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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?

Manya Koetse

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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.

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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    jobs

    June 1, 2017 at 11:18 pm

    interesting

  2. Avatar

    jobs in china

    June 1, 2017 at 11:19 pm

    visit https://dbestinfo.com for jobs in china

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China Society

The Concept of ‘Involution’ (Nèijuǎn) on Chinese Social Media

Nèijuǎn (involution) has become a commonly used term on Chinese social media, but what is it?

Manya Koetse

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Chinese TV drama A Love for Dilemma (“小舍得”) has reignited an ongoing debate about the problem of ‘involution’ in Chinese society today.

A scene from the Chinese TV drama A Love for Dilemma (“小舍得”) has reignited online discussions on the concept of nèijuǎn 内卷, “involution,” which was also a top buzzword in China in 2020.

A Love for Dilemma is a 2021 TV drama directed by Zhang Xiaobo (张晓波), who also worked on other hit series including Nothing But Thirty. This season’s popular TV drama A Love for Dilemma is themed around family, parenting, and China’s competitive education system.

In the series, two stepsisters compete against each other over the school results of their children. The family’s ‘grandpa’, played by famous actor Zhang Guoli (张国立), tries to create harmony around the dinner table between his daughter and stepdaughter, but the rivalry between the two and how they raise their children intensifies nevertheless.

Scene from A Love for Dilemma.

While stepsister Tian Yulan urges her little son to work hard in school and focus on his grades so that he can go to the best high school and university, sister Nan Li places more emphasis on the general development of her children and wants them to enjoy their childhood. Both mothers, however, question their own choices when facing challenges with how their children perform at school.

The specific scene that has ignited current discussions is a dialogue between the husbands of the sisters, who sit outside to talk about the education system and how it sometimes feels like everyone is in a theatre watching a show together until one person stands up from their seat. This makes it necessary for other members of the audience to also stand up, until everybody is standing.

The dialogue continues, with the two talking about how it does not stop at the people standing up. Because then there are those who will take it a step further and will stand on their seats to rise above the others. And then there are even those who will grab a ladder to stand higher than the rest. But they are still watching the same show and their situation has actually not changed at all – except for the fact that everybody is now more uncomfortable than they were before.

Many netizens found it striking how this dialogue explains how the term ‘involution’ is used in China nowadays. After the show aired, the hashtag “How to commonly explain involution” (#如何通俗解释内卷#) became a trending topic in the week of April 19, receiving 260 million views in a few days.

 
What Is ‘Involution’?
 

As explained by Jialing Xie in this top buzzword article on What’s on Weibo, involution describes the economic situation in which as the population grows, per capita wealth decreases. Since recently, this word has come to be used to represent the competitive circumstances in academic or professional settings in China where individuals are compelled to overwork because of the standard raised by their peers who appear to be even more hardworking.

The term ‘involution’ and how it is used today comes from a work by American anthropologist Clifford Geertz titled Agricultural Involution – The Processes of Ecological Change in Indonesia (1963). In this work, Geertz explores the agricultural dynamics in Indonesia during the colonial period’s Cultivation System, where a radical economic dualism existed within the country: a foreign, Dutch economy and a native, Indonesian economy (p. 61-62).

Geertz describes how the Javanese faced a deepening demographic dilemma as they saw a rapidly growing population but a static economy, while the Dutch, who organized Javanese land and labor, were only growing in wealth (69-70). Agricultural involution is the “ultimately self-defeating process” that emerged in Indonesia when the ever-growing population was absorbed in high labor-intensive wet-rice cultivation without any changing patterns and without any progress (80-81).

When Geertz used the term ‘involution’ to describe the dynamics in Indonesia, he built on the work of another American anthropologist, namely Alexander Goldenweiser, who also used the term to describe “those culture patterns which, after having reached what would seem to be a definitive form, nonetheless fail either to stabilize or transform themselves into a new pattern but rather continue to develop by becoming internally more complicated” (Geertz 1963, 81).

 
The Involution Concept in the Chinese Context
 

The popular use of the Chinese translation of ‘involution’, nèijuǎn 内卷, started to receive attention in Chinese media in 2020. It is deviating from the original use of the term and is meant to explain the social dynamics of China’s growing middle class.

As suggested in the article “‘Involution’: The Anxieties of Our Time Summed Up in One Word” by Zhou Minxi (CGTN), the popularity of the term comes from “a prevalent sense of being stuck in an ever so draining rat race where everyone loses.”

China’s ever-growing middle class is now facing the question of how they and their children can remain in the middle class in a situation where everyone is continuously working harder and doing all they can to rise above the rest. Xiang Biao, a professor of social anthropology at Oxford University, is quoted by Zhou:

The lower class still hopes to change their fate, but the middle and upper classes aren’t so much looking upward, and they are marked by a deep fear of falling downward. Their greater fear is perhaps losing what they already have.”

The term ‘involution’ often comes up together with criticism on China’s ‘996’ work system (working from 9am-9pm, 6 days a week). Although Alibaba founder Jack Ma once called the 12-hour working day a “blessing,” the system is a controversial topic, with many condemning how Chinese (tech) companies are exploiting their employees, who are caught in a conundrum; they might lose their sanity working such long hours, and might lose their job and future career prospects if they refuse to do so.

But the term also comes up when discussing China’s education system, where competition starts as early as kindergarten and the pressure on children to succeed in the ‘gaokao’ college entrance exam starts many years before it takes place.

This image shows the “juan” 卷 character from ‘nei juan’ (involution) changing into a person on their bike with laptop. Image via http://www.bajieyou.com/new/431e6ef39aac4a6da232671122f66ff4

This discussion also came up with a now-famous image of a student riding his bike while also working on his laptop, using every moment to study. This was then also called “Tsinghua Inversion” (清华内卷), referring to one of China’s top universities, where competition is so vicious that students must double their efforts to catch up with others.

 
‘Involution’ Discussions on Chinese Social Media
 

By mid-2020, ‘involution’ attracted the attention on Weibo when popular academic accounts started discussing the term. Recently, ‘involution’ is used so often on Chinese social media that it has already gone beyond its original context, leading to many people discussing its meaning.

“We are forced to work overtime and are unable to resist, and yet it seems that everyone is doing it out of free will,” one Weibo user says, with another person adding: “The abnormal state of inversion has already become our normal state.”

A popular legal blogger (@皇城根下刀笔吏) on Weibo writes:

It is an internal bottomless vicious cycle of competition. For example, everyone used to work eight hours per day, five days per week. Then one company comes up where people work twelve hours per day, six days per week. Then this company will have major competitive strength in the market economy. But the outcome is that other companies are also compelled to do the same in order to compete. As time goes by, all companies will shift to a twelve-hour workday, six days a week, and job applicants entering the market can’t find any eight-hour workday positions for five days a week anymore. So, if another company wants to beat its competitors, it will have to introduce a seven-day workweek. And then other companies will need to follow in order to make a living. That is involution.”

By now, there are various images and memes that have come to represent the meaning of ‘involution’ in present-day China, such as one cram school sign saying: “If you come we will train your kids, if you don’t come, we will train the competitors of your kids.”

“The society’s resources are in short supply and to obtain the limited supplies, people are all madly practicing their skills to obtain them – regardless if they need them or not,” another Weibo user says.

Most comments relating to the discussion of ‘involution’ on Chinese social media express a sense of fatigue with an ongoing rat-race in the education and employment market.

On the interest-based social networking platform Douban, there are even some support groups for people who feel stuck in ‘involution’ and are looking for a way out. The “Center for Victims of Involution” (内卷受害者收容中心) group has over 3000 members, with smaller groups such as “Let’s Escape Involution Together” (我们一起逃离内卷) having a few dozen participants.

The generation that is mostly affected by this sense of socioeconomic stagnation is the post-90 generation. In 2020, a record high of 8.74 million university graduates entered the job market, but their chances of finding a job that suits their education and personal expectations are slim; many industries are recruiting fewer people than before in an employment market that was already competitive before the COVID19 pandemic. It leaves them facing a troubling Catch 22 situation: they will be stressed and pressured if they do not find that top job, but when they do, they are often also stressed and pressured.

It is a recurring topic on social media. Five years ago, a song by the Rainbow Chamber Singers (彩虹室内合唱团) titled “The Sofa Is So Far” immediately became a hit in China. Many young Chinese recognized themselves in the hardworking and tired people described in the lyrics, which started with: “My body feels empty / I am dog-tired / I don’t want work overtime.”

How to get away from the involution rat race is also a much-discussed topic on Weibo, where the hashtag page “How can young people resist involution” (#年轻人如何反内卷#) has received over 280 million views.

Some suggest the answer to ending the vicious cycle is to find a way to get rich fast, others suggest that not getting married and staying child-free is also a way to alleviate the pressure to participate in this zero-sum game.

Tech blogger Sensai (@森赛), who has over 2 million followers on Weibo, advises young people to find their true interest and to invest in it before the age of 30. Doing something that sparks joy, such as learning a new language or working on art, might start as a hobby but could turn into a valuable side business later, Sensai says.

For some, however, that goal seems unattainable. “I am already working 15 hours a day, how could I ever do that?!”

“This is just bringing us into a whole other level of involution,” others write.

In order to watch A Love for Dilemma (小舍得), the show that started so many of these discussions this month, you can go over to iQiyi or YouTube.

By Manya Koetse

References

Geertz, Clifford. 1963. Agricultural Involution: The Processes of Ecological Change in Indonesia. Berkeley & Los Angeles: University of California Press.

Zhou Minxi. 2020. “‘Involution’: The anxieties of our time summed up in one word.” CGTN, Dec 4 https://news.cgtn.com/news/2020-12-04/-Involution-The-anxieties-of-our-time-summed-up-in-one-word-VWNlDOVdjW/index.html [20.4.2021].

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China Arts & Entertainment

Chinese Movie “Sister” Stirs Discussions on Traditional Family Values in China

The movie ‘Sister’ has sparked online discussions on whether or not personal values should be prioritized over traditional family values.

Manya Koetse

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Mainlaind Chinese drama My Sister (我的姐姐, also known as ‘Sister‘) was just released in theatres and is sparking online discussions on family relations and the role of women in China.

After the hit movie Hi, Mom (你好,李焕英) received praise earlier this year for focusing on the role of mothers within Chinese families, this film zooms in on the role of older sisters.

My Sister, directed by Yin Ruoxin (殷若昕), revolves around the story of An Ran, an 18-year-old daughter who is unexpectedly facing the major responsibility for her 6-year-old brother after the tragic loss of their parents. While trying to find her own path in life, she suddenly has to step into the role of caregiver for her younger sibling. But does she want to take on this role?

Actress Zhang Zifeng (张子枫) is playing the main lead in this movie, which touches upon the issue of dealing with traditional family values and personal dreams and ambitions. Sister reveals the difficulties women face within the traditional Chinese-style family structure and the sacrifices they make for their parents, their children, siblings, and their husbands; and how the roles and tasks that are expected of them also clash with their own ideas about happiness and fulfillment.

For An Ran, the relationship with her little brother is troublesome. As a young girl, she had to pretend to be disabled in order to allow her parents to have a second child, preferably a son (under the One Child Policy, families with children with disabilities were allowed to have more children). Now, as a young adult, she once again has to sacrifice her own individual freedom in order to let her brother thrive.

The renowned Chinese sociologist Li Yinhe (李银河) dedicated a lengthy post to the movie on her Weibo account, where she called the film “fascinating” and “thought-provoking.”

Li suggests that multiple social issues play a role in this film. First, there is the conflict between individual-oriented values and traditional family-oriented ethics. While traditional Chinese ideas about family require An Ran to put her brother first and move personal self-fulfillment to the backseat, An Ran is a young woman who grew up in a rapidly modernizing China where women are more empowered and independent. Why should she sacrifice her personal education and career in order to devote herself to raising her brother?

Another social topic that plays a major role in this film is the deep-seated cultural preference for sons over daughters. An Ran literally had to make herself weaker in order for her brother to be brought into this world – and in doing so limiting the possibilities for her future career, – with these patriarchal practices prioritizing the thriving of sons over the happiness of daughters. An Ran’s anger and resistance show that traditional ideas about male superiority clash with modern-day Chinese society, where profound changes within gender relations are already taking place.

“Sisters do not dislike their little brothers,” one Weibo commenter wrote: “What they dislike is the hidden meaning behind their brother.”

Another female blogger responded: “Within my family, from my grandpa’s generation up to myself, it is actually the women who discriminate against women. I think these are deeply rooted ideas that can’t be changed. Look at my second elder aunt; she had seven children, all girls, and only four were left. The others were given away. However, my grandfather has always been good to me, and has never made me feel any less than the boys. Yet my grandma and my mother sometimes make me doubt about my life.”

Under the hashtag “How to Evaluate the Movie My Sister” (#如何评价电影我的姐姐#), which attracted 150 million views on Weibo, many ask the question of what they would do if they were An Ran. Would you take care of your little brother? Or would you leave his care up to other family members and choose your own path in life?

“If it were me, I’d raise my brother. Although it’s actually the parents’ problem, the little brother is innocent.”

“If it were me, I wouldn’t raise him,” another commenter writes: “Although the little brother is innocent, I wouldn’t want to sacrifice my life for him. And it might be a better choice to leave him with other family members than with me.”

These discussions also triggered the hashtag “Should Personal Values Be More Important Than Family Values?” (#个人价值必须高于家庭价值吗#). One top commenter raised the issue of ‘what if this was about a little sister instead of about a little brother,’ again provoking the idea that existing gender roles and the preference over sons play a major part in these discussions.

“These traditions no longer suit this era of a developing society. Let me ask you this question: would the little brother also take care of his sister once she grows old?”

“Personal values should always have priority. If you are not happy yourself, how could you ever take care of your family?”

“I have the perception that the family-oriented concept is deep-rooted. Although there consistently are new values and personal-oriented viewpoints, when it comes to real problems, most people will still be family-oriented.”

One commenter wrote: “What are ‘values’? What is the family in modern-day society? What does it mean to prioritize something? If we don’t first clarify this, the discussion becomes meaningless.”

Meanwhile, all the online discussions on Sister have boosted the film. By now, the movie has already become a box office hit and defeated the American Godzilla vs. Kong.

By Manya Koetse

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©2021 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

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