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The Resurgence of the Tiger Dad: Fathers Pushing Their Daughters – for Whose Good?

With the recent success of the 5-year-old Chinese piano prodigy Chen Anke (陈安可) and the popularity of Indian movie Dangal in the PRC, the phenomenon of dads raising their daughters with strict discipline has become a topic of conversation on Chinese social media. Is the tiger dad making a comeback?

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With the recent success of the 5-year-old Chinese piano prodigy Chen Anke (陈安可) and the popularity of Indian movie Dangal in the PRC, the phenomenon of ‘tiger dads’ raising their daughters with strict discipline has become a topic of conversation on Chinese social media.

On a recent episode of NBC’s Little Big Shots, the 5-year-old Chinese piano prodigy Chen Anke (陈安可) stunned American audiences with her piano skills. On May 30, Pear Video released a detailed interview with Chen’s father, who claimed that “playing the piano is the only way to realize her [Anke’s] life values.”

On the big screen, meanwhile, the Bollywood blockbuster Dangal is a record success at China’s box offices. The movie is based on the true family story of an authoritative father who trains his daughters to become world wrestling champions. The film recently turned into China’s the biggest winner of the box office (1 billion yuan, equals $150 million).

The phenomenon of the ‘tiger mother’, a strict mom who pushes her children to be successful, became popular through the 2011 book Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother by Amy Chua. Recent trends seem to signal a reevaluation of the stern, disciplinary father. On social media, many wonder why these fathers are pushing their daughters, and for whose good they actually do it.

 

A TOUGH CHILDHOOD

“It’s very possible that she will hate me in the future.”

 

The hashtag “Chinese piano girl stuns American audiences” has occupied the top searching lists on Sina Weibo, with many users praising Anke’s talents and hard efforts.

“Having just learned to play the piano for two years and four months, Anke now is able to play the pieces of grade 10 [the highest level before the ARCT],” Chen’s father Dongzhi Chen proudly told a reporter. He determinedly expressed his goals to train Anke to be a piano master and “the second Lang Lang” to China.

Little Anke playing Bach and Mozart.

This is also what Anke told NBC’s host Steve Harvey when he asked the 5-year-old about her future dreams. But later, when he asked her the question “How did you start to play?”, she replied: “Dad wanted me to.”

Since her American television adventure, Anke has returned to her tightly scheduled life that revolves around the piano. She practices 4 hours a day, takes master’s classes at the Central Conservatory of Music, goes to concerts, and has dinner with fellow piano players. In the evenings when she has dinner with her dad, he makes her watch piano concerts on the computer.

In the Pear video (see video below), Anke initially almost seems to be a carefree girl- running around her dad like a butterfly. But the video report also shows how her father continuously sternly warns and commends his daughter to “listen to your father”, stop “fiddling around,” “stop wasting time and play the piano,” or to “show a happy face.”


5-year-old Chinese piano star Chen Anke

The video also includes a short scene where Anke goes downstairs hoping to play with some friends, only to find herself alone: “My friends have probably all forgotten about me,” she says as she silently watches other children play on the basketball field.

Subtitle: “Don’t give me a bitter face.” (Screenshot of Pearvideo.)

“It’s very possible that she will hate me in the future. But I think it is the only way to realize her life values,” Dongzhi Chen says in the video: “I know this is the hardest route for her and I’ve expected the worst. But I believe if she can play the piano well, she will be smart and successful in doing other things too.”

 

UNFULFILLED DREAMS

“I want my daughter to explore the ultimate beauty of music for me.”

 

Being a student of conservatory of music was a dream of Chen himself, but it did not happen because Chen’s family did not have the money for it. He explains: “Therefore, I want my daughter to continue to explore the ultimate beauty of music for me.”

Chen’s story resonates with that of China’s highest-grossing Indian film Dangal (摔跤吧爸爸). In this true story, a former wrestler has the unfulfilled dream to win a gold medal for India. He swears to train his future son to achieve this dream for him. But when he only has daughters, he decides to train them instead to become India’s first female champion wrestlers.

Chinese film poster of Dangal.

The film has received much praise from Chinese audiences. The movie received the high score of 9.2 out of 10 on Douban.com, a popular Chinese reviewing website for films or books.

The great popularity of Dangal in China is not coincidental. China and India share some common cultural characteristics. Both countries attach importance to filial piety, emphasize patriotism in sports, and promote “painful education” (苦难教育). The latter is especially visible in Dangal, where the father makes his daughters get up at 5 AM every day for training and makes them cut off their long hair.

State-owned news media Xinhua recently published an article about family values that can be learned from this film. The article says: “These Indian girls had no choice of life at all. It was their father who forced them and offered them new possibilities. In the perspective of gaining skills and obtaining knowledge, education is painful and is against one’s own instinct […] Parents need to lead their children and show them the way, as they don’t have the ability to judge for themselves.”

On Sohu, a recent article that received nearly 20 million views called on Chinese parents to “form a community” with their children. It said: “The medal is a joint achievement shared by father and daughter. Studying is a process of co-operation.”

 

STRICT FATHERS, KIND MOTHERS

“If she would end up with a nine-to-five job, I would consider it a failure.”

 

In the Pear Video interview, the reporter asks Anke’s father if he will provide his daughter with more choices in the future. He answers: “She can have many choices, but this road [that I chose for her] will be doomed to fail if that happens.”

Anke’s ‘tiger dad’: “I hope she will pursue music all her life.”

Chinese parents have a long-standing reputation for being strict, and for making huge sacrifices for their children’s education. Anke’s father is no exception; he is so determined to train a child music prodigy that he seems to be ready to deal with any hardships that might come. But why are these ‘tiger dads’ so desperate to push their daughters to become superstars?

Socio-economic reasons play a major role. According to a study by McKinsey & Company, 76% of China’s urban population will be considered middle class by 2022. With this explosive growth of the emerging middle class, many Chinese parents see education as a crucial factor to improve the social mobility of their children.

For girls, this is especially important. The traditional patriarchal culture in China has negatively affected the social status of women throughout history. In contemporary society, their roles as wives and mothers are still often prioritized once they have babies. But as an indirect consequence of China’s one child policy, daughters have come to play a more important role in the family, generally receiving more parental attention and a better education than in the decades preceding the policy.

The role of the father in being the one who makes the most important decisions on children’s education comes from a long-standing tradition. An old Chinese saying “strict father, kind mother” (严父慈母) describes parenting in traditional Chinese society, where fathers are the stern disciplinarians who have more to say about their children’s education and than the mother. The mother’s role, traditionally, was defined by the persisting idea of “men rule outside, women rule inside” (“男主外,女主内”); meaning that women should be confined to the ‘inside’ sphere of family and home, occupying themselves with the household, while men deal with the ‘outside’ world of work, finances, community, etc.

The Chinese cultural concept of ‘mianzi‘ or ‘face’ also plays an important role. Representing a person’s reputation and prestige, parents gain ‘face’ when their children succeed. An ‘unsuccessful’ child would be a father’s shame.

As Anke’s father tells Pear Video: “If she would end up with a nine-to-five job, such as working in a musical instruments store, I would consider it a failure.”

 

FOR WHOSE GOOD?

“He just sits there and acts like he’s the kid’s almighty God.”

 

Debates on whether or not children with so-called ‘tiger parents’ are more successful in life than children with a more relaxed upbringing have been around for a long time. On the Weibo page of Pear Video, commenters also express opposite viewpoints, triggering heated discussions.

One comment, receiving the most likes, said: “If this little girl is truly happy to play the piano, and she sure seems to be very gifted and willing to do so, I don’t think there’s any reason to criticize her father.”

Others also praised Dongzhi Chen, writing: “This dad is really awesome. Anyone who has kids will know that you can never force a child to do something. The media always wants to point out [these stories about] fathers who will force their own dreams upon their children, but the fact is that if the kid doesn’t want to do it, it won’t happen – no matter how she is pushed by her dad. The reason why this girl is so good now is because of her father’s guidance and education.”

But there are also those who oppose to the father’s parenting style: “I really hate this kind of parent. It’s fine to lead or guide your kid if she excels in some areas, but I feel disgusted that he just sits there and acts like he’s the kid’s almighty God.”

Some disapprovingly say: “He already has himself, why does he need a second person like him?”

There are also commenters who say that watching Dangal has changed their outlook: “After I watched this film, my attitude towards these kind of parents has changed completely.”

Others agreed, saying: “This movie truly is an inspiration – it is an encouragement for the tiger dad (虎父).”

– By Yue Xin
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Additional editing by Manya Koetse
©2017 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

Yue Xin is a bilingual freelance journalist currently based in the Netherlands with a focus on gender issues and literature in China. As a long-time frequent Weibo user, she is specialized in the buzzwords and hot topics on Chinese social media.

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China Celebs

Barbie Hsu, Wang Xiaofei, and the Mattress Incident: Weibo’s Divorce Drama of the Year

The post-divorce fight between Wang Xiaofei and ‘Big S’ Barbie Hsu is taking place online, like a serialized drama going on for too long.

Manya Koetse

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It’s the messy divorce drama that just keeps going: Taiwanese actress Barbie Hsu (‘Big S’) and mainland Chinese businessman Wang Xiaofei got divorced last year and recently aired their dirty laundry on social media. Even the expensive mattress the couple once shared suddenly became the focus of public attention.

One of the biggest celebrity topics on Weibo recently is the divorce drama between Taiwanese actress and tv host Barbie Hsu (Xu Xiyuan 徐熙媛, also known as Big S/大S) (45) and her former partner, Chinese mainland businessman Wang Xiaofei (汪小菲) (41).

In June of 2021, ‘Big S’ and Wang announced that they were in the process of divorce. The two were married for over a decade, since March 2011, and have two children together, an eight-year-old daughter and six-year-old son.

Less than a year later, in March of 2022, Barbie Hsu tied the knot with her former flame, South Korean musician DJ Koo Jun-Yup.

In November of this year, ‘Big S’ accused her ex-husband of failing to pay alimony since March of 2022. The accumulated amount reportedly had reached more than NT$5 million (US$160,000). The court ruled that some of Wang Xiaofei’s assets in Taiwan will be seized.

Wang Xiaofei then publicly responded to the accusations and aired the dirty laundry about the aftermath of the separation from Hsu.

Everyone and everything got involved afterward, from Wang’s mother to Barbie Hsu’s sister, and brother-in-law – the entire family got dragged into the drama.

The former couple’s old mattress even got dragged out for everyone to see. Meanwhile, Chinese netizens were eating popcorn and staying online to watch the divorce drama unfold.

Here is a timeline of what has happened.

 
▶︎▶︎ In the morning of November 21, Taiwanese media first reported that ‘Big S’ had accused Wang Xiaofei of not complying with their divorce agreement and had not paid alimony since March of 2022 and that Barbie Hsu had already taken legal steps to enforce the court order.

Via her lawyer, Barbie Hsu issued a statement about the matter, which went absolutely viral on Weibo. One post including the statement received over one million likes (#大S发声明稿#).

In the statement, dated November 21, ‘Big S’ expressed hopes that the dispute between her and her ex-husband could be solved as soon as possible for the sake of the children.

 
▶︎▶︎ Wang Xiaofei publicly responded to the issue in over twenty angry and emotional posts on his Weibo account (@汪小菲), where he has over seven million followers.

Wang, who is based in Beijing, complained about being smeared and not being able to see his children. According to Wang, he paid more than enough – millions – for child support and maintenance. He wrote he was unwilling to pay for an electricity bill that is not his after paying for the house where Barbie Hsu is living in and the custom-made mattress she is sleeping on, which allegedly cost him over US$320,160.

Photoshopped meme showing Wang carrying a mattress.

“Someone else is living there, fine,” he wrote: “Can you at least change the mattress, you wimp? Still letting me pay for the f*cking electricity bill.”

When Wang vowed to personally go back to Taiwan, some commenters reminded him not to forget to bring back his mattress.

Meme on the right shows Wang Xiaofei with his mattress.

(It later turned out that Wang did not fly to Taiwan after all.)

 
▶︎▶︎ Wang Xiaofei claimed that Mike Hsu (Xu Yajun 许雅钧), husband of Barbie Hsu’s sister and Taiwanese tv host Dee Hsu (徐熙娣 aka ‘Little S’ 小S) has a mistress (#汪小菲发博曝许雅钧养小三#).

 
▶︎▶︎ Wang Xiaofei’s mother Zhang Lan (张兰) got involved in the drama and posted a lengthy statement on her own Weibo account on Tuesday, November 22.

Zhang Lan (@张兰俏江南创始人) is a billionaire business woman and the founder of the upscale restaurant chain South Beauty Group. She has her own livestream e-commerce channel.

Zhang accused her former daughter-in-law ‘Big S’ Barbie Hsu of hurting her son, not letting her see her grandchildren, while also caller her a liar and even suggesting she is a bad mother.

Zhang also accused her and her younger sister, Dee Hsu (徐熙娣), of having a history of drug abuse.

 
▶︎▶︎ On November 23, Barbie Hsu defended herself against drug abuse allegations in a social media post, stating both her and her sister suffer from bad hearts and are not even able to use drugs.

 
▶︎▶︎ The mother of Barbie Hsu and Dee Hsu also got involved, talking to the media and complaining that she has been scolded by Wang Xiaofei’s mother Zhang Lan, and saying that Wang and his mother are more than welcome to see the children; they would just need to come over in order to meet with them.

 
▶︎▶︎ November 23 became ‘Mattress D-day’ after it became known that Barbie Hsu had delivered the much talked-about mattress to the S Hotel in Taipei, which Wang owns (the hotel was named after ‘Big S’ in 2017). As reported by Taiwan News, the hotel’s general manager surnamed Lee (李) claimed the mattress arrived on Tuesday, and he stated that discarded mattresses are professionally destroyed.

On that Wednesday, the S Hotel held a press conference and allowed Taiwanese media to film and photograph the mattress being destroyed by workers.

The hashtag “Taiwan Media Live-Broadcasts the Handling of Wang Xiaofei & Big S Mattress” #台媒直播汪小菲大S床垫处理过程# went viral on 23 November, receiving over 270 million views on Weibo in one single day. A 23-minute video showed Big S’s mattress carried out of the hotel and being completely cut open by several men as a crowd of media stands by.

Some on Weibo said: “The drama is too much.”

 
▶︎▶︎ On Mattress Day, Wang posted again on social media, claiming that he had lost his temper after Hsu sued him for not paying alimony. As reported by Taiwan News, he wrote: “I don’t want to say anything anymore, burn the damn mattress, it’s all in the past, let’s not attack each other anymore.” The post was deleted soon after.

 
▶︎▶︎ With the mattress incident going viral, many netizens soon guessed that if it was about such an expensive mattress, it must have been one by the Swedish Hästens company.

Hästens (海丝腾) itself then responded to the drama via Weibo with an older video that showed its mattresses are of such good quality that they will never go up in flames.

Hastens video comparing a different brand mattress to its own mattress; one will go up in flames, the other will not.

Hastens’ post received nearly 20,000 likes on Weibo.

 
▶︎▶︎ On Thursday, November 24, Wang Xiaofei’s mother Zhang Lan seized the opportunity to start selling mattresses on her livestream shopping channel (#张兰卖床垫#).

Besides all the personal drama, Zhang commercially profited from the current developments. According to recent reports, she did a total of nine live broadcasts from November 21 to 23, and saw 820,000 new followers flocking to her channel, with an average of 5.3 million viewers per livestream, and up to 25 million RMB ($3,5 million) in sales.

 
▶︎▶︎ On the same day, as reported by Singaporean Yahoo News, Wang Xiaofei declared that he wants to end the conflict with his wife, only to later delete the post from his Weibo account. Somewhere in all this, Wang also accused Big S of cheating on him since 2018.

He reportedly wrote: “I don’t want to say anything anymore. The mattress is burned. It’s over. We won’t hurt each other anymore.”

By that time, the drama was so big on social media that some netizens wrote: “I can’t wait for Wang Xiaofei to be gone from my timeline!”

 
▶︎▶︎ On November 25, Wang Xiaofei started a livestream while laying in his bed, offering viewers a look into his private bedroom. He seemed to be pleased about getting so many views and some suggested he seemed to be drunk. During this livestream, an unknown woman suddenly seemed to lay down beside him, making the livestream comments explode. The livestream stopped shortly after.

 
▶︎▶︎ Another character stepped on this stage. Chinese actress Gina Zhang (Zhang Yingying 张颖颖) went online to defend Wang (who may be her good friend or something more), saying he is on the verge of a mental breakdown. She also wrote that she hoped to convince him to stop sharing all of his struggles on public platforms for the entire world to see.

She also turned out to be the woman in the livestream. Over 250,000 people liked her post.

 
▶︎▶︎ Meanwhile, Barbie Hsu publicly posted bank account statements from 2016 to prove her financial independence and that she had paid for the downpayment of their house at the time herself.

 
▶︎▶︎ On December 3, again another hashtag related to this divorce drama came out, getting up to 200 million views in a day (#大S再婚头纱是刷汪小菲信用卡买的#).

The trend relates to the story of ‘Big S’ reportedly asking Wang to leave his credit card after the separation, and that the veil that she wore during the wedding with her second husband, among other things, was bought with Wang’s credit card.

On the same day, Wang’s mother Zhang Lan again commented on the issue in one of her livestreams, saying that Wang and Barbie Hsu officially are not even divorced yet since their marriage was registered in Beijing and had not been dissolved yet (#张兰说大S和汪小菲还没有离婚#).

 
▶︎▶︎ On December 4, the hashtag “Wang Xiaofei or Big S – Who Is Telling Lies?” (#汪小菲大s谁在说谎#) went viral, getting an astonishing 560 million clicks on Sunday.

It is clear that two former have actually ruined their reputation by airing their dirty online like this. This especially matters for Big S, who used to do commercials for many brands.

“It’s like we’re watching a theater play,” some said.

Others are also tired of their drama dominating social media topics: “I don’t care which one is lying, I care about their kids.”

“This serialized drama is going on for too long now,” others wrote.

This is not the first big celebrity divorce drama to go viral on Weibo. In 2021, there was the big fall-out between Wang Leehom and Lee Jinglei. The separation between actor Wang Baoqiang and Ma Rong became one of the biggest trending topics on Weibo of all time.

Meanwhile, some netizens can’t seem to get enough of the drama: “From the mattress to the veil, I’m just enjoying the spectacle.”

By Manya Koetse 

 

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©2022 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

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China Celebs

“A Good Day” – Kris Wu Sentenced to 13 Years in Prison

The first woman who came forward to accuse Kris Wu in 2021 celebrated his sentencing in a livestream.

Manya Koetse

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The Chinese-Canadian fallen celebrity Kris Wu, better known as Wu Yifan (吴亦凡) in China, has been dominating Chinese social media discussions after a preliminary court ruling came out in the criminal case in which Wu was accused of rape and other sex crimes.

On November 25, the Beijing Chaoyang district court found Wu guilty of raping three women in his home in 2020 and of “gathering people to commit adultery.” He was sentenced to 13 years in prison followed by deportation.

Kris Wu is a 32-year old rapper, singer, and actor who was born in Guangzhou and moved to Vancouver with his mother at the age of ten. Wu also spent a part of his high school years in Guangzhou, but he holds a Canadian passport. He became famous as a member of the K-pop band Exo and later started a solo career.

As an actor, he starred in several award-winning movies. He also starred in Sweet Sixteen, a movie in which Wu ironically plays the role of someone getting jailed for shooting a rapist.

The 19-year-old student Du Meizhu (都美竹) was the first to accuse Wu of predatory behavior online in 2021, with at least 24 more women also coming forward claiming the celebrity showed inappropriate behavior and had pressured young women into sexual relationships. As the scandal unfolded, various hashtags related to the story received billions of views on Weibo. Wu was formally arrested on suspicion of rape in mid-August 2021.

On Friday, Meizhu posted “Finally [I’ve waited for this]” on her social media account. She also briefly joined a livestream in which she celebrated the sentencing and played the song “A Good Day” (“好日子”).

On Weibo, the hashtag “Wu Yifan Gets 13 Years” [13 years prison sentence in preliminary ruling] (#吴亦凡一审被判13年#) received nearly 1,8 billion views on Friday.

Noteworthy enough, the Kris Wu hashtag was also being used by netizens to discuss the tragic Urumqi fire which was also a major trending topic on the same day.

Some speculated that the media attention for the Kris Wu case was being used to overshadow the Urumqi news. Others condemned social media users for turning to celebrity news instead of focusing on the tragic fire in Xinjiang’s capital.

At the same time, there was also a running joke on social media in light of China’s ongoing ‘zero Covid’ policy, with people saying: “Who will come out first, Kris Wu or us?”

By Manya Koetse 

Featured image: Kris Wu starring in Sweet Sixteen movie.

 

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©2022 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

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