain of labor instead?”

In her study, scholar Eileen Wang also argues that the lack of pain relief is one of the major issues that should be addressed by policymakers who are hoping to reduce the number of C-sections in China. Further improving the childbirth experience by, for example, integrating a midwifery model, is also essential in making natural childbirth more attractive for Chinese women, Wang argues.

For now, many hospitals in China are still offering C-section “packages”: some prices start at RMB 5800 ($840) for a C-section, other hospitals have packages that start from RMB 88,000 ($12,741) including a three-day hospital stay in a private room.

“It’s a pregnant’s woman body, so she should decide how she wants to deliver her baby,” one commenter on Weibo writes: “It should be a woman’s right to decide.”

By Manya Koetse

References

Biler, A., Ekin, A., Ozcan, A., Inan, A. H., Vural, T., & Toz, E. 2017. “Is It Safe to Have Multiple Repeat Cesarean Sections? A High Volume Tertiary Care Center Experience.” Pakistan Journal of Medical Sciences 33(5): 1074–1079.

Black, Mairead & Sohinee Bhattacharya. 2018. “Cesarean Section in China, Taiwan, and Hong Kong— A Safe Choice for Women and Clinicians?” PLOS Medicine 15(10): 1-3.

Caijing. 2019. “卫健委:全国剖宫产率为36.7% 积极推广分娩镇痛.” Caijing , May 27 http://economy.caijing.com.cn/20190527/4591594.shtml [5.31.19].

Hellerstein, Susan Celia. 2011. “Cesarean Delivery in China Analysis of Cesarean Deliveries Without Indication.” The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists: 20s.

McNeil, Donald. 2017. “Study Finds Lower, but Still High, Rate of C-Sections in China.” New York Times, Jan 9 https://www.nytimes.com/2017/01/09/health/c-section-births-china.html [6.2.19].

Wang, Eileen. 2017. “Requests for Cesarean Deliveries: The Politics of Labor Pain and Pain Relief in Shanghai, China.” Social Science and Medicine (173): 1–8.

WHO. 2015. “WHO statement on caesarean section rates.” World Health Organization, April https://www.who.int/reproductivehealth/publications/maternal_perinatal_health/cs-statement/en/ [6.2.19].

Wolf, Jacqueline H. 2018. Cesarean Section – An American History of Risk, Technology, and Consequence. Baltimore, Maryland: Johns Hopkins University Press.

Featured image by Sohu News.

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What Are Weibo’s “Super Topics”?

Explaining Weibo’s “Super Topics”

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What are Weibo’s “Super Topics” (超级话题) and what makes them different from normal hashtags?

Over the past year, Weibo’s so-called “Super Topics” (超级话题) have become more popular on the social media platform as online spaces for people to connect and share information.

Weibo’s “super topic” function has been around since 2016. The function allows Weibo users to create and join interest-based content community pages that are online groups separated from the main Weibo space. One could perhaps compare these Weibo Super Groups to ‘mega-threads’ or ‘subreddits’ on Reddit.

These are the most important things to know about Weibo’s Super Topics:

 

#1 A Super Topic is Not the Same as a Hashtag

Similar to Twitter, hashtags make it possible for Weibo users to tag a topic they are addressing in their post so that their content pops up whenever other people search for that hashtag.

Different from Twitter, Weibo hashtags also have their own page where the hashtag is displayed on top, displaying how many people have viewed the hashtag, how many comments the hashtag is tagged in, and allowing users to share the hashtag page with others.

A Super Topic goes beyond the hashtag. It basically is a community account where all sort of information is shared and organized. People can ‘follow’ (关注) a Super Topic and can also ‘sign in’ (签到).

On the main page of every Super Topic page, the main subject or purpose of the super topic is briefly explained, and the number of views, followers, and posts are displayed.

A super topic-page can be created by any Weibo user and can have up to three major hosts, and ten sub-hosts. The main host(s) can decide which content will be featured as essential, they can place sticky notes, and post links to suggested topics.

 

#2 A Super Topic Is a Way to Organize Content

Super Topic pages allow hosts to organize relevant content in the way they want. Besides the comment area, the page consists of multiple tabs.

A tab right underneath the main featured information on the page, for example, shows the “sticky posts” (置顶帖) that the host(s) of the page have placed there, linking to relevant information or trending hashtag pages. Below the sticky notes, all the posts posted in the Super Topic community are displayed.

One of the most important tabs within the Super Topic page is called “essential content” (精花), which only shows the content that is manually selected by the host(s). This is often where opinion pieces, articles, official news, or photos, etc. are collected and separated from all the other posts.

Another tab is the “Hall of Fame” (名人堂), which mainly functions as a reference page. It features links to the personal Weibo pages of the super topic page host(s), links to the Weibo pages of top contributors, and shows a list of the biggest fans of the Super Topic. Who the biggest fan of the page is, is decided by the number of consecutive days a person has “checked-in” on the page.

 

#3 Super Topics Are a Place for Fans to Gather

Although a Super Topic could basically be about anything, from cities to products or hobbies, Super Topics are often created for Chinese celebrities, video games, football clubs, or TV dramas.

Through Super Topic pages, a sense of community can be created. People can be ranked for being the most contributive or for checking in daily, and comment on each other’s posts, making it a home base for many fan clubs across China.

The host(s) can also help somebody’s page (e.g. a celebrity account) grow by proposing them to others within the group.

Super Groups are ranked on Weibo based on their popularity. This also gives fans more reason to stay active in the group, making their Super Topic top ranking within their specific category (TV drama, food, photography, sports, games, etc).

What makes the Super Topic group more ‘private’ than the common Weibo area, is that people posting within the Super Topic can decide whether or not they also want their comment shared on their own Weibo page or not. If they choose not to, their comments or posts will only be visible within the Super Topic community.

 

By Manya KoetseGabi Verberg, with contributions from Boyu Xiao

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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