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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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Chinese New Year

Weibo Watch: Stealing the Show

About the biggest controversy surrounding the 2024 Spring Festival Gala, ‘Chunshan Studies’, Jia Ling’s peak in popularity, and other must-know Weibo topics.

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PREMIUM NEWSLETTER | ISSUE #24

This week’s newsletter:
◼︎ 1. Editor’s Note – Stealing the show
◼︎ 2. What’s Been Trending – A closer look at the featured stories
◼︎ 3. What More to Know – Five bit-sized trends
◼︎ 4. What’s the Drama – Top TV to watch
◼︎ 5. What Lies Behind – Celebrations and frustrations
◼︎ 6. What’s Noteworthy – Fu Yuanhui’s plea for help
◼︎ 7. What’s Popular – Multi-talented Jia Ling’s peak in popularity
◼︎ 8. What’s Memorable – The micro-film of the Spring Festival
◼︎ 9. Weibo Word of the Week – “Chunshan Studies”

 

Dear Reader,

 

It has been several years since I officially paused my PhD studies to dedicate my full attention to What’s on Weibo. My research focus during my studies was centered on the representation of the Second Sino-Japanese War in Chinese and Japanese popular culture, a topic I still find fascinating and relevant. However, one problem I encountered while doing my PhD was the constant allure of equally fascinating trends or topics to explore. The Spring Festival Gala is one such topic that always ranked high on my ‘PhD research wishlist.’

I’m sure you’re all familiar with the Gala by now, but just to recap: the CMG Spring Festival Gala, formerly known as the CCTV Spring Festival Gala, is the state media’s annual live television event broadcasted on the evening of Chinese New Year since 1983. It’s one of the most-watched variety shows globally, attracting an average of 700 million viewers. Over 679 million people tuned in to the live broadcast this year (by comparison, the latest Super Bowl had a viewership of 123 million). The Gala features various acts, including singing, dancing, and comedy, spanning approximately 4 hours.

The Gala holds immense significance for all involved parties, from production teams to performers and sponsors. It’s a convergence of culture and commerce, where the Party meets pop culture. CMG (China Media Group), under the direct control of the Central Propaganda Department of the Communist Party, utilizes the show to communicate official ideology, promote traditional culture, and showcase top national performers. Despite its commercial aspect, the Gala always remains highly political, blending official propaganda with entertainment. Over the years, it has also become a platform to showcase China’s innovative digital technologies.

Given its importance, it’s not surprising that every second of the show is closely examined, analyzed, scrutinized by an audience of millions. This also results in a new controversy surrounding the show virtually every year, whether it’s about a performance that is deemed racist or about jokes that are believed to be sexist, about who appeared and who did not come up, about magic tricks going wrong or an audience member caught on camera while picking their nose.

The controversy you need to know about this year concerns Chinese actor Bai Jingting (白敬亭). Together with Wei Chen (魏晨) and Wei Daxun (魏大勋), he performed the song “Going Up Spring Mountain” (上春山). Although the song itself initially wasn’t particularly noteworthy, the performance attracted major attention due to the positioning of the three singers on a tiered platform, representing a mountain, with Bai standing on the highest pedestal. After Bai sang his part of the song, it seemed like he was supposed to step down but he didn’t, so Wei Daxun sang from a lower step afterward. It was rumored that Bai Jingting may have intentionally vied for a more prominent position to attract more attention on stage, resulting in choreographic asymmetry and some apparent confusion among the performers.

Adding fuel to these rumors is the fact that Bai was the only performer wearing all black, while the other two wore white. After rehearsal videos of the performance were posted online, netizens noticed that in one video Bai initially stepped down after singing his part, and that he also wore white in another. This led to claims that Bai purposely changed his outfit last-minute to black, so that he could ‘steal the show’ while occupying the center position. It would also make it impossible for producers to switch to a rehearsed version of the song. (Although it’s a live show, every year’s Gala has a taped version of the full dress rehearsal that 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. A change in position or attire would make this impossible.)

While these are all mere rumors, they triggered widespread criticism of Bai, trending throughout the week. People accused him of having a bad character and wanting to steal the limelight, it even sparked the new term ‘Chunshan Studies’ (see our Weibo Word of the Week) and the video of “Going Up Spring Mountain” (上春山) became the Gala most replayed performance. The title ““Going Up Spring Mountain” took on an entirely different meaning and was even trademarked by a company in Shenzhen. It sparked memes, jokes, and led to people mimicking the song or editing images of the performance.

CCTV made it clear in a popular Weibo hashtag that “Every move in the Spring Festival Gala is carefully designed and precisely presented” (#春晚每一个走位都精心设计并被准确呈现#), suggesting Bai followed directorial instructions and never sought the limelight. It’s quite ironic that while the Gala usually wants to pretend that there is still some spontaneity involved, it now had to stress how there actually is none whatsoever to protect Bai’s reputation.

Also ironic is that while the entire discussion revolved around whether or not Bai was stealing the show, the song “Going Up Spring Mountain” actually did steal the spotlight and became the most-discussed act of the night. This year’s controversy adds to the Gala’s long list of noteworthy moments, each shedding light on the changing dynamics of China’s evolving media landscape, propaganda efforts, nationalism, gender issues, fan culture, and more. Perhaps it’s time for someone to undertake a PhD on that…

Miranda Barnes and Ruixin Zhang contributed to this Weibo Watch newsletter.

Best,
Manya (@manyapan)

PS Is there a China Studies topic that’s on your ‘wishlist’ too? Or have you come across any new trends or online phenomena that piqued your interest? I’m always eager to learn more about what fascinates you. Don’t hesitate to shoot me a message!

 

A closer look at the featured stories

1: The CMG Gala | The CMG Spring Festival Gala is not just an essential part of Chinese Lunar New Year celebrations, it is also the biggest televised media spectacle of the year. Over the entire last week, this four-hour extravaganza featuring forty-six performances has dominated social media conversations. In this article, we reflect on the highs and lows of this year’s edition of the world’s most-watched television program. Read all about it here 👇🏼

Read more
 

2: What a Mess | In the summer of 2023, it seemed like Messi’s popularity in China had reached its peak during a friendly match between Argentina and Australia held at Beijing’s Workers’ Stadium when a Chinese fan stormed onto the pitch and embraced Messi. The incident went viral and only garnered more appreciation for the soccer superstar, who extended his arms and reciprocated the hug. Fast forward eight months, and Messi’s reputation in China has plummeted to its lowest point. His highly anticipated appearance in a match in Hong Kong failed to materialize, leaving fans and organizers disappointed. Many suspect political motivations behind his absence, leading to widespread disillusionment among Chinese fans. (Updated with Messi’s response on 2/19).

Read more
 

3: Box Office Peak Season | During the Chinese Spring Festival, along with the National Day Holiday, movies tend to earn around 32.3% more on average. Sci-fi and action films are usually the most successful, followed by comedies. Last year, the Spring Festival box office revenues accounted for about 12.3 percent of the yearly total. This year, it was actually all about comedy and animation. Jia Ling’s latest movie was the most anticipated one. Check the big nine Spring Festival movies in our article below.

Read more
 

 

What More to Know

Five Bite-Sized Trends

◼︎ 🚙 Long Way Home | Sold-out tickets, overcrowded trains, traffic jams, and aggravated travelers – the Chinese New Year travel season has been a hot topic on Chinese social media recently, sparking various discussions. Over the weekend of February 17-18, terms such as ‘way home’ (返程) and ‘traffic jam’ (堵车) dominated Weibo as the eight-day Spring Festival holiday ended, with millions returning home after leisure travel and family visits. The situation was particularly severe in Hainan, where some endured waits of up to fourteen hours for a ferry, despite local authorities predicting a seven-hour clearance for traffic jams. China Daily reported that the provincial government increased the number of flights and ferries in hopes of avoiding mass congestion, but to no avail. As people nationwide faced difficulties returning home by train, boat, or car, more voices on social media called for amendments to the annual leave and public holiday system, advocating for a more staggered return to work to alleviate nationwide travel congestion (related Weibo hashtag: #海南离岛严重拥堵有人排14小时上船#, 130 million views).

◼︎ 👫 Holding Hand Gate Continued | Remember the 2023 so-called ‘Holding Hand Gate’? Chinese social media exploded after a local SOE official was snapped by a street photographer while taking a stroll with his mistress, a co-worker who had joined him on a Chengdu business trip. The viral video showed the woman elegantly dressed in a fitted pink ensemble, adorned with a $5000 Dior purse, walking hand in hand with the official, who sported a coordinated t-shirt and carried shopping bags. The man, PetroChina executive Hu Jiyong, was fired after his extramarital affair was exposed online. The woman, PetroChina employee Ms. Dong, was also dismissed. Now, the affair has again gone trending after Ms. Dong talked about the aftermath in a February 18 Douyin livestream, calling the commotion surrounding the exposed affair a particularly dark moment in her life, which she got through thanks to the help of her loved ones. However, the livestream was cut off halfway and the account was suspended for “violating the platform’s relevant regulations” (related Weibo hashtag #太古里牵手门女当事人直播间被封#, 270 million views).

◼︎ 🤖 OpenAI’s Sora | Since the American AI research company OpenAI introduced its new video generation model ‘Sora’ on February 16, it has become a big topic of discussion in Chinese media and on Weibo. Though not officially launched yet, demo videos released by Sora show what the new text-to-video model is capable of, allowing users to create very realistic, high-quality and detailed videos. In a recent column, Chinese political commenter Hu Xijin called Sora a “groundbreaking development” while also expressing worries over how these new technologies will impact the future of realistic film and the film industry at large. At the same time, Hu also wondered what the rapid progress of American AI companies means for China and its AI ambitions, calling the introduction of Sora a “warning” that China may be lagging behind when it comes to AI. If you’re interested to read more on this, I recently wrote an op-ed for The Guardian about the US-China race for AI supremacy: link. (Related Weibo hashtag #OpenAI首个视频生成模型Sora有多强大#, 28 million views).

◼︎ 🇷🇺 Navalny’s Death | The death of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny shocked the world this week. The 47-year-old anti-corruption activist died in a maximum-security prison in Russia’s far north. A day before his death was announced, Navalny appeared in a court hearing, where he cracked jokes about needing money from the judge. In the years leading up to his death, Navalny endured chemical burns and survived poisoning attempts. In a video message, Navalny’s wife, Yulia Navalnaya, held Putin accountable for her husband’s death. Chinese state media outlets reported Navalny’s death on Weibo, citing Russian statements that he suddenly fell ill after a walk in the prison on Friday, leading to shock and eventual passing. On Weibo, some commenters cynically dubbed his death as “Russia-style modernization,” while others criticized it as “Putin’s way,” labeling Putin as a ‘Czar’ or ‘Emperor.’ There were also remarks suggesting that Navalny’s demise was the foreseeable consequence of Russia’s intolerance toward opposition, and wrote that Navalny himself had opted to return to Russia after being treated in Germany in 2021 (related Weibo hashtag #俄反对派人士纳瓦利内狱中死亡#, 27 million views).

◼︎ 🦒 Giraffes on Weibo| Since I missed one newsletter edition (following the late little rabbit news), I haven’t had the chance to cover the giraffe incident on Weibo yet. Here’s a brief overview: In early February, around the 3rd, Weibo users flooded the US embassy’s account page with complaints about their economic struggles and plummeting stock market worries. The post they were responding to wasn’t related to China’s economy at all; it was about tracking giraffes in Namibia using GPS technology. This seemingly innocent post became a platform for discussing China’s post-pandemic economic issues and also included direct criticism of Chinese leadership. It’s not uncommon for Chinese netizens to use seemingly unrelated hashtags or posts to discuss sensitive topics, hoping to evade censorship. However, the giraffe thread was eventually censored anyway. Despite this, the post still garnered over 20,000 shares and nearly a million likes. Who would’ve thought wildlife conservation could be so popular? 🤡

 

What’s the Drama

Top TV to Watch

The TV drama “Amidst a Snowstorm of Love” (在暴雪时分) currently ranks number one on Weibo and Baidu’s Top TV drama rankings. The romantic drama tells the love story of snooker player Lin Yiyang (林亦扬, played by Wu Lei 吴磊) and nine-ball player Yin Guo (殷果, played by Zhao Jinmai 赵今麦). It is a genuine love story that showcases the chemistry between the two main stars, and the high ratings for the drama show that audiences were craving a straightforward drama that warms hearts on cold days. The drama premiered on February 2 and has since skyrocketed in popularity. The main hashtag on Weibo has received over 4 billion clicks, with 150 million views on February 19 alone.

▶️ This drama is an adaptation of the novel “Amidst a Snowstorm of Love” (在暴雪时分) by Chinese web novelist and screenwriter Mobao Feibao (墨宝非宝).
▶️ Singer Deng Dian (邓典D.D, b. 1999) performed the theme song for this drama, which has also become an online hit.
▶️ To realistically portray his characters, actor Wu Lei underwent snooker and billiards training before filming the drama. He also learned horse riding, archery, badminton, and tennis for other roles, leading some commentators to joke that he’s getting ready to compete in the “Olympics” of China’s entertainment industry.

You can watch Amidst a Snowstorm of Love with English subtitles via Viki here.

 

What Lies Behind

Observations beyond the headlines, by Miranda Barnes

Only a few days into the Chinese New Year, China had already registered over 3.5 billion passenger trips. The Spring Festival travel rush is known as the world’s largest annual migration, predominantly journeys back to hometowns and family reunions. And so, over the past ten days or so, social media was flooded with videos showing family members’ emotional reactions when they are surprised by the homecoming of loved ones. Videos showed tears, laughter, hugs, and gentle scoldings for not giving advance notice of arrivals. Many viewers admitted to being moved to tears by these heartfelt moments while scrolling on their phones. But during the Spring Festival, we gradually saw a shift in people’s posts as they reported from their hometowns, where happy family reunions often turned into dinner dramas.

Returning home after prolonged separation from parents often evokes mixed feelings among Chinese younger people. While they look forward to family gatherings and homemade comfort food, they also worry that their family might find out that the idealized portrayal of their lives over the phone doesnt exactly match the reality. The joy of reunion fades with each passing day.

“It’s my fourth day home and I’ve been offering to do all the dishes to nurture our family bond,” some said, “but now, on day five, an argument has finally broke out.” While the immediate triggers for family disputes may vary, underlying reasons are often similar, as shared by Weibo users. Comments like “All you do is stay glued to your phone,” “You can’t even support yourself with your income; do you know how much money your cousin is making?” and “When are you getting married? You’re embarrassing us,” are commonplace. One commenter lamented, “I’m currently locked up in my room after a disagreement with my family. They all say home is a safe haven, but we all know that returning home during Chinese New Year means stepping into the eye of a storm.”

Amid these challenging times, psychologists offer online tips to foster better understanding of the generation gap and improve communication. Nevertheless, many express the difficulty of engaging in equal and respectful conversations with their parents and elders. As one blogger reflected, “It’s always the same emotional cycle during the Spring Festival: a honeymoon phase to start with, followed by numerous arguments, and sadness upon leaving home in the end.”

 

What’s Noteworthy

Small news with big impact

“We hired a car and now we’re being extorted. Halfway through, they wanted us to pay more to buy tickets; we disagreed, so now the driver won’t continue driving. What should I do? Should I call the police?” This was the urgent plea for help that Olympic swimmer Fu Yuanhui (傅园慧) posted on Weibo on Saturday morning, February 17th. Following her post, Fu Yuanhui and the scamming incident quickly went trending on Weibo, and her situation was soon resolved. This also led to criticism, as people argued she only got help so quickly because she is famous. Read more via link below.

Read more
 

 

The latest buzz in arts & pop culture

So far, the Year of the Dragon is an especially fruitful one for Chinese actress and director Jia Ling (贾玲). Although the famous comedian had previous major successes with her directorial debut Hi, Mom in 2021, her current popularity is unprecedented: everyone is talking about Jia Ling.

We recently covered Jia Ling’s return to the spotlight after a year-long break from the public eye. Not only did she announce her new film YOLO (热辣滚烫), the actress also lost a staggering 110 lbs (50 kg) for her role.

Her movie turned out to be the biggest box office hit of the season. Of all the different box office premieres during the eight-day Spring Festival holiday, Jia Ling’s YOLO took the lead with 2.7 billion yuan.

YOLO (热辣滚烫) is an inspirational story about an overweight woman who finds new purpose and becomes fit through boxing. But it’s about more than the movie alone: Jia Ling herself has become a great source of inspiration to others. Besides acting and directing, she is now also singing and composing. This week, the music video for Jia’s song “Everything Is Still Possible” or “Everything Comes in Time” (一切都来得及) was released. In the video, the ‘new’ Jia Ling can be seen singing a duet with her former self, singing about the importance of loving yourself.

Jia Ling singing a duet with her old self.

After her box office success, hit song, and new appearance, it seems that Jia Ling is at the peak of her popularity. She’s become a role model for her talent, dedication, and style – she’s the hottest woman on Weibo.

 

What’s Memorable

Best reads from the archive

In light of the Spring Festival, we’ve picked this article from our archive from one year ago which explores a new genre that was introduced during the CMG Gala in 2023, namely the ‘micro film.’ While this year’s show also featured another short film by director Zhang Dapeng at the very beginning, the 2023 short film titled “Me and My Spring Festival Night” (“我和我的春晚”) truly captivated audiences. This 7-minute mini-film was a remarkable piece of storytelling with a surprising twist at the end. Many viewers hailed it as the highlight of the Gala, with some even going so far as to call it the best segment of the Gala they’d seen in a decade. Read more about the short film here 👇

Read more

 

Weibo Word of the Week

The catchword to know

“Chunshan Studies” | Our Weibo Word of the Week is “Spring Mountain Studies” or “Chunshan Studies” (Chūn Shān Xué 春山学), a phrase which has taken the Chinese internet by storm recently.

“Chunshan Studies” emerged as a result of the controversy surrounding the song “Going Up Spring Mountain” performed at the annual CMG Spring Festival by Bai Jingting (白敬亭), Wei Chen (魏晨), and Wei Daxun (魏大勋). Bai, the only singer of the three dressed in black and standing at the highest pedestal during the live performance, became the subject of online scrutiny when netizens accused him of purposely choosing his position and attire to steal the spotlight.

The incident became a hot topic, almost evolving into a full-fledged study with various related theories, hence netizens humorously started referring to it as “Spring Mountain Studies” or “Chunshan Studies”. Netizens meticulously scrutinized everything from wardrobe details to body language, searching for hidden meanings and subtle clues that may reveal the intentions of those involved and the truth of what happened on stage. On social media platforms Douyin and Bilibili, numerous “Chunshan Studies” videos emerged, providing frame-to-frame analyses of how Bai Jingting may have tried to seize the main position and supposed abnormal stage movements.

Chunshan Studies has become a distinct field of study focusing on the “Going Up Spring Mountain” controversy, but it also intersects with critical analysis, popular media discourse, and social studies. Some commenters believe that the discussions about Bai Jingting’s position on stage are actually about equity and ethical behavior.

Guess we all learned something new this Spring Festival!

 
This is an on-site version of the Weibo Watch newsletter by What’s on Weibo. Missed last week’s newsletter? Find it here. If you are already subscribed to What’s on Weibo but are not yet receiving this newsletter in your inbox, please contact us directly to let us know.

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China Travel

Olympic Swimming Fu Yuanhui Gets Help via Weibo Following Taxi Scam

Olympic champion Fu Yuanhui, known for her ‘mystical powers,’ turned to social media when she faced a tourist scam.

Manya Koetse

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“We hired a car and now we’re being extorted. Halfway through, they wanted us to pay more to buy tickets; we disagreed, so now the driver won’t continue driving. What should I do? Should I call the police?”

This was the plea for help that Olympic swimmer Fu Yuanhui (傅园慧) posted on Weibo on Saturday morning, February 17. The popular athlete informed her followers that she was around the Changbai Mountain Scenic Area, a popular winter tourist destination in China’s Jilin Province, when her driver suddenly demanded more money from her.

Shortly after posting about her predicament, Fu Yuanhui sent out an update: “Thank you all for following, the Jilin Ministry of Culture and Tourism swiftly stepped in, the problem is already solved now. Thanks everyone.”

Following these posts, Fu Yuanhui and the Changbai incident quickly went trending on Weibo, where many people commented that her situation was only resolved so quickly because she is famous.

Fu Yuanhui became a Chinese internet sensation eight years ago, after her performance and interviews during the Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. When talking to reporters, Fu was excited, positive, and refreshingly honest. She introduced the popular phrase “mystical powers” (洪荒之力, literally: power strong enough to change the universe) when explaining that she was swimming extra fast because she was “using all ‘mystical powers'” (read more). She also went viral for expressing genuine delight upon discovering she had won a bronze medal, and for disclosing that she did not swim very well another time because she was on her period.

Fu Yuanhui charmed Chinese audiences after her disarming interviews during the Summer Olympics in 2016.

Following her Olympic success, Fu gained many fans on social media. On Weibo, she has over 7 million followers.

It is clear that her fame and relatively large following played a role in how fast her issue was resolved. Not only did the local authorities step in, the driver who extorted her reportedly was also quickly punished for his actions and received a 30,000 yuan fine (US$4215). A related hashtag, published by state media outlet CCTV, went viral and received over 130 million views on Weibo (#对傅园慧加价黑车司机被罚3万元#).

While most are glad to see the driver get punished so soon, many commenters argue that it’s unfair for someone like Fu Yuanhui to receive swift assistance while many ordinary travelers across China facing scams during this holiday season struggle to get the help they need.

On February 16, a Chinese family of five was kicked off a tour bus during their trip in Lijiang, Yunnan, because they had refused to purchase a bracelet worth 50,000 yuan ($7,025) as instructed by their tour guide during a visit to a jade shop. This incident also went viral on Weibo (#一家人旅游未买5万手镯被赶下车#, 130 million views), sparking outrage over local travel scams and the perceived inaction of tourism authorities.

A significant factor in these discussions is how Chinese local tourism authorities have been ramping up their marketing efforts following the pandemic and China’s zero-Covid policy. Seeking to attract more domestic tourists, they’ve been exploring new strategies to promote their hometowns, particularly among younger generations. Since early 2023, various tourism bureau chiefs from across China have gone viral on platforms like Weibo, Douyin, and beyond for their innovative social media campaigns.

The marketing success of certain destinations, such as ‘BBQ town’ Zibo, has also inspired other cities or regions throughout China to go all out in presenting their best side. Some of them, such as Harbin, have succeeded in becoming yet another holiday hit.

While these kind of campaigns are generally applauded, many believe that actions speak louder than words. They argue that besides focusing on social media campaigns, local tourism authorities should do more to protect common travelers against scams, rip-offs, and fraud.

“What will you do next time this happens?” many ask, and: “what should normal people without a big social media following do when this happens to them?”

“Fu Yuanhui is a public figure, which is why this case was resolved. For regular people, nothing would happen – we don’t get heard,” another person wrote.

While many criticize Jilin authorities for aiding Fu Yuanhui without effectively addressing tourist scams, most people don’t blame Fu Yuanhui at all for seeking the help she needed. “After all,” one commenter wrote, “She does have mystical powers.”

By Manya Koetse

With contributions by Ruixin Zhang

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