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Fan Bing Bing is Back! The ‘Missing’ Actress is Ordered to Pay $130 Million & Apologizes on Weibo (Full Translation)

After months of silence, there is finally clarity about the situation of Fan Bing Bing: she is ordered to pay millions, and she is sorry.

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Chinese actress Fan Bing Bing, who has been “missing” for months since she was at the center of a tax evasion scandal, is back in the public eye. Hours after authorities issued the news that the actress has to pay millions in tax penalties, she returned to Weibo with an apology.

Fan Bing Bing (范冰冰), one of China’s most renowned actresses whose disappearance from the public eye has been at the center of a social media storm since July of this year, is back.

Earlier today, on October 3rd, news came out on Chinese state media that the tax investigations by authorities had been completed, with Xinhua News stating that the actress “has been ordered to pay taxes and fines worth hundreds of millions of yuan over tax evasion.”

Other sources said the actress had to pay 883 million yuan in tax fines; approximately 128,5 million US dollars. According to CGNT, the 37-year-old actress will not be held criminally liable if she pays the penalty in time.

 

The Tax Evasion Scandal

What followed after the scandal was months of silence and rumors.”

 

Earlier this year, the news that Fan Bing Bing allegedly received a total payment of 60 million yuan ($9.3 million) for just four days work on the film Cell Phone 2, of which she would have only declared 10 million ($1.56 million) to authorities, became a huge trending topic on Chinese social media.

The tax scandal first came to light when Chinese TV host Cui Yongyuan (崔永元) leaked two different contracts on social media; the one that allegedly showed that the actress was paid a total of 10 million RMB for her work, with another showing a payment of 50 million RMB for the exact same work. These types of contracts are called yin-yang contracts (阴阳合同), an illegal practice to avoid paying taxes.

What followed after the scandal was months of silence and rumors. The actress was last seen in public on July 1st, and social media rumors alleged the actress might have left the country or that she was banned from acting.

Last month, one particularly strong rumor surfaced, saying that Fan had been arrested in Wuxi, in Jiangsu province, where Fan’s studio is based.

Hours after today’s news on her penalty came out, Fan issued an apology letter on Chinese social media site Weibo, in which she expressed shame about her actions. Fan has 62,6 million fans on her Weibo, and the apology letter is the first time she has posted on social media since June 2nd.

 

The Apology Letter

Without the good policies of the Party and the state, without the love of the people, there would be no Fan Bing Bing.”

 

Full letter translation here in English (by What’s on Weibo):


Apology Letter

Over the past period, I have gone through unprecedented pain and suffering, and have done in-depth self-reflection and soul-searching. I feel deeply ashamed and guilty of everything I have done. Here, I want to express my sincere apologies to you.

For a long time, because of the fact that I did not correctly lay out the relations between the interests of the state, society, and myself, I used “split contracts” (拆分合同) for the film “Unbreakable Spirit” (大轰炸) and others, to evade the tax problem, and I am ashamed of that. These days, during the tax authorities’ tax inspections of me and my company, I have been deeply questioning myself the whole time: as public figures, we should abide by the law, and be a role model within the industry and society at large. We should not lose ourselves by putting economic interests first and loosening the supervision, which leads to breaking the law. Here, I sincerely apologize to society, to my cherished friends, to the public, and to the tax authorities.

After completing their investigation, the tax servation services have issued a series of penalties. I fully accept them and will try my best to overcome all difficulties and raise the funds and pay the taxes and fines in accordance with the tax authorities’ finalized penalty order.

I’ve loved arts since I was young, and because I was right on time for the booming developments within the film and TV industry, and thanks to the guidance of my seniors and loving support from the audience, along with my own continuous efforts, I have been able to acquire some achievements within the performing arts. As an actress, I am always proud of being able to showcase my culture in the international limelight, and I’ll do what I can to fight for that goal.

You could say that my every achievement is owed to my country and the support of its people. Without the good policies of the Party and the state, without the love and protection of the people, there would be no Fan Bing Bing.

Today, I feel very disquieted about my mistakes. I let down the country that educated me, the society that trusted me, and the fans who loved me. Here, again, I offer my sincerest apologies to everyone. Please forgive me!

I believe that, after going through this rectification, I emphasize rules, order, and responsibility. While offering everyone good work, I will also supervise the management of my company, engage in law-abiding business, keep my promises, and strive to have a company full of meaningful cultural content so I can bring out positive energy to the whole society!

Once again, to the society, to the fans who have always supported me, to the friends and family who care for me, I sincerely say sorry!

Fan Bingbing

October 3, 2018


On Weibo, Fan’s letter was soon shared more than 135,000 times (and ongoing), receiving ten thousands of likes.

 

The Criticism and Online Control

Especially when looking at my own small salary, I have mixed feelings about all of this.”

 

The comments underneath the letter, however, were severely restricted – by Sina Weibo or by Fan herself-, and only displayed the six reactions of five different people who showed their support and sent their love to the actress.

Elsewhere on Weibo, however, there are more critical responses to the apology letter, with people wondering why the actress did not get any criminal charges for tax evasion, and also questioning the decision to let this story come out during the national holidays.

“From now on, all actors can do tax evasion, and just fix it once it’s discovered,” some netizens respond, writing: “Especially when looking at my own small salary, I have mixed feelings about all of this.”

Others are not too confident that there is still a brilliant future ahead for the actress, although one commenter writes: “It’s ok, if she’s no longer able to perform, she could still be an internet celebrity and do some commercials.”

The more supportive reactions include those saying: “She knows her mistakes and she will correct them, I believe she will only do better in the future.”

The strict control of information flows surrounding Fan’s apology is also attracting attention on social media, with some wondering why the topic is not showing up on the ‘hot search’ or ‘trending’ lists, although it obviously is a big trending topic. “May I ask why such a topic that is all over CCTV is not on Weibo’s trending lists,” one Weibo user asked: “Has Weibo been bribed or something?”

 

The State Media

Those film and television companies and related employees who investigate themselves and correct any [open] tax payments before December 31st, can avoid any potential administrative penalties and fines..”

 

Xinhua News Agency issued an article on Weibo following today’s news, saying that “the case of Fan Bing Bing is a lesson for those in the film and tv industry to obey the law” (范冰冰案教育警示文艺影视从业者遵纪守法).

The article, by authors Bai Ying (白瀛) and Luo Sha (罗沙), was soon read more than 400,000 times.

It called Fan’s case the “biggest yet” when it comes to personal tax evasion in China, and also stated it played a strong role in being an “educational warning” for similar tax violating behavior of others.

Xinhua states that according to Chinese law, people who make false tax returns or evade tax payments for an amount that is more than 10% of the payable tax, can be sentenced to up to three years in prison, along with receiving payable penalties. If that amount is more than 30% of the payable tax, they can be sentenced to a maximum of seven years (and a minimum of three years) in prison.

But the law also states that people can prevent going to prison (or being “held criminally liable”), if they pay their tax payments and the full penalties tax payment within a proposed time frame. They can still be sentenced if they get another administrative penalty.

The state media article, noteworthy enough, further reveals that the State Administration of Taxation (国家税务总局) will carry out “special actions to regulate the tax orders within the film and television industry”: those film and television companies and related employees who investigate themselves and correct any [open] tax payments before December 31 of this year, can avoid any potential administrative penalties and fines (see screenshot of segment below).

Noteworthy segment in Xinhua article.

In other words; this might suggest that there are many other (albeit much smaller) Fan Bing Bing cases out there, and that those involved are now getting the chance to correct themselves in the coming three months to avoid the fines and penalties that Fan does need to pay; meaning that the renowned actress and her tax scandal is used a ‘killing the chicken to scare the monkeys’ (杀鸡吓猴) case, as the Chinese saying goes: punishing an individual to set an example to others.

On Weibo, a typical comment says that the way in which this entertainment industry case was handled “is not really fair to ordinary people,” with many saying: “If you do not have the money or the fame [like Fan Bing Bing], you would be treated as a criminal for much smaller issues.”

By Manya Koetse and Miranda Barnes

Full letter here in Chinese

致歉信

最近一段时间,我经历了从未有过的痛苦、煎熬,进行了深刻的反思、反省,我对自己的所作所为深感羞愧、内疚,在这里我向大家诚恳道歉!

长期以来,由于自己没有摆正国家利益、社会利益和个人利益的关系,在影片《大轰炸》和其他一些合同中出现利用“拆分合同”等逃税问题,我深感羞愧。这些天在配合税务机关对我及我公司的税务检查中,我一直深刻反省:作为一个公众人物,应该遵纪守法,起到社会和行业的模范带头作用,不应在经济利益面前,丧失自我约束,放松管理,以致违法失守。在此,我诚恳地向社会、向爱护关心我的朋友,以及大众,向国家税务机关道歉。

对税务机关调查后,依法作出的一系列处罚决定,我完全接受,我将按照税务部门的最终处罚决定,尽全力克服一切困难,筹措资金、补缴税款、缴纳罚款。

我从小喜欢艺术,又赶上了影视业蓬勃发展的好时机,在诸多前辈的提携和观众朋友的爱护下,加之自己的不断努力,这才在演艺方面取得了一点成绩。作为一个演员,我常为自己能在世界舞台上展示我国文化而自豪,并不遗余力为此冲锋。可以说,我每一点成绩的取得,都离不开国家和人民群众的支持。没有党和国家的好政策,没有人民群众的爱护,就没有范冰冰。

今天,我对自己的过错深感惶恐不安!我辜负了国家对我的培养,辜负了社会对我的信任,也辜负了影迷对我的喜爱!在此,我再次向大家诚恳道歉!请大家原谅!

我相信,经过这次整顿,我会讲规矩、遵秩序、重责任,在把好的作品献给大家的同时,也要监督公司管理,守法经营,诚实守信,争做富有文化内涵的好公司,为全社会传播正能量!

再次向社会,向一直支持我的影迷,向关爱我的朋友家人,真诚的说一句,对不起!

范冰冰

2018年10月3日

 

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Stories that are authored by the What's on Weibo Team are the stories that multiple authors contributed to. Please check the names at the end of the articles to see who the authors are.

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  1. Avatar

    awrrw

    October 6, 2018 at 4:29 pm

    That`s how China does business, corruption to the max

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China Arts & Entertainment

Zheng Shuang, Zhang Heng, and ‘Surrogacy Gate’: A Timeline

One celebrity couple breakup, two children born through surrogacy: this sad and messy topic has exploded on Chinese social media.

Manya Koetse

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A celebrity surrogacy scandal is dominating discussions on Chinese social media, with one hashtag on the case attracting over 3 4 billion views. The scandal is triggering discussions on the topic of surrogacy in China.

Her name is Zheng Shuang (郑爽, 29), his name is Zhang Heng (张恒, 30). They’re both celebrities in China; she is a super famous actress, he is a well-known producer.

This week, it is not their work that made them go viral on Chinese social media, but a surrogacy scandal taking place in the United States that is dominating all trending lists on Weibo.

Zheng and Zhang in happier times.

The social media storm started on Monday, January 18, when rumors surfaced on Weibo and Wechat that the celebrity couple had separated. Some netizens had located a ‘dissolution’ case concerning the couple through the public access of the US federal court system.

Subsequently, news and rumors began circulating that the couple had two children in the US through a surrogacy arrangement, but that actress Zheng Shuang refused to have them because she and Zhang had broken up – even though her name was on their birth certificate.

The topic soon became known as the Zheng Shuang ‘Surrogacy Gate’ (郑爽”代孕门”).

Chinese media outlet Netease Entertainment published images of the children’s birth certificates and confirmed through sources close to producer Zhang Heng that he was stranded in the United States with the two babies, unable to bring them back to China with him since Ms Zheng allegedly did not cooperate with the necessary legal procedures.

It was Zhang Heng himself who spoke out about the situation on his Weibo account (@张恒KN) on January 18. He wrote the following post:

“Hi everyone, I’m Zhang Heng. Long time no see. As everyone has seen, I again hit the hot search lists recently. Since the past year or so, there has been baseless slander, disrespect, and endless online violence against me on the internet. My family is also frustrated, helpless, and mentally exhausted because of my problems. There’s no way to lead a normal life or to socialize normally. We’re unable to reunite because of this. I really feel so, so bad.   

I realize I can’t bury my head in the sand any longer. Because it’s not just me facing everything; it’s also my cherished family members. I’ve decided to speak up, for my family and for myself, and to set the record straight. 

The online rumors about me committing fraud, borrowing from loan sharks, evading debts, taking funds and slinking off to America, etc –  they’re all rumors and I swear I’ve never done these things, nor would I ever do them. It is true that I am in America, but my family and I have been in the United States for over a year because we had to take care of and protect our two young and innocent children. We had no choice but to remain here.

I have hired a lawyer to handle related matters, and I believe the actual facts will be restored by the American and Chinese courts. Finally, I hope the media and righteous people can recognize the truth in this matter, and will not be blinded by internet rumors.” 

The children caught up in this scandal are one girl, born on January 4 2020, registered in the state of Nevada; and a boy, born on December 19 2019, registered in the state of Colorado. The birth certificates that were leaked to Chinese media show both Ms. Zheng and Mr. Zhang as the legal parents of the two babies.

Also leaked to Chinese media is an older audio recording in which Zheng, Zhang, and both of their parents allegedly discuss what to do with their unborn babies. In the voice recording, Zheng’s side argues that the children should be given up for adoption, with Zheng herself even complaining that the babies could not be aborted because the surrogate mothers were already seven months pregnant.

On January 19, Zheng Shuang herself also responded to the matter on Weibo (@郑爽SZ), where she did not address the matter directly but said that this is “a very sad and private matter that I did not want to discuss in front of everybody.” She further wrote that legal teams in China and the US “never gave up defending the legal rights of me and my family since last year.”

Zheng Shuang, image via Sohu.

Of the two former partners, Zheng is the most famous celebrity. Born in Shenyang in 1991, she rose to fame when she starred in a popular TV series in 2009 (Meteor Shower 一起来看流星雨). She became an award-winning actress and was chosen as one of the most bankable young actresses of the post-90s generation. On her Weibo account, she has over 12.4 million followers.

 

‘Surrogacy Gate’: The Timeline


 

While this case is unfolding in front of netizens’ eyes and through their own research, more and more details are coming up.

Money plays a major role in the falling-out between Zheng and Zhang, and a private lending dispute – involving no less than 20 million yuan (around 3 million dollars) – seems to be one of the reasons for their break-up.

Since the story is somewhat messy and complicated, we will attempt to reconstruct a timeline of events here.
 

TIMELINE:

2018, May
• Zheng and Zhang meet on the set of the variety show This Is Fighting Robots (这就是铁甲), where Zhang does the show’s production. Weeks later, intimate photos of the two surface online.

2018, August
• The couple officially announces their relationship status and start a company together.

2018, November
• Ms Zheng allegedly loans Mr Zhang 20 million yuan ($3 million).

2019, January 19
• Zheng and Zhang ‘secretly’ get married in the United States on January 19 of 2019. Zheng’s dog, “Wolfberry Kris” (@枸杞kris), has its own Weibo account where some ‘wedding photos’ of the joyous occasion are shared on this day.

2019, Fall/Winter
• Zhang and Zheng both appear on the TV show Meeting Mr. Right (女儿们的恋爱).

• An annual report of Zhang and Zheng’s entertainment-meets-tech company, a joint business venture named Shanghai Whale Valley AI Tech (上海鲸谷座人工智能科技有限公司), shows that Zheng Shuang invested over 10 million yuan ($1.5 million) while Zhang – the company’s legal representative – only contributed 200,000 yuan ($30,800).

2019, September
• In a Weibo post of January 2021, Zheng Shuang claims that Zhang cheated on her in September of 2019, which is why she left the US and went back to China.

2019, October 31
• Zhang Heng and Zheng Shuang go viral on Chinese social media when Zhang writes a love song for Zheng, and publicly announces his love for her (#张恒给郑爽写歌#).

2019, December 18
• Zhang Heng and Zheng Shuang announce their breakup, and rumors suggest that the two are caught up in a dispute over money.

2019, December 19
• The son of Zhang Heng and Zheng Shuang is born through surrogacy in Colorado.

2020, January
• The daughter of Zhang Heng and Zheng Shuang is born through surrogacy in Nevada on January 4.

• Zheng Shuang files a lawsuit in Shanghai, suing Zhang Heng for borrowing 20 million yuan from high-interest loaners under her name to invest in personal business ventures.

2020, November
• Shanghai Jing’an Court rules that Mr. Zhang needs to pay back 20 million yuan ($3 million) plus overdue interest to Ms. Zheng. Zhang Heng appeals the case, arguing the money involved was never a loan but a financial compensation and advance payment for invested labor, since Zhang also acted as Zheng’s manager while they were together.

2020, December
• Zheng Shuang quits as a mentor on the Shine! Super Brothers (追光吧!哥哥) variety TV show after a clip exposing her gossiping about the past relationship of two co-stars circulated online.

2021, January 18
• Zhang posts his story on his Weibo account, stating he is stranded in the United States to take care of his two young children, implying Zheng has abandoned the babies. He also posts a photo of him with the two children.

• A voice recording in which Zheng talks about what to do with her unborn children surfaces in Chinese media, along with the birth certificates. The topic explodes on Chinese social media.

2021, January 19
• Zheng Shuang posts a reply to the matter on her own Weibo account, in which she is vague and evasive about the issue concerning the children. She implies that Zhang has “ulterior motives.” She later adds that Zhang cheated on her in the fall of 2019.

• In light of all controversy, Italian fashion brand PRADA cuts ties with Zheng Shuang, with whom they had a cooperation agreement. Zheng was announced as one of the brand’s new Chinese ambassadors earlier in 2021.

• London jewelry brand Lola Rose deletes all content including Zheng from their social media.

• Harper Bazaar deletes a feature on Zheng Shuang from their social media.

• Chinese cosmetic brand Chioture also posts a statement on Weibo saying it has terminated its contract with Zheng Shuang, who formerly was a spokesperson for the company.

• The second hearing of the Zheng versus Zhang lawsuit takes place in a Shanghai court over the disputed loan. Zhang and Zheng are both represented by their lawyers. (No news on outcome yet).

• State broadcaster CCTV condemns surrogacy in a post on Weibo.

• Zheng Shuang appears in public in Beijing, where she is followed by paparazzi. She does not respond to any questions, but her appearance still goes viral on social media with over 640 million views (#郑爽风波后首现身#).

2021, January 20
• Huading Awards announces it will revoke the honorary titles of Zheng Shuang, renouncing Zheng’s former awards as best actress and favorite TV star. Over 2.2 million people ‘liked’ this update on Weibo (#华鼎奖取消郑爽荣誉称号#).

• China’s State Administration of Radio, Film and Television officially shuts out Zheng Shuang.

• The Weibo hashtag “Birth Certificates of Zheng Shuang and Zhang Heng’s Children” (#郑爽张恒孩子出生证明#) reaches a staggering 4 billion views.

2021, March 22
• The hearing for the supposed dissolution of Zheng and Zhang’s marriage is scheduled to take place in Denver, US.

 

Surrogacy Abandonment


 

Although the timeline of events leading to the current situation might suggest that Ms. Zheng and Mr. Zhang are both at fault for handling matters in an irresponsible way, it is Zheng’s “surrogacy abandonment” that mostly triggers the public’s anger on social media.

Many people feel that Zheng Shuang is lacking morals for abandoning her children and call her “cold-blooded.” There are also those who think the actress has serious mental problems. Despite all backlash, Zheng still has a strong fan base with people who still support her.

The scandal has sparked more discussions on the issue of surrogacy in China, which already was a big topic earlier in January when a story came out on a baby born through surrogacy who had no birth certificate and no legal registration (link here).

Although surrogacy is officially not legal in China, there is a flourishing underground surrogacy market, and many couples who are struggling with fertility issues travel overseas for surrogacy arrangements. It is not clear why Zheng and Zhang used surrogates to have children.

On Weibo, many people speak out against surrogacy practices, arguing that having children is not a business and surrogacy puts vulnerable women at increased risk of exploitation.

The hashtag “Firmly Oppose All Forms of Surrogacy” (#坚决反对一切形式的代孕#) received over 290 million views and thousands of comments.

One person commented: “Children are not a commodity you can buy, sell, or return. They’re a life-long responsibility, they are the future of our society.”

 
This story will be updated following the latest developments.
 
By Manya Koetse, with contributions by Miranda Barnes


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China Arts & Entertainment

“Not Just a Style, But a Mission” – China’s Online Hanfu Movement

What started with a 2003 internet sensation grew into a massive movement – Hanfu is booming on Weibo and beyond.

Things That Talk

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It’s been nearly two decades since the Chinese traditional clothing trend named Hanfu 汉服 first became noticeable as a popular social phenomenon in mainland China. Throughout the years, Hanfu has gone from a fashion style to a full-fledged movement that is flourishing on Chinese social media. Koen van der Lijn reports.

 
When objects meet social media, two websites meet as well. This is a collaboration between What’s on Weibo and Things That Talk (follow on Insta @thingsthattalk).
 

This last Christmas, Hanfu was once again a trending topic on Weibo. Enthusiasts of the traditional Chinese clothing trend posed online in their Christmas inspired Chinese clothing.

It was yet another development in the Hanfu Movement, which has been a hot topic with hundreds of hashtags and thousands of pictures, videos, and stories on Weibo, with the official Weibo Hanfu @微博汉服 account boasting a whopping 1.8 million followers and a Weibo ‘supertopic’ on Hanfu being joined by nearly half a million fans.

“You can also wear Hanfu during Christmas,” post and images by @弥秋君 on Weibo.

One example of the manifold of Hanfu content on Weibo is a video recently posted by Chinese actress Xu Jiao (徐娇). In the short video, which is an advertisement by the e-commerce platform RED (小红书), the actress wears Hanfu in various settings while talking about the meaning behind the fashion. Xu Jiao, being 23 years of age, is part of Generation Z (mid-1990s – early 2010s), who are adept users of social media and make up the mass of Hanfu enthusiasts.

Screenshot of video posted by Xu Jiao 徐娇

Though Hanfu enthusiasts seldomly go out on the streets whilst wearing the clothing style,1 Hanfu sales have been increasing a lot over the past few years.2 Possibly linked to the popularity of Chinese costume dramas, many Chinese youth have started to wear Hanfu in the past two decades. However, it is not just a form of cosplay or a new clothing style. As Xu Jiao says herself in the video: “It’s not just a style, it’s a mission.”

 

Background of the Hanfu Movement


 

It was November 2003 when Wang Letian walked the streets of Zhengzhou in Hanfu. News of his action rapidly spread over the internet through websites such as hanminzu.net.3

Besides online discussions, an article was also written about Wang Letian’s bold move in the Singaporean newspaper Lianhe Zaobao 联合早报, helping spread word about the young man’s actions. This moment was seen as the start of the Hanfu Movement.

Wang Letian in the Lianhe Zaobao of November 29, 2003.

Now, roughly twenty years later, the wearing of Hanfu has developed into a true movement, with many young Chinese participating in the wearing of the traditional Chinese dress. Especially on college campuses, the trend is very much alive.

In its most basic idea, the Hanfu Movement can be described as a social movement that supports the wearing of Han Chinese ethnic clothing. The emphasis on the Han ethnicity is of importance here. Han Chinese make up the vast majority of the population in China, accounting for more than 90% of China’s total population. However, aspects famous outside China for being typically Chinese, such as the queue, are actually of Manchu origin.

The Manchus are an ethnic group from Northeastern China, showing cultural similarities to the Mongols, who ruled China’s last dynasty, the Qing dynasty (1644-1912). Their clothing style has influenced foreign perceptions of China, due to the fact that the Manchus were the ruling class in the last Chinese imperial dynasty.

Image via https://shop60421556.taobao.com/.

Hence the emphasis on the Han ethnicity. Central to the Hanfu Movement is the idea that ethnic Han clothing, as worn during Han Chinese ruled dynasties, such as the Han dynasty (202BC-220AD), the Tang dynasty (618-907), and the Ming dynasty (1368-1644), has much value in its own and should be worn and appreciated by contemporary Han Chinese, just as the ethnic clothing of China’s minorities is appreciated in contemporary China.4

 

The Mission


 

On 4 December 2020, blogger Mi Qiujun posted a video with the hashtag #How to make the world understand Hanfu?#, (#如何让世界了解汉服#), gaining many likes and comments. Showing clips of herself wearing Hanfu in Egypt, the United States, France, and Japan, she tells how she became determined to make people around the globe understand China’s traditional culture after her clothing being wrongly identified as a Japanese kimono at her first stop in Nepal.

Mi Qiujun discusses an important aspect of the Hanfu movement. Hanfu enthusiasts feel that their ethnic clothing is not understood well enough by others, and showing the rest of the world their clothing is a true mission.

Hanfu enthusiasts have found themselves in online quarrellings about what can be defined as Hanfu, and what cannot be defined as Hanfu. It is worth noting that some scholars have disputed the existence of a uniform Hanfu throughout Chinese history.5 Instead, Hanfu is seen to have been popularised by students through the internet, without strong knowledge of Han Chinese clothing traditions.6 This makes it difficult to assess what does and what does not count as Hanfu.

Online quarrelings have therefore become part of the Hanfu Movement. In November 2020, for instance, Chinese netizens found themselves in an online discussion with their Korean neighbours. That month, Chinese actor Xu Kai (许凯) posted a photo of himself in traditional costume from the set of the Chinese drama titled Royal Feast (尚食), which is set in the Ming Dynasty.

A controversial selfie.

After South Korean web users pointed out that the traditional costume worn by Xu resembled Korean traditional clothing named Hanbok, the drama’s producer Yu Zheng (于正) posted a response on social media in which he firmly stated that this clothing was not Hanbok but Hanfu, adding that Korea was a vassal state of China at the time and that only “uncivilized people” would call it ‘Hanbok.’

 

A Nationalist Movement?


 

These kinds of discussions also show another side of the Hanfu Movement. For some Hanfu enthusiasts, Hanfu is more than a mission to let others understand Han ethnic culture; instead, it is a way to construct a purified Han Chinese identity, free from foreign influence.7

Girl dressed in Hanfu while visiting the Forbidden City. Photo by Manya Koetse.

This foreign influence is often linked back to the Manchus once again. ‘Uncivilised practices’ in contemporary Chinese society are attributed to the Manchus. This rhetoric reinforces the belief of Han supremacy, which has existed long before the invention of the internet, where the ‘civilized’ Han Chinese believe themselves to be superior to the ‘uncivilized’ barbarians, such as the Manchus.

This rise in Han Chinese nationalism started in the past few decades.8 The Hanfu Movement thus has followers who are a part of this new turn, where Han Chinese want to restore the glory of their past and turn away from Western and Manchu influences.9

These hardcore Han nationalists are but a small part of the movement. The Hanfu Movement encompasses a large and diverse group of people, who all share a certain belief that Hanfu should gain more appreciation in China and abroad. These are, for instance, some of the comments under Xu Jiao’s video:

– “(…) Xu Jiao speaks for Hanfu!!” (@怪物与约翰)

– “Do not be afraid to doubt, never forget the original intention, Hanfu is a style, it’s a mission, it’s culture, and it’s an attitude.” (@打翻废纸篓)

– “I am so thankful we have you! I really like your work and your attitude towards Hanfu!” (@小瓦肯Shail)

What connects most Hanfu enthusiasts then? Hanfu enthusiasts take pride in wearing Hanfu, and they wear Hanfu simply because they like wearing it. Moreover, they believe it to be important to make others, both in and outside China, gain a deeper understanding of Han Chinese ethnic culture. Hanfu is more than a fad. It is a subculture, it is a style, and for Xu Jiao and many others, it is their mission.

 
By Koen van der Lijn

Koen van der Lijn (China Studies, BA) is a ResMa student Asian Studies at Leiden University focused on Chinese history and its international relations. He is a student ambassador at Things That Talk.

This story was made in collaboration with ThingsThatTalk.net – exploring humanities through the life of objects. Things That Talk is an educational digital project where staff and students produce narratives and metadata about objects in Leiden collections and beyond. A story focused on the background of the Hanfu Movement and objects associated with this movement has previously been published on Things that Talk, go check it out!
 

Notes (other sources hyperlinked within the article)

1 Buckley, Chris, and Katrina Northrop. 2018. “A Retro Fashion Statement in 1,000-Year-Old Gowns, With Nationalist Fringe.” New York Times, Nov 22 https://www.nytimes.com/2018/11/22/world/asia/china-hanfu-gowns-clothing.html [Jan 16 2021].
2 Zhou Xing 周兴. 2020. “Report: Hanfu turnover on Taobao platform exceeded 2 billion yuan in 2019 [报告:2019年淘宝平台上汉服成交金额突破20亿元].” Dianshangbao, August 2 2020 https://www.dsb.cn/124836.html [Jan 16 2021].
3 Cui Chentao 崔晨涛. 2016. “Han Costume Movement and National Culture Rejuvenation [汉服运动“与民族文化复兴的诉求].” Journal of Yunyang Teachers College 36(5): 19-24.
4 Cui Chentao 崔晨涛. 2016. “Han Costume Movement and National Culture Rejuvenation [汉服运动“与民族文化复兴的诉求].” Journal of Yunyang Teachers College 36(5): 19-24.
5 Carrico, Kevin. 2017. The Great Han: Race, Nationalism, and Tradition in China Today. Oakland, California: University of California Press.
6 Zhang Xian 张跣. 2009. “‘Hanfu Movement’: Ethnic Nationalism in the Internet Age [“汉服运动”:互联网时代的种族性民族主义].” Journal of China Youth University for Political Sciences (4): 65-71.
7 Carrico, Kevin. 2017. “Imaginary Communities: Fantasy and Failure in Nationalist Identification,” in The Great Han: Race, Nationalism, and Tradition in China Today, chapter 1. Oakland, California: University of California Press.
8 Dikötter, Frank. 2001. “Nationalist Myth-making: The Construction of the Chinese Race.” Human Rights in China, 27 April https://www.hrichina.org/en/content/4573 [16 Jan 2021].
9 Carrico, Kevin. 2017. “Imaginary Communities: Fantasy and Failure in Nationalist Identification,” in The Great Han: Race, Nationalism, and Tradition in China Today, chapter 1. Oakland, California: University of California Press.

Featured image: Photo by zhang kaiyv on Unsplash

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