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Jia Zhangke Responds To Criticism From Global Times Editor Hu Xijin (Full Translation)

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Jia Zhangke (l) versus Hu Xijin

When the editor-in-chief of state tabloid Global Times gave Jia Zhangke’s latest film a bad review on Weibo, the renowned director responded with a bad review of the bad review.

This week, an online quarrel between Global Times editor-in-chief Hu Xijin (胡锡进) and Chinese director Jia Zhangke (贾樟柯) drew much attention on Chinese social media.

The issue started when Hu Xijin criticized Jia Zhangke’s latest film Ash Is Purest White (江湖儿女) on Weibo on September 24, calling the film “depressing” and “full of negative energy,” and suggesting the film Dying to Survive is much better.

At SupChina, Jiayun Feng translated Hu’s comments. Besides condemning the film for its negativity, Hu also wrote:

Please don’t place stinky tofu under our noses and force us to get used to that particular smell. I am aware that some people love to watch horror movies and negative energy can also attract audiences in a way like how opium gets people hooked. But I still hope filmmakers in China can study movies created by Hollywood and Bollywood and produce some movies with normal views about what’s good and what’s evil.”

Adding:

I know I can’t blame others because I bought the [movie] ticket and no one forced me to watch it. But what I’m doing here is to caution my fans no to be deceived by the movie’s title. It uses a gloomy style of filming to tell a banal story of how nice people don’t get properly rewarded for good deeds. It’s neither pleasant nor sad enough to bring you to tears. It only makes you frustrated and upset.”

Hu’s criticism was soon after deleted, but the screenshots already circulated online.

Ash Is Purest White, that was released in mainland China on September 21st, is a big box-office success and is Jia Zhangke’s highest-grossing film yet. The film revolves around the tumultuous love story between gangster Bin (Fan Liao) and dancer Qiao (Tao Zhao).

Jia’s responded to the harsh criticism in a lengthy Weibo post, that has since been shared more than 68,000 times, receiving over 128,000 likes and 30,500 comments.

Here is a full translation of Jia’s Weibo post in response to Hu:

Editor Hu Xijin:

I’m glad you went to watch ‘Ash is Purest White’. And I’m sorry it made you feel “depressed” (堵心) during the Mid-autumn Festival. First, I wish you nothing but happiness. Regarding your opinions, I’ll respond to them one by one below, comments/suggestions are of course welcome.

1. I also was moved by the movie ‘Dying to Survive’ (我不是药神). But, as Lu Xun (鲁迅) [famous Chinese writer] once said: “People’s joy and sorrows are not connected” (人类的悲欢并不相通). I’m not sure you and I are similar in what makes us happy or sad. That also goes for our feelings on ‘Ash is Purest White’ – I’m quite confused about how we could be so far apart.

2. About the “negative energy” – I believe energy is built on the basis of telling the truth as much as possible. The truth is the most powerful form of positive energy. Not tolerating truth or facts will bring about negative energy. Seeing or hearing it all the time, but pretending you have not, gains no truth or facts. In the end, it’ll lead to even greater negative energy. You should always be seeking truth from facts, don’t you agree?

3. Speaking of horror films and their audiences; I’ve never directed any horror films myself, hence my experience in this area is limited. However, all audiences are equal, regardless of taste. As an atheist, you shouldn’t really have any opinion regarding ghosts anyway, as you don’t believe in them.

4. With regards to Hollywood and Bollywood; you’re a ‘complex China’ (复杂的中国) reporter, but it would be better for you to further investigate ‘complex foreign movies’! Your job is to report ‘complex China’, and I am interested in making films about ‘complex characters.’ You can’t really be picky about your definition of “complex”, now can you?

5. Regarding “normal views about what’s good and what’s evil” – what I don’t really understand is: who should be the judge of what is normal and what is not?

6. About “stinky tofu” – you can certainly use ‘fragrant’ or ‘stinky’ as metaphors to comment on a movie. However, I disagree with your slandering of “stinky tofu.” For many families in poverty, it is all they eat! I’ve had a lot myself, and for that I’m eternally grateful.

7. Regarding the fact that you “bought the ticket yourself,” great! I’m a big supporter of the 8 provisions [rules stipulated by Chinese government on frugality within Party/government]. We don’t give free tickets to chief editors of government media!

8. About “letting your fans know” – I think it’s great of you to always have your fans in mind. But your fans might not be exactly the same as you in thinking that a movie is good or bad, in considering stinky tofu edible or not. There are many different colors in this world, if something is not black doesn’t mean it’s white.

9. About the movie using a “gloomy style” – were your eyes built in Meituxiuxiu? [美图秀秀: Chinese photoshop app]. Things are beautiful because they are real. Accept diversity and this world will be more beautiful.

10. About “nice people not getting properly rewarded for their good deeds” – I also wish good things come to good people, but this world is full of strange circumstances, and no one can have full control over it. Things we can’t control are also normal, we should accept that. I didn’t know you believed in karma yourself.

11. About it being “a banal story”: I’ve always been curious about strange stories, but would always do my best to understand the lives of ordinary people and this both inspires me and moves me.

12. With regards to you feeling “depressed” (堵得慌) – my apologies for not making you feel all warm and fuzzy during the Mid-autumn festival. I couldn’t make you tear up, your feelings didn’t get an outlet, instead, you felt “blocked and trapped.” But ‘feeling trapped’ is actually a complicated sensation, a big emotional wave if you will. You’ve been numb for too long, ‘feeling trapped’ shows that you still have some emotions. Congratulations! The fact that you ‘feel trapped’ has raised my hopes for the complexities of China.

Happy Mid-autumn Festival! I wish you all the best.

Many netizens applauded Jia’s reaction to the Global Times editor. One of the most popular comments was a wordplay on the two men’s names, saying: “Director Jia is not fake [‘jia’ in Chinese] while Editor Hu is full of nonsense [‘hu’ in Chinese]. (“贾导不假,胡编真胡 Jiǎ dǎo bù jiǎ, hú biān zhēn hú“)

“Perhaps Hu can tell me all the movies he dislikes,” another commenter said: “Because I’d sure love to watch them.”

At time of writing, the hashtag “Jia Zhangke sents response to Hu Xijin” (#贾樟柯发长文回应胡锡进#) received over 12,5 million views.

Hu dedicated another post to the issue on his Weibo account on Wednesday, saying he had written the bad review in the heat of the moment after watching the film, and that he had deleted it after calming down, never expecting it already went viral.

The editor wrote that he “fully accepted” everything Jia had written, and that he had learned his lesson and will be “more careful” in the future in posting his criticisms on Weibo.

“You have your right to criticize, and Jia has the right to refute it,” a popular comment said.

Although many people support Jia’s response to Hu, there are also those who are critical of it: “He’s just creating a hype to sell more tickets at the box office.”

Ash Is Purest White (Director’s cut) will also be featured at the upcoming Busan Film Festival.

By Miranda Barnes and Manya Koetse

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

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Miranda Barnes is a Chinese blogger and part-time translator with a strong interest in Chinese media and culture. Born in Shenyang, she used to work and live in Beijing and is now based in London. On www.abearandapig.com she shares news of her travels around Europe and Asia with her husband.

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China Arts & Entertainment

Bizarre Buildings & Ambitious Architecture of Rural China: Here’s Chinese Vlogger ‘Schlieffen’

Chinese vlogger Schlieffen explores a bizarre and amazing side of rural China many have never seen before.

Anna Wang

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“Making Hebei great again” is one of his slogans. Schlieffen is China’s first self-proclaimed ‘agritourism’ vlogger, showing Chinese netizens the unexpected sides of Hebei, an “almost invisible” province in Northern China. Anna Wang explains.

It all started in May of 2018 when Schlieffen (@史里芬Shǐlǐfēn) launched his first video titled “World’s Biggest Tortoise” (“世界上最大的王八“), introducing a 1680-square-meter turtle-shaped sports venue at Hebei’s Lake Baiyangdian.

An example of wondrous Hebei architecture (image via https://xw.qq.com).

Ever since that time, Schlieffen has grown out to become a popular Chinese vlogger and blogger who is active on various social media platforms. Focusing on unexpected architecture in lesser-known parts of China, he has a fanbase of thousands of followers, from Weibo to Bilibili.

His fourth video, “A Trip to Hogwarts Hebei” (“霍格沃茨河北分校之旅”) launched him to stardom in his channel’s first month.

The video documents the bizarre architecture of the Hebei Academy of Fine Arts, which has been compared to the ‘Hogwarts’ School of Witchcraft and Wizardry from Harry Potter due to its bizarre castle campus.

The Hebei Academy of Fine Arts is one of the wondrous places Schlieffen introduces in his vlogs. (Image via Twoeggs.com).

Schlieffen’s 4-minute video shows the vlogger’s exploration of the ‘Hogwarts’-like area. After a long drive down a country road, he arrives at the so-called ‘Empire Square’, which is surrounded by three magnificent rococo, Renaissance and Gothic-style buildings.

The center building, adorned with dramatic towers and turrets, is the school’s administration building. Imagine grading student work in a medieval castle in the middle of a cornfield!

Guiding the viewer through the premises, Schlieffen shows the hotel and conference center on the left; the interior is crammed with densely arranged pillars and painted ceilings  – which might be a homage to the Sistine Chapel, without the high ceilings.

The pseudo-European buildings are somewhat laughable on their own, but there’s a lot more. The campus is divided in two halves: one is European-themed, and the other one focuses on ancient China. The two are separated by a manmade “Mediterranean” lake complete with manmade islands covered in artificial palm trees.

Schlieffen’s videos always follow a similar pattern. He often uses a wide-angle lens and speeds up the video to four or even eight times its normal speed, with quick edits – no shot lasts longer than 3 seconds. Each video begins with the vlogger getting off from a train or getting out of a car from where he starts his tour. “Please hold on and sit tight,” is one of his signature phrases.

 

They suddenly seemed to realize that there were parts of China they had no clue about.

 

“A Trip to Hogwarts Hebei” soon started making its rounds on Chinese social media, and was especially shared among well-educated netizens and white-collar workers, who suddenly seemed to realize that there were parts of China they had no clue about.

The Chinese term “shanzhai” (山寨) is a derogatory term for “knock-off goods,” but it literally means “mountain village.” The assumption is that people from rural mountain villages cannot afford real luxury goods, so they buy cheap counterfeits made in poorly run factories. The metropolitan middle class already knew about shanzhai Louis Vuitton bags, but they weren’t aware that hillbillies were capable of building a 288-acre shanzhai Hogwarts.

Schlieffen’s video on the noteworthy Hebei Academy of Fine Arts has currently been viewed over nine million times on Miaopai alone.

After the success of his initial videos, Schlieffen continued filming knock-off world wonders in Hebei. By now, he has made fifty vlogs, including those on wondrous places such as Hebei Jerusalem or Hebei Venice.

‘Hebei Venice’ is one of the spots highlighted in one of Schlieffen’s vlogs. Image via http://blog.sina.com.cn.

Through the course of his vlogging career, Schlieffen expanded his field of interest to include any attraction teetering on the thin line between ambitious and ridiculous.

Whether sharing images and videos on the world’s largest cement elephant or the biggest turtle sculpture, Schlieffen’s posts always attract hundreds of likes. One of his other popular videos explores the somewhat bizarre site of the Baoding Zoo.

 

Hebei is an almost invisible province, as transparent as the air – I used that invisibility to make myself visible.

 

There are not many online influencers focusing on Hebei, a place that is not exactly known for its glamor and charm. At a December 2018 event hosted by Chinese tech news site Huxiu.com, Schlieffen said that “Hebei is an almost invisible province, as transparent as the air – I used that invisibility to make myself visible.”

Hebei, a coastal province in Northern China, contains two municipalities under the direct control of the central government: Beijing and Tianjin. People often say that Beijing and Tianjin are the flavorful ‘fillings of a dumpling’ while Hebei is ‘the plain wrapper.’

Under the current household registration system, being a resident of Beijing or Tianjin means better social welfare than the rest of Hebei. Thus, the ‘brain drain’ from Hebei to the cities has been ongoing for decades.

When people talk about Hebei, they usually describe it as an uneventful place, but Schlieffen’s representation of Hebei completely changes their idea of the region, turning it into a place where people can be wildly ambitious.

Their ambitions can take on two forms: first, they are obsessed with huge, grand buildings. Second, they want to include every aesthetic they can think of, Chinese or European, ancient or contemporary. These ambitions come together in a brazenly unsophisticated form of architecture.

Hotel in Hebei in one of Schlieffen’s videos (天子大酒店).

Schlieffen (1992) was born and raised in Hebei. After college, he went to England for graduate school until 2018.

While he was studying abroad, a new wave of Chinese vloggers launched their careers in mainland China. Many of them, such as the female vlogger Zhuzi (@你好_竹子), were studying abroad in Western countries. They shot and shared short videos of their daily lives, satisfying their audience’s curiosity about life in a strange land.

Schlieffen began to seriously consider vlogging as a career after finishing his studies and returning to his hometown. He found that his prospective audience seemed to have grown tired of watching Chinese exchange students living happy, fashionable lives overseas. As a lover of traveling, he decided to start his own travel vlog.

Schlieffen, image via Sina News.

In an interview with Li Dangxin for Huxiu.com, Schlieffen explains: “You have to ask yourself time and time again why the audience wants to watch your videos.” Careful consideration led him to shoot the bizarre buildings in Hebei.

There are tens of thousands of Hebei natives working in big cities, Schlieffen thought; they care about what’s going on in their hometowns, but they haven’t necessarily seen these incredible buildings in person. They would be his first audience and if they shared his posts, his videos would surely go viral.

Things happened just as Schlieffen expected. Well-educated white-collar workers who had left their hometowns behind were stunned by Schlieffen’s discoveries and collectively reposted his videos with their friends.

 

“Making Hebei great again.”

 

Even after having produced dozens of vlogs and posts, Schlieffen is not worried about running out of stories. After his initial success, he also began covering stories in other provinces.

Schlieffen found that if a village’s richest man happens to be the local party secretary and is also a Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) member, you’re sure to find ridiculous architecture in that village.

These locally powerful people often want to put up monuments and realize impressive structures to build on their legacy. Their power often goes largely unchecked in the various corners of Chinese -more rural- provinces, and their subordinates will not question them – those with the ability to challenge them aesthetically have probably already fled to bigger cities.

One example features in Schlieffen’s video on the Long Wish Hotel International. Boasting an elevation of 328 meters, the hotel is ranked No. 8 in China and No. 15 worldwide in terms of height. It isn’t in densely populated Beijing or Shanghai, but in Huaxi village in Jiangsu province. When asked why one would build such a gigantic hotel in a rural area, the village party secretary answered: “Because we can.”

The gigantic hotel in Jiangxi, image via http://blog.sina.com.cn.

The hotel in Huaxi has nouveau riche written all over it. Every corner is decorated with glittering sculptures made with gold, silver or crystal. There are miniatures of Tiananmen, the White House and Arc De Triomphe in the village. On top of the White House stands a miniature Statue of Liberty.

In reporting on all these wondrous places and buildings, Schlieffen avoids making strong statements about them. Instead, he often makes playful or edgy comments. His slogan “Make Hebei great again” also means different things to different people. Some instantly understand his application of the phrase, while others simply take it literally.

What is noteworthy is that Schlieffen rarely offends locals. He’s welcomed wherever he visits. After he made a video about Wan Jia Li, a hotel/shopping mall in Hunan, the owner supposedly even invited Schlieffen to visit his home, saying: “My home is more fun than my business.”

Being featured in one of Schlieffen’s video can be lucrative for places in Hebei and elsewhere, as these places in rural areas will suddenly see a flux of visitors. Hebei Academy of Fine Arts has even become a popular destination for wedding photos.

Schlieffen is convinced he has found the right perspective from which to observe China’s rapidly changing areas. Meanwhile, his next video is on its way. “Please hold on and sit tight,” Schlieffen says again. Enjoy the ride. 

By Anna Wang

Spotted a mistake or want to add something? Please let us know in comments below or email us. Please note that your comment below will need to be manually approved if you’re a first-time poster here.

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

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China Arts & Entertainment

‘First Lady of Hong Kong TV’ Lily Leung Passes Away at Age 90

Chinese netizens pay their respects to veteran actress Lily Leung Shun-Yin (1929-2019), who passed away on August 13.

Manya Koetse

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Lily in 1996, image via Sing Tao Daily.

While the Hong Kong protests are dominating the headlines, the death of Hong Kong veteran actress Lily Leung Shun-Yin (梁舜燕) has become a top trending topic on social media site Sina Weibo under the hashtag “Hong Kong Actress Liang Shunyan Dies from Illness” (#香港演员梁舜燕病逝#).

Lily Leung, image via http://www.sohu.com/a/333418087_161795.

The actress was born in Hong Kong in 1929. She starred in dozens of television series, including the first TV drama to be locally broadcasted. She became known as “the first lady of Hong Kong TV.”

Leung acted for TVB and other broadcasters. Some of her more well-known roles were those in Kindred Spirit (真情) and Heart of Greed (溏心风暴).

Leung, also nicknamed ‘Sister Lily’ (Lily姐), passed away on August 13. According to various Chinese media reports, the actress passed peacefully surrounded by family after enduring illness. She was 90 years old.

“I’ve seen so much of her work,” many Weibo netizens say, sharing the favorite roles played by Leung. “I always watched her on TVB while growing up, and will cherish her memory,” one commenter wrote.

Another well-known Hong Kong actress, Teresa Ha Ping (夏萍), also passed away this month. She was 81 years old when she died. Her passing away also attracted a lot of attention on Chinese social media (
#演员夏萍去世#).

Many people express their sadness over the fact that not one but two grand ladies from Hong Kong’s 20th-century entertainment era have passed away this month.

“Those people from our memories pass away one by one, and it represents the passing of an era,” one Weibo user wrote.

“Two familiar faces and old troupers of Hong Kong drama – I hope they rest in peace.”

By Manya Koetse

Spotted a mistake or want to add something? Please let us know in comments below or email us. Please note that your comment below will need to be manually approved if you’re a first-time poster here.

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

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