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Defying Spinster Stereotypes: Why Chinese Unmarried Women are Rooting for Actress Faye Yu

Chinese actress Faye Yu has become a social media hit because of her views on love and marriage.

Manya Koetse

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The unconventional attitudes on love & marriage of the unmarried 47-year-old actress Faye Yu have taken Chinese social media by storm. In a society where women are facing real pressures to get married, many welcome Yu’s refreshing perspectives.

With contributions from Miranda Barnes.
 

Chinese actress Yu Feihong (俞飞鸿, born 1971), also known as Faye Yu, has recently become a big topic of discussion on Chinese social media for her refreshing perspective on marriage and singlehood.

The 47-year-old unmarried celebrity was previously on various Chinese talk shows hosted by older (male) presenters, who questioned the actress about her single status. These shows include ‘Behind the Headlines‘ (锵锵三人行) and and ‘Thirteen Invitations’ (十三邀), hosted by Xu Zhiyuan (许知远).

Faye Yu

Yu became a social media hit when popular writer Shen Jiake (@沈嘉柯), on June 20, posted images and quotes of her on the talkshow ‘Behind the Headlines,’ which was hosted by two men Dou Wentao and guest Feng Tang.

The various quotes show how Yu, in a relaxed and matter-of-fact way, addresses questions about her being unmarried, expressing that she does not need a partner to fulfill her needs, and that she did not feel she wants or needs to adapt her life to existing social expectations on the right age to get married.

Within a time frame of three days, the post has been reposted on Weibo over 120,000 times, receiving more than 100,000 likes. Other posts dedicated to Yu’s appearance on the shows have also attracted hundreds of comments and reposts.

Faye Yu became a social media hit after Shen Jiake posted these images of her appearance in a talk show.

Some of these screenshots include the following:

Presenter Dou Wentao: “Why have you already been single for so long?”

Faye answers: “I don’t think it’s a problem. For me whether to be single or married is not a difficult choice. Whatever stage I find more comfortable, is the stage I’ll choose to be in.

Author Shen Jiake says about Yu: “Yu Feihong (俞飞鸿) really mirrors [these] old men’s own demons*, making a fool of their own reflections. Xu Zhiyuan, Feng Tang, and Dou Wentao all have to face their defeat.”

 

“I am rooting for Yu Feihong, she expresses my feelings!”

 

Over the past few days, thousands of people on Weibo comment on Yu’s attitude and previous interviews. Many of them are young and female.

In recent years, much has been written and discussed on the pressures Chinese women are facing today when it comes to marriage, and their risk of being stigmatized as a ‘spinsters’, ‘leftover women‘ or ‘shengnu‘ when they are older than 25 and still single.

In 2016, an SK-II skincare ad campaign titled ‘She Finally Goes to the Marriage Corner’ became a huge trending topic on Chinese social media. The ad video focused on Chinese single women, pressured to get married by their families and society, who pluck up the courage to speak out towards their parents against the burdens they face.

The SK-II video about China’s ‘leftover women’ that became a hit in 2016.

The online hype around Faye Yu shows similarities with the SK-II topic, and reveals that for many women in China today the pressure to get married is very real.

Chinese media outlets have also started to report on the Faye Yu hype, headlining: “Why are young people suddenly such fans of the 47-year-old Yu Feihong?” The trend is especially noteworthy because the talkshow appearances that have gone viral were recorded a time ago; ‘Behind the Headlines’ is a show that has already been canceled since 2017.

“Why have young people suddenly become such fans of Yu Feihong?”

“There is no age one should get married, there’s just an age one feels they should get married” (“没有该结婚的年龄,只有该结婚的感情), Weibo blogger Yan Wangye (@颜王爷) writes.

“I am rooting for Yu Feihong, she expresses my feelings!”, a typical comment says. “She’s just cool. Beautiful and cool,” others say.

But there are also many men responding to the topic. Famous designer ‘Teacher Kevin’ (@Kevin凯文老师) says: “I really appreciate Yu Feihong’s attitude on marriage: marriage is not a woman’s necessity. To be married or to be single is a personal choice, completely depending on what makes you more comfortable.”

 

“I have my own concept of marriage.”

 

Yu Feihong has been in the Chinese showbusiness since she was a child and has starred in dozens of movies since. Outside of China, she is mostly known for her role in the Joy Luck Club (1993). Many of these movies are about romance, and her own love life has been a topic of interest for Chinese journalists for years, especially because Yu is known as China’s “most beautiful woman above the age of 40.”

Faye Yu has worn a wedding dress in many of her movies, but not in real life.

In a 2016 interview with Phoenix News, Yu says: “By the time I was 20 years old, I was instilled with the concept of marriage by society and my family. But up to the present day, I will not simply accept a concept given to me by others. I have my own concept of marriage.”

In the interview, she says she has a stable partner, but does not feel the roles of “wife” or “mother” suit her lifestyle: “I don’t reject it, but I don’t feel it is something I need to attain in this life.”

“She says it so well,” one Weibo commenter writes: “I am a proponent of singlehood, although I do not oppose to marriage. I just feel we shouldn’t enter marriage within such a restricted time frame. This is a state of mind that is not welcomed or accepted by the majority of people.”

“I am not married for the mere reason that I do not want to be married yet,” another person says. “It is just so fascinating to see someone with such an independent way of thinking,” others say.

Besides praising Yu’s courage, there are also many who condemn Chinese men such as the talk show hosts Dou Wentao or Feng Tang who do not hesitate to question unmarried women such as Yu about their single status – even suggesting that being single and “being lonely” are practically the same thing.

Feng Tang about being single: “But you won’t finish a bottle of wine alone, and if you order food, two dishes might be too much but one dish is never enough. Aren’t you bothered by these kinda things?” Faye responds: “I really don’t have any problems with that.”

Many call these male presenters’ questioning a sign of ‘male chauvinism’ or, literally: ‘straight man’s cancer’ (直男癌). “I applaud Faye Yu’s patience to deal with these kinds of boring questions,” some say.

Faye Yu: “Listening to you guys talking, there’s one thing I don’t get – why, from a man’s point of view, is marrying something you seem to do out of some sort of charity for women?”

“I just really like Yu’s view on life,” another netizen writes: “Whether you’re single or married, the most important thing is to be your own independent person.”

Want to read more? Check out “The Shengnu Dilemma: (Don’t) Marry Before You’re 30.”

By Manya Koetse

Contributions from Miranda Barnes

* The term he literally used is ‘照妖镜’ (“老男人的照妖镜”), which means a “magic mirror for revealing goblins.”

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

©2018 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

Manya Koetse is the founder and editor-in-chief of whatsonweibo.com. She is a writer, public speaker, and researcher (Sinologist, MPhil) on social trends, digital developments, and new media in an ever-changing China, with a focus on Chinese society, pop culture, and gender issues. She shares her love for hotpot on hotpotambassador.com. Contact at manya@whatsonweibo.com, or follow on Twitter.

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3 Comments

3 Comments

  1. Avatar

    LGBTspreadAIDS

    June 24, 2018 at 7:38 am

    she is probably LGBT and drinks from the furry cup.

  2. Avatar

    Xavier

    August 4, 2018 at 2:40 am

    @LGBTspreadAIDS

    How in the world does not wanting to get married have anything to do with LGBT? I frankly don’t care about getting married and I’m totally straight. So what’s your point?

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China Memes & Viral

“Bye Bye Biden”: Biden’s Many Nicknames in Chinese

Throughout the years, Biden has received many nicknames on Chinese social media.

Manya Koetse

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Our Weibo phrase of the week is Bye Bye Biden (bài bài Bàidēng 拜拜拜登). As news of Biden dropping out of the presidential race went viral on Weibo early Monday local time, it’s time to reflect on some of the popular nicknames and phrases given to US President Joe Biden on Chinese social media.

 
🔹 Biden in Chinese: Bàidēng 拜登

Biden in Chinese is generally written pronounced and written as Bàidēng 拜登. Although the character 拜 (bài) means “to pay respect, to worship” and 登 (dēng) means “to ascend, to climb,” they’re used here primarily for their phonetic similarity. The characters chosen are neutral to avoid any negative implications in the official translation of Biden’s name.

Why are non-Chinese names translated into Chinese at all? With English and Chinese being vastly different languages with entirely different phonetics and scripts, most Chinese people find it difficult to pronounce a foreign name written in English. Writing foreign names in Chinese not only standardizes them but also makes pronunciation and memorization easier for Chinese speakers.

 
🔹 Bye Biden: Bài Bài Bàidēng 拜拜拜登

Because Biden is Bàidēng, and the Chinese for ‘bye bye’ is written as bài bài 拜拜, some netizens quickly created the wordplay “bài bài Bàidēng” 拜拜拜登 (“bye bye Biden”) upon hearing that Biden would not seek reelection. Try saying it out loud—it almost sounds like you’re stammering.

 
🔹 Old Joe: Lǎo Dēng Dēng 拜拜拜登

Another common farewell greeting to Biden seen online is “bài bài lǎo dēng dēng” 拜拜老登登, which sounds cute due to the repetition of sounds.

“Old Biden” or “lǎo dēng dēng” 老登登 is a common online nickname for Biden in Chinese. The reduplication of the 登 (dēng) makes it sound playful and affectionate, while the “old” prefix is commonly used when referring to someone older. It’s similar to calling someone “Old Joe” in English.

 
🔹 Biden Variations: 拜灯, 白等, 败蹬

Let’s look at some other ways Biden is nicknamed online:

Besides the official way of writing Biden with the 拜登 Bàidēng characters, there are also other variations:

拜灯: bài dēng
白等: bái děng
败蹬: bài dèng

These alternative ways of writing Biden’s name are not neutral. Although the first variation is not necessarily negative (using the formal Biden 拜 bài character but with ‘Light’ 灯 dēng instead of the other 登 ‘dēng’), the other two variations are usually used in more negative contexts.

In 白等 (bái děng), the first character 白 (bái) means “white,” which can evoke associations with old age due to white hair (白发). The character 等 (děng) means “to wait,” and the combination can imply being old and sluggish.

败蹬 (bài dèng) is typically used by netizens to reflect negative sentiments towards the American president. The characters separately mean 败 (bài): “to be defeated,” “to fail,” and 蹬 (dèng): “to step on,” “to kick.” This would never be used by official media and is also often used by netizens to circumvent censorship around a Biden-related topic.

 
🔹 Revive the Country Biden: Bài Zhènhuá 拜振华

Then there is 拜振华 Bài Zhènhuá: revive the country Biden

In recent years, Biden has come to be referred to with the Chinese nickname “Revive the Country Biden,” also translatable as ‘Thriving China Biden’. This nickname has circulated online since 2020 and matches one previously given to former President Trump, namely “Build the Country Trump” (Chuān Jiànguó 川建国).

The idea behind these humorous monikers is that both Trump and Biden are seen as benefitting China by doing a poor job in running the United States and dealing with China.

 
🔹 Sleepy King: Shuì wáng 睡王

Shuì wáng 睡王, Sleepy King, is another common nickname, similar to the English “Sleepy Joe.” During and after the 2020 American presidential elections, there were numerous discussions on Chinese social media about ‘Trump versus Biden.’ Many saw it as a contest between the ‘King of Knowing’ (懂王) and the ‘Sleepy King’ (睡王).

These nicknames were attributed to Trump, who frequently boasted about his unparalleled understanding of various matters, and Biden, who gained notoriety for being older and tired. Viral videos, some manipulated, showed him nodding off or seemingly disoriented. The name ‘Sleepy King’ then stuck.

 
🔹 Grandpa Biden: Bài Yéyé 拜爷爷

Throughout the years, Biden has also been nicknamed Bài yéyé 拜爷爷, “Grandpa Biden.” This is usually more affectionate, though it emphasizes his age—Trump is not much younger than Biden and is not nicknamed ‘Grandpa Trump.’

Another similar nickname is lǎo bái 老白, “Old White,” referring to Biden’s age and white hair. 白 (bái, white) can also be a surname in Chinese. This nickname makes it seem like Biden is an old, familiar friend.

On Weibo, many speculate that American Vice President Kamala Harris will be the new candidate for the Democrats, especially since she’s been endorsed by Biden. Many have little confidence that she can compete against Trump. Her Chinese name is Kǎmǎlā Hālǐsī 卡玛拉·哈里斯, commonly referred to as ‘Harris’ (Hālǐsī).

In light of the latest developments, some netizens jokingly write: “Bye bye Biden, Ha ha ha, Harris.” (Bài bài, Bàidēng. Hā hā hā, Hālǐsī 拜拜,拜登。 哈哈哈,哈里斯). With a new Democratic candidate entering the presidential race, we can expect a fresh batch of creative nicknames to join the mix on Chinese social media.

Want to read more? Also read: Why Trump has Two Different Names in Chinese.

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.

©2024 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

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China Memes & Viral

Enjoying the ‘Sea’ in Beijing’s Ditan Park

This “seaview” spot in Beijing’s Ditan Park has become a new ‘check-in spot’ among Chinese Xiaohongshu users and influencers.

Manya Koetse

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“‘The sea in Ditan Park’ is a perfect example of how Xiaohongshu netizens use their imagination to change the world,” a recent viral post on Weibo said (“地坛的海”完全可以入选《红薯人用想象力颠覆世界》的案例合集了”).

The post included screenshots of the Xiaohongshu app where users share their snaps of the supposed seaview in Beijing’s Ditan Park (地坛公园).

Ditan, the Temple of Earth Park, is one of the city’s biggest public parks with tree-lined paths and green gardens in Beijing, not too far from the Lama Temple in Dongcheng District, within the Second Ring Road.

On lifestyle and social media platform Xiaohongshu, users have recently been sharing tips on where and how to get the best seaview in the park, finding a moment of tranquility in the hustle and bustle of Beijing city life.

Post on Xiaohongshu to get the seaview in Ditan Park.

But there is something peculiar about this trend. There is no sea in Ditan Park, nor anywhere else in Beijing, for that matter, as the city is located inland.

The ‘seaview’ trend comes from the view of one of the park’s stone walls. In the late afternoon, somewhere around 16pm, when the sun is not too bright, the light creates an optical illusion from a certain viewpoint in the park, making the wall behind the bench look like water.

You do have to capture the right light at the right moment, or else the effect is non-existent.

Some photos taken at other times of the day clearly show the brick wall, which actually doesn’t look like a sea at all.

Although the ‘seaview in Ditan’ trend is popular among many Xiaohongshu users and influencers who flock to the spot to get that perfect picture, there are also some social media commenters who criticize the trend of netizens always looking for the next “check-in spot” (打卡点).

There are also other spots popular on social media that look like impressive areas but are actually just optical illusions. Here are some examples:

One Weibo user suggested that this trend is actually not about people appreciating the beauty around them, but more about chasing the next social media hype.

The Ditan seaview trend is not entirely new. In May of this year, Beijing government already published a post about the “sea” in Ditan becoming more popular among social media users who especially came to the park for the special spot.

The Beijing Tourism Bureau previously referred to the spot as “the sea at Ditan Park that even Shi Tiesheng didn’t discover” (#在地坛拍到了史铁生都没发现的海#).

Shi Tiesheng (1951–2010) is a famous Chinese author from Beijing whose most well-known work, “Me and Ditan,” reflects on his experiences and contemplations in Ditan Park. At the age of 21, Shi Tiesheng suffered a spinal cord injury that left him paralyzed from the waist down. Ditan Park became a place for him to ponder life, time, and nature. Despite the author’s deep connection with the park, he never described seeing a “sea” in the walls.

Shi Tiesheng in Ditan Park.

If you are visiting Ditan Park and would like to check out the ‘sea’ yourself in the late afternoon, there are guides on Xiaohongshu explaining the route to the viewpoint. But it should not be too difficult to find this summer—just follow the crowds.

By Manya Koetse and Ruixin Zhang

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.

©2024 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

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