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Rock Hotpot: Why Chinese Celebrities are Opening up Their Own Hot Pot Restaurants

It remains one of China’s favorite dining styles: hot pot (火锅), also known as Chinese fondue – a dish that never seems to go out of fashion. Why are so many Chinese celebrities opening up their own hot pot restaurants?

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It is one of China’s favorite dining styles: hot pot (火锅), also known as Chinese fondue, an ancient dish that never seems to go out of fashion. In this special series, What’s on Weibo explores the latest trends in the world of Chinese hot pot. In this first issue: our recent visit to Beijing’s Rock Hotpot, owned by the popular Chinese rock band Second Hand Rose. Why is it a trend for Chinese celebrities to open up their own hot pot restaurant? (Check out our latest Weivlog here.)

It is a growing trend that started some years ago: Chinese celebrities are opening up their own hot pot restaurants across the country. Over the past few months, the celebrity hot pot boom has caught the attention of Chinese media sites and Weibo’s netizens, making ‘celebrity hotpot’ (明星火锅店) a much talked-about topic.

Alternative Beijing rock band Second Hand Rose (二手玫瑰) recently opened up its very first private hot pot place in Songzhuang, while the established celebrity hot pot chain ReLaYiHao just keeps getting more popular.

But there are also scandals; Chinese actor Bao Bei’er (包贝尔) was called out by Chinese state media earlier this year for serving fake duck blood in his hot pot joint.

Spicy hotpot served by Second Hand Rose.

Chinese hot pot (huǒguō 火锅, literally: ‘fire pot’) has a history of over 1000 years. The tradition is thought to have derived from Mongol warriors who camped outside and had dinner together, circled around a pot on the fire.

The main idea is that while the hot pot brew is kept boiling, you place fresh ingredients into the pot and cook them at the table. Nowadays, hot pot tastes vary greatly across different regions in China, but what matters most is its enjoyment: sitting with friends and family around the boiling stew, sharing food, eating slowly, and talking.

Celebrity Hot Pots

Over the past five years, it has become a trend for Chinese stars to invest in hot pot chains or start their own restaurants. As early as 2009, Taiwanese singer and actor Nicky Wu (吴奇隆) was one of the early adopters when he started a Thai-style hot pot chain by the name of Lemon Leaf (柠檬叶子). He now has three restaurants in Taiwan, and one in Beijing.

Many other celebrities followed over the past three or four years. Since September 2016, Chinese actor Ren Quan (任泉) started the hotpot chain ReLaYiHao (热辣壹号) together with fellow celebrities Li Bingbing (李冰冰) and Huang Xiaoming (黄晓明). The chain now has branches from Beijing to Nanjing, and, according to the latest media reports, is fully packed every night.

Popular Chinese actress Deng Jiajia (邓家佳), born in Sichuan, also opened up her own ‘HI hotpot’ (HI辣火锅) in Beijing last year. Celebrities Eric Tsang (曾志伟), Chyi Chin (齐秦), Xu Zhiqian (薛之谦), and many others, have all opened up their own hot pot restaurants since 2013.

Ren Quan, Li Bingbing, and Huang Xiaoming: the famous investors behind the “Re La Yi Hao” hotpot chain.

The reason China’s celebrities love the concept of hot pot is simple. With a fanbase of millions, Chinese celebrities use their fame and influence to bring business to their restaurants. Chinese actor and entrepreneur Ren Quan, for example, has a staggering 11,5 million fans on his Weibo page – the perfect place to promote his latest hot pot branch.

The threshold for opening up a hot pot eatery is also low because it does not require as much professional knowledge as needed for other types of restaurants; for hot pot, a restaurant basically has to serve its customers a proper broth and the right ingredients. There is no need to hire high-end restaurant chefs. Hot pot restaurants are relatively easy to manage and need far fewer investment costs than many other types of restaurants.

Besides the fact that they are easy to set up and manage, there are other reasons why so many Chinese celebrities are choosing for this type of restaurant. It is a dining style that is suitable for all audiences, young and old, and is popular across China; no matter if you are in Beijing, Sichuan, or China’s coastal areas, there is a strong demand for Chinese fondue and a great freedom in varying between broth flavors and ingredients.

Lastly, the concept of hot pot itself is ideal for duplicating. Since many Chinese celebrities are choosing to start hot pot chains with multiple branches, this genre makes it easy to start the same model in various places. What’s not to love about it?

The Hot Pot Pitfall

As easy as it sounds, stepping into the hot pot business is not all roses for Chinese celebrities. In March of this year, Chinese actor Bao Bei’er (包贝尔) was caught in controversy when journalists exposed that the Harbin branch of his LaZhuang Huoguo (辣庄火锅) served its customers fake duck blood, a popular hot pot ingredient. The branch passed off cheap ox blood as duck blood, which is much more expensive.

Since Bao Bei’er is the face of the restaurant, it was him who became the target of netizens’ anger. The hashtag ‘Bao Bei’ers Restaurant Exposed’ (#包贝尔火锅店被曝#) was viewed more than a million times on Weibo.

Pricy ox blood sold as ‘duck blood’ in Bao Bei’er’s hotpot restaurant.

Bao Bei’er later publicly apologized to his fans and customers, saying he took full responsibility for mismanaging his restaurants. As easy as setting up a hot pot place might be, it is essential for celebrities to ensure its service and quality. In the end, it is not the restaurant staff but the celebrity name that will be dragged through the mud if anything goes wrong.

Second Hand Rose: Rock Hotpot

Recently, another famous name has been added to the list of celebrity hot pot restaurants. Beijing rock band Second Hand Rose (二手玫瑰) opened its private hot pot diner ‘Rock Hotpot’ (摇滚火锅) in the Songzhuang art district, the biggest artist community in Beijing.

Rock Hotpot in Songzhuang, Beijing.

Lead singer Liang Long (梁龙) is a lover of both rock music and hot pot and initially opened the diner as a trial. Making all broths and sauces from scratch, each member of the band has his own soup base that reflects their personality. Customers can book their private table (there is just one private table available every night), or purchase the ingredients for takeaway hot pot.

Fresh sauces made from scratch at Rock Hotpot.

According to Liang Long, the hot pot restaurant only adds to the image of the band; both hot pot and rock music have the same powerful, quick-boiling “woosh” vibe to it.

Fans can hang out with their favorite band at Rock Hotpot.

For now, the opening of Rock Hotpot has brought Second Hand Rose nothing but good things, Liang Long told What’s on Weibo. Not only does the band enjoy experimenting with different flavors and ingredients, the restaurant also brings them closer to their fans and friends who head out to Songzhuang for a night of hot pot together.

Private dining space at Second Hand Rose’s Rock Hotpot.

In the near future, Rock Hotpot hopes to open up a bigger restaurant to welcome more fans and food lover to their Rock Hotpot. They won’t be the only Chinese celebrities to do so – having hot pot with your idol is the latest hype in the world of showbiz and Chinese fondue.


Check out our visit to Rock hotpot in this video.

Rock Hotpot Address:
Beijing, Tongzhou District, Songzhuang Town, Xiaoqiao West Street No. 34.
北京宋庄,通州区宋庄镇小堡西街34号.
Reservations / Mr Wang: 13946228228

– By Manya Koetse

©2017 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

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Manya Koetse is the editor-in-chief of www.whatsonweibo.com. She is a writer and consultant (Sinologist, MPhil) on social trends in China, with a focus on social media and digital developments, popular culture, and gender issues. Contact at manya@whatsonweibo.com, or follow on Twitter.

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China Arts & Entertainment

(Op-Ed) The Forgotten Genres & Loss of “Intellectual Taste” in Chinese TV Drama

“We need to recall those TV dramas and genres that have vanished into oblivion,” Zhao writes.

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When What’s on Weibo published a list of classics of Chinese TV dramas, Beijing Film Academy graduate Zhao B. felt the list was missing relevant titles and genres. These are the top classic TV dramas that should be added to the list, according to an article sent in to What’s on Weibo by Zhao.

The entertainment industry is a hot topic in present-day China, where online videos are being watched by millions of internet users every day. The way in which these videos are created, spread, and consumed, signals a new kind of emotional consumerism.

TV drama is still a benchmark of China’s popular culture, but it is no longer the newest one – and might even have started to be somewhat worn out. It has gone into a phase of systematically deleting conflicting memories, in sync with the loud internet environment and the pop culture factory.

Not only has the length of TV drama episodes been shortened for today’s ‘online binging,’ but streaming sites are also filled with certain algorithms and tracking codes that accelerate the obliteration of certain television dramas. The mass ‘industrialization’ of popular culture has shortened the lifespan of television dramas and its genres.

Which is why if a list such as the Top 30 Classic TV Dramas in China is based on rankings provided by social media sites or online video platforms such as Sougo or Douban, there are certain blind spots.

It is not out of mere nostalgia that we need to recall those TV dramas and genres that have vanished into oblivion. It gives us an overview of marginalized genres and taste, that are different from the current mainstream ones. They are the working memories for contemporary life.

Genres that have come up and have since been forgotten in the People’s Republic of China from roughly 1978 to 2018, are:

-the “rural genre” (农村题材)
-the “youth genre” (青少年题材)
-the “army genre” (军旅题材), a sub-category of the military genre.

Theme Productions versus Genre

There is a socio-historical difference in Chinese and English popular culture industries in use of the term ‘genre’ that should be noted here. Chinese TV dramas are often categorized in ‘topics’ or ‘themes’ (tícái 题材) rather than in ‘genres’ (lèixíng 类型).

Thematic terms were used in planning and reviewing art productions (literature, film, TV drama) in PRC history, but this practice has been transforming over the past forty years. 

With the rise of the pop culture industry, the term ‘genre’ (类型) also became more popularized, with ‘theme’ and ‘genre’ now existing together.

Some productions have been recognized as either an old-fashioned ‘theme’ product, while also being categorized as a genre. For example, the TV drama Era of Peace (和平年代, 1996) marks the transition from the thematic categorization of ‘Revolutionary History theme’ (革命历史题材) to the categorization of ‘Era genre’ (年代戏). Later, the famous production The Year of Burning Passion (激情燃烧的岁月, 2001) was simply categorized as a typical ‘Era Genre’ rather than a theme production.

But there are also those thematic productions that did not have a ‘genre offspring.’ One of those is the established “intellectual theme” (知识分子题材) in Chinese literature, film, and TV drama, which is not reflected in today’s TV drama industry. Although educated identity plays a key role in today’s medical genre (医疗剧) – a subcategory of the ‘professional genre’ TV drama (职业剧) – the agenda and rhetoric are very different.

To avoid long discussions on the complex nature of theme versus genre productions and categories in Chinese TV dramas, the following overview mixes both thematic and genre TV dramas, using the terms interchangeably.

‘Forgotten’ TV Dramas

An overview of some series in supplement to the Top 30 Classic Chinese TV dramas article:

 

#1 ‘Trilogy of Women’s Fate’ (女人命运三部曲)

* 篱笆、女人和狗  ‘Fence, Woman and Dog’

Year: 1989
Episodes: 12
Genre: Rural/Family
Directed by 陈雨田 Chen Yutian

* 辘轳、女人和井 ‘Windlass, Woman and Well’

Year: 1991
Episodes: 12
Genre: Rural/Family
Directed by 陈雨田 Chen Yutian 可人 Ke Ren

* 古船、女人和网 Ancient Ship, Woman and Net

Year: 1993
Episodes: 14
Genre: Rural/Family
Directed by 吴珊 Wu Shan 张扬 Zhang Yang

In this 1990s ‘Trilogies of Country Life’ (农村三部曲), China’s rural community is still presented as being in a stage of self-reflecting amidst a time of transformation. This portrayal of China’s countryside stands in stark contrast to present-day productions that often represent the rural community as either ‘to be developed’ or to be laughed about, caught in a discourse of urban-rural binary opposition. These series are still available for viewing on sites such as QQ (no English subs).

 

#2. ‘The Flowering Season of Being Sixteen’ (十六岁的花季)

Year: 1990
Episodes: 12
Genre: Youth
Directed by Directed by 富敏 Fu Min 张弘 Zhang Hong

This TV drama, spoken in Shanghai accent, tells the coming-of-age story of a group of middle school students. It represents Chinese youth as being in the age of poetic self-reflection, rather than the ‘young idol’ genre that is ubiquitous today. The actors and narrator’s voice directly reflect on society and question it. The episodes are available for viewing on Youtube here (no English subtitles).

 

#3. Young Special Force 少年特工

Year: 1992
Episodes: 16
Genre: Military
Directed by 郑方南 Zheng Fangnan

This TV drama, set in contemporary China, tells the story of the experiences of children during a military camp in Shandong, where these young scouts are thrown into a ‘battle’ between the ‘Red Army’ and the ‘Blue Army.’ The military setting and modern timeframe ironically reveal the hidden elite and historical subtext. Link to episodes on Youtube here.

 

#4. Era of Peace (和平年代)

Year: 1996
Episodes: 23
Genre: Army/History
Directed by 李舒 Li Shu 张前 Zhang Qian

This title represents the difference between the army sub-genre and military genre. It is a retrospective story that describes the transformation of China’s armed troops from the Reform and Opening Up (改革开放) (1978-1996) period, going from war preparations to a period of peace.

Over the last two decades, the army sub-genre has gradually allowed new components into the military TV drama genre, which has also led to those narratives in the late 2010s that focus on overseas operations by elite soldiers.

 

#5. Fortress Besieged (围城)

Year: 1990
Episodes: 10
Genre: No (some will say Historical)
Directed by 黄蜀芹 Huang Shuqin

This drama, a classic adaptation of the same-titled 1947 novel by Qian Zhongshu, is set in the 1930s and portrays Chinese intellectuals, while focusing on the misadventures of Fang Hongjian, who returns to China after studying in Europe. The mild, cautious, ironic yet effortless taste from 1940 Shanghai and the figures of Republic of China’s bourgeois intellectuals, showed itself for the very first time to PRC audiences in this classic.

Nobody would like to admit they forgot about this classic adaptation. Actually, people tend to forget it not because of itself, but for its isolation from any current trends. Intellectual taste and artistic pursuit are quite alien to China’s current TV drama culture. Intellectual influence and TV as art was a cultural feature of the late socialist planned economy of the 20th century, when the Communist war against intellectuals had ended, and the capitalist front was yet to be developed.

Various episodes are available for viewing on Youtube.

 

#6. Sinful Debt (孽债)

Year: 1995
Episodes: 20
Genre: Family
Directed by 黄蜀芹 Huang Shuqin

This drama, from the same female director Huang Shuqin (黄蜀芹) of Fortress Besieged, tells the story of five left-behind children in pursuit of their fathers – former sent-down “educated youths” as part of the Cultural Revolution crusade. It is a drama of middle-aged males, females and children, affected by historical, geographical, social and ethnic displacement. These series represent a delayed response to Scar Literature on TV.

The portrayal of Shanghai intellectuals in 1990s TV drama was very different from the 1980s intellectual idealism on TV, which then later transformed in the full-fledged populism in today’s political discourse of pop culture. In policy and critiques after 1990s, the once legit intellectual theme (知识分子题材) was completely erased.

Episodes of Sinful Debt are available for viewing on Youtube here.

By Zhao B.

Edited for clarity by 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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China Arts & Entertainment

The Never-Ending Drama: Ma Rong Accuses Wang Baoqiang of Violent Attack, Netizens Don’t Buy It

A messy story is flooding Weibo today, as Chinese celebrity Ma Rong accuses ex-husband Wang Baoqiang of assault.

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It is the never-ending drama: China’s most famous divorced celebrity couple Ma Rong and Wang Baoqiang once again hit the top trending lists on Chinese social media. This time, it concerns an alleged violent outburst during which Ma Rong was injured.

Ever since the 2016 split between Chinese celebrities Wang Baoqiang (王宝强) and his ex-wife Ma Rong (马蓉), the former couple keeps on making headlines. On Sunday, December 2nd, the hashtag “Wang Baoqiang Beats Up Ma Rong” (#王宝强殴打马蓉#) went trending on Weibo, receiving some 520 million views at time of writing (update: the hashtag page has since been taken offline).

According to various Chinese media, Chinese actress Ma Rong stated that her ex-husband attacked her when she wanted to take her children with her in the early morning on Sunday. The children allegedly were not present when the altercation occurred.

Ma Rong claimed that she was hit and kicked in the head and back by Wang, who was accompanied by “four or five” others.

Dramatic photos of a seemingly injured Ma Rong have spread on social media, along with photos of her in the hospital.

A video issued by Sina Entertainment News on Sunday shows Ma Rong lying in her (hospital) bed crying, telling the interviewer that Wang has previously been abusive towards her and their two children.

But there is also another side to this murky story, as security footage from surveillance cameras at Wang’s house have leaked, reportedly showing that Ma came to Wang’s house with her mother on Saturday night around 19.00 to “cause a scene”, carrying scissors with her to intimidate Wang’s family. The footage shows how a woman, said to be Ma Rong, jumps up to the camera in an apparent attempt to sabotage it.

According to an “insider” quoted by Sina Entertainment, Ma and her mother were apparently involved in an altercation with Wang Baoqiang’s mother, although these rumors have since been refuted by Ma’s family.

A report on Jinri Toutiao also claims that the altercation had already started on Saturday night, and that police were present at the scene around 23.00 in an ongoing confrontation that allegedly lasted the entire night.

Wang’s mother, who was present at the scene, was apparently so shaken by the turmoil, that she reportedly was also checked into a local hospital with “palpitations” on Saturday night.

Photos surfacing on Weibo supposedly show how Ma Rong is lying on the floor in Wang’s home, while security staff is present at the scene.

As the situation is somewhat messy, and details are still unclear, most netizens side with Wang Baoqiang and are not buying Ma’s story, suggesting the photos of the injured actress have been staged. Ma Rong has become very unpopular since her divorce from Wang, with many calling her a “gold digger.”

“She’s a very good actress,” many commenters say. “There’s seriously something wrong with her,” others write.

The first memes on today’s case are also surfacing on WeChat and Weibo, with some photoshopping Ma’s photo on a magazine cover of Zhiyin (知音), an old Chinese magazine known for telling dramatic and sensationalized social stories.

Others post the dramatic photo with the underline: “Oh, my head hurts.”

Chinese actor Wang Baoqiang, known for his roles in films such as Blind Shaft (2003) and A Touch of Sin (2013), is highly popular in China. Born into a poor rural family in Hebei Province, the former migrant construction worker rose to fame when he was cast in his first movie. With his rural-to-urban, migrant-to-actor story, Wang has come to represent the Chinese dream in the eyes of many.

In 2016, Wang Baoqiang publicly announced on Weibo that after seven years of marriage, he was divorcing Ma Rong as an exposed illicit affair between his wife and his manager Song Zhe (宋喆) had damaged his marriage “beyond repair.”

Wang Baoqiang announced on Weibo that his wife betrayed him and that he was getting a divorce.

At the time, the exposure of the alleged relationship between Ma Rong and manager Song Zhe hit Weibo like an earthquake, with millions of netizens jumping on the discussion – many of them scolded Ma and alleged she had only married the Chinese film star for his money. With ten billion views, it became one of the all-time biggest topics on Weibo.

Wang and Ma in happier times.

The story has continued to attract people’s attention. A year after the initial separation, Song Zhe was arrested in Beijing for embezzlement – a topic that immediately became trending on Chinese social media.

The various court cases between Wang and Ma Rong, who first sued her estranged husband for defamation of character and then refused to sign the divorce papers, has also recurrently been in the media.

According to the latest reports, Ma has now left the hospital. A video that is spreading on Weibo shows how a woman, supposedly Ma Rong, is carried out of the hospital and is put inside a car, while reporters are running after her (see embedded tweet below).

At time of writing, Wang has not posted any statement regarding this incident on his Weibo page, where he has more than 28 million fans.

By Manya Koetse and Miranda Barnes

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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What’s on Weibo provides social, cultural & historical insights into an ever-changing China. What’s on Weibo sheds light on China’s digital media landscape and brings the story behind the hashtag. This independent news site is managed by sinologist Manya Koetse. Contact info@whatsonweibo.com. ©2014-2018

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