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Sad Sunshine After the Rain: Zhang Zhehan’s New Record Becomes #1 on iTunes

Zhang Zhehan’s latest song is his first success after he suffered scrutiny in China, but his song wasn’t released in the mainland.

Manya Koetse

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Zhang Zhehan became a ‘tainted celebrity‘ in mainland China in 2021. Now, the Chinese singer is enjoying a major career comeback as his latest single is topping iTunes charts. Despite his success, Zhang’s comeback is taking place outside of China.

The past one and a half years have not been easy for Chinese actor and singer Zhang Zhehan (张哲瀚, 1991). With his latest song becoming a top record in the worldwide iTunes charts, it seems that Zhang is finally seeing some sunshine after the rain.

Zhang Zhehan was a celebrated and award-winning artist in mainland China, especially known for his roles in Legend of Yunxi (2018), The Blooms at Ruyi Pavilion (2020) and the highly popular costume drama Word of Honor (2021).

Zhang got caught up in controversy in August of 2021 after photos surfaced online of the actor attending a wedding ceremony at the Japanese Nogi Shrine and of him visiting the area near the controversial Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo. Both shrines are historically sensitive places and are linked to Japanese militarism, war crimes, and the Sino-Japanese War.

These social media posts played an important role in Zhang Zhehan’s fall from grace in mainland China.

As the incident went completely viral, Zhang was harshly criticized. Although his loyal fans defended him, many netizens were less forgiving. The Zhang incident also came at a time when various Chinese celebrities were investigated, blacklisted, or banned, with an “entertainment circles earthquake” occurring at the time.

Despite issuing an apology statement, in which Zhang explained he was unaware of the historical significance of the places where he previously took photos, the incident had a profound impact on his life and career.

Brands working with Zhang Zhehan canceled their partnerships with the actor, Zhang’s account and an affiliated work account were suspended by Weibo, and his name was included on a ‘black list’ (or ‘warning list’) released by China’s Association of Performing Arts (CAPA/中国演出行业协会).

In December of 2021, What’s on Weibo published an Op-ed contribution by the founder of the Teddyfoxfluff blog which did a deep dive into the Zhang Zhehan controversy. In this article, the author claims that Zhang had become a victim of online fake news propagation and cyberbullying.

One important person who came to Zhang’s defense is the famous producer/distributor/actor Li Xuezheng (李学政), director of the Golden Shield Film and Television Center, who posted dozens of Weibo posts in which he questioned the criteria of the names that are included on the CAPA ‘warning list’ and how an entity such as China’s Association of Performing Arts could have the legal power to enforce disciplinary measures over Chinese celebrities beyond the realm of their own association membership circles.

After these challenging times, Zhang Zhehan’s latest song “Sad Sunshine Is Here” (憂傷的晴朗) has now finally been released and is out on Spotify and iTunes, where it soon soared to the top of the popular song charts of worldwide and U.S. iTunes.

Zhang’s “Sad Sunshine Is Here” ranked number one song on the American iTunes charts on 17 December, just two days after its release, according to iTunesCharts and Popvortex. The song’s success shows that Zhang still has many fans, also outside of China, supporting him throughout his ordeals.

Zhang Zhehan comes in at number one in U.S. iTunes top charts, via Popvortex.

“Sad Sunshine Is Here” is a dreamy popsong with cryptic and poetic lyrics. Zhang sings about the “devil’s curse”, “resurrection,” fireworks lighting up the sky and a “stormy sea in the blink of an eye” – enough to make fans connect the meaning of the song to what Zhang has experienced since 2021.

The ‘sad sunshine’ title perhaps also refers to the bitter-sweet experience of Zhang’s comeback. Although Zhang is stepping back into the limelight, it is not the limelight in the country he perhaps would have preferred, namely China, the motherland he himself said he “deeply loves.”

Zhang Zhehan’s new song is available on Western platforms such as iTunes, Spotify, and YouTube, but it has not come out on Chinese music platforms.

Nevertheless, the song release did trigger discussions on Chinese social media platform Weibo, where some wondered if international listeners would understand how meaningful Zhang’s successful song release – without any major record companies backing it – actually is.

Still, many Chinese netizens praise Zhang’s sudden international success. “I’m so proud to be your fan,” one Weibo commenter wrote.

Many Chinese social media users did not spell out Zhang Zhehan’s name, hoping to circumvent potential censorship of his name.

“He’s rising on the world’s stage!” some commented.

“After 492 days, I am still waiting for your return,” another Weibo user wrote, referring to early August of 2021 when Zhang first got caught up in controversy.

Listen to Zhang Zhehan’s latest single here. To get more insights on just how difficult it is to rise up after being canceled as a celebrity in China, check out our article on ‘tainted’ celebrities in China here. For more about Zhang Zhehan, check our articles here. If you like what we do – please consider becoming a premium member to support us and get full access to all of our articles.

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.

Manya Koetse is the founder and editor-in-chief of whatsonweibo.com. She is a writer, public speaker, and researcher (Sinologist, MPhil) on social trends, digital developments, and new media in an ever-changing China, with a focus on Chinese society, pop culture, and gender issues. She shares her love for hotpot on hotpotambassador.com. Contact at manya@whatsonweibo.com, or follow on Twitter.

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4 Comments

4 Comments

  1. Avatar

    J.

    December 19, 2022 at 1:20 am

    Thank you for the article. I thought to provide some additional third-party information from reputable sources with regard to the background about how Zhang Zhehan was framed:

    1. Legal talk given in 2022 by respected China legal scholar Wang Yong from Hong Fan Research Institute and China University of Political Science and Law about the defamation of Zhang Zhehan, with English subtitles: https://youtu.be/baoskGTLhP8
    *You can verify the authenticity of the talk and the credentials of the speaker since he is famous in the China legal circle and is often invited on shows to talk about China law. In Chinese, this is his name, designation and related institutes: 洪范研究所/中国政法大学教授王涌

    2. Subtitled version of Zhang Zhehan’s IG video where he talks in first person about how he was framed as seen on Chinese Stars News: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FutBr_cbFFQ
    Should you wish to see the version of Zhang Zhehan’s on IG, you may go to https://www.instagram.com/p/CdGhDfkJRtQ/

    3. Yahoo report about Zhang Zhehan speaking of how he was framed and about his criminal defamation report: https://sg.style.yahoo.com/zhang-zhehan-denies-entering-yasukuni-shrine-willing-investigated-063158363.html

    4. Singapore’s Straits Times podcast which talked about the false rumours and how Zhang was framed:
    https://www.straitstimes.com/life/entertainment/popvultures-podcast-chinese-entertainment-updates-divorces-marriages-and-bts-gets-on-instagram
    Time code: 00:48 Chinese entertainment/Zhang Zhehan update

  2. Avatar

    OJ

    December 22, 2022 at 5:57 am

    Zhang Zhehan had a small part in the acclaimed Nirvana in Fire as the young General Lin Shu who was victim of political frame-up by evil rivals in the royal court. This is coincidentally parallel to what happened to him in real life. Given the geopolitical backdrop of China/US rivalry and American determination to beat China at all costs, this seems to be part of a soft power war using Zhang as a tool to manipulate public opinion against China.

  3. Avatar

    dawnraptor

    December 23, 2022 at 6:38 pm

    I’m very happy for this comeback, even if it’s only a partial one.
    I’m from Italy and I was very affected by his sad history. I was so incredulous and sad, I couldn’t understand or believe in what was so clearly a see of misinterpretations, misunderstandings, false accuses, absurdities and vicious lies…
    There are clearly hidden powers at work, and a great artist paid the cost. Shameful.

  4. Avatar

    Tidieu

    January 11, 2023 at 12:04 pm

    It was obvious that there was an organized effort to defame Zhang Zhehan in Aug 2021, which seemed to have started way before that.
    – Zhehan himself has reported his case as being defamed.
    – There have been numerous research and findings that showed an organized cyber crime was committed that lead to the Aug 13, 2021 event.
    – All of the disinformation that were circulated were found to be started and circulated quickly by internet trolls.

    Frankly I cannot understand what is really going ok in China. Is it because one citizen out of 3 billion people is not significant, or some other hidden corrupted powerful forces / officials are behind the scenes pulling strings.

    More information about how a defamation campaign is designed and works is detailed in the following Ted Talk video:

    https://youtu.be/Iu4OdhjnN4I

    Another article about water army (paid internet fake accounts to manipulate public opinions):

    https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2018/01/27/technology/social-media-bots.html

    Article about how China influencer, who can be bought and paid for, can manipulate public opinion to the extreme of getting a professor fired:

    https://jingdaily.com/the-follower-factory-in-china/

    In recent congress meetings in China, the issue of cyber crime was discussed at length, Zhang Zhehan case was even brought up, but we still have not heard any good news yet…only a few officials and water army companies were caught since then.

    I do hope China will show to the world that its government is for the people at large, and not just for a few in power.

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China Memes & Viral

Chengdu Disney: The Quirkiest Hotspot in China

How a senior activity park in Chengdu was ‘Disneyfied’ and became a viral hotspot.

Manya Koetse

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How did a common park turn into a buzzing hotspot? By mixing online trends with real-life fun, blending foreign styles with local charm, and adding a dash of humor and absurdity, Chengdu now boasts its very own ‘Chengdu Disney’. We explain the trend.

By Manya Koetse, co-authored by Ruixin Zhang

Have you heard about Chengdu Disney yet? If not, it’s probably unlike anything you’d imagine. It’s not actually a Disney theme park opening up in Chengdu, but it’s one of the city’s most viral hotspots these days.

What is now known as ‘Chengdu Disney’ all over the Chinese internet is actually a small outdoor park in a residential area in Chengdu’s Yulin area, which also serves as the local senior fitness activity center.

Crowds of young people are coming to this area to take photos and videos, hang out, sing songs, cosplay, and be part of China’s internet culture in an offline setting.

 
Once Upon a Rap Talent Show
 

The roots of ‘Chengdu Disney’ can be traced back to the Chinese hip-hop talent show The Rap of China (中国新说唱), where a performer named Nuomi (诺米), also known as Lodmemo, was eliminated by Chinese rapper Boss Shady (谢帝 Xièdì), one of the judges on the show.

Nuomi felt upset about the elimination and a comment made by his idol mentor, who mistakenly referred to a song Nuomi made for his ‘grandma’ instead of his grandfather. His frustration led to a viral livestream where he expressed his anger towards his participation in The Rap of China and Boss Shady.

However, it wasn’t only his anger that caught attention; it was his exaggerated way of speaking and mannerisms. Nuomi, with his Sichuan accent, repeatedly inserted English phrases like “y’know what I’m saying” and gestured as if throwing punches.

His oversized silver chain, sagging pants, and urban streetwear only reinforce the idea that Nuomi is trying a bit too hard to emulate the fashion style of American rappers from the early 2000s, complete with swagger and street credibility.

Lodmemo emulates the style of American rappers in the early 2000s, and he has made it his brand.

Although people mocked him for his wannabe ‘gangsta’ style, Nuomi embraced the teasing and turned it into an opportunity for fame.

He decided to create a diss track titled Xiè Tiān Xièdì 谢天谢帝, “Thank Heaven, Thank Emperor,” a word joke on Boss Shady’s name, which sounds like “Shady” but literally means ‘Thank the Emperor’ in Chinese. A diss track is a hip hop or rap song intended to mock someone else, usually a fellow musician.

In the song, when Nuomi disses Boss Shady (谢帝 Xièdì), he raps in Sichuan accent: “Xièdì Xièdì wǒ yào diss nǐ [谢帝谢帝我要diss你].” The last two words, namely “diss nǐ” actually means “to diss you” but sounds exactly like the Chinese word for ‘Disney’: Díshìní (迪士尼). This was soon picked up by netizens, who found humor in the similarity; it sounded as if the ‘tough’ rapper Nuomi was singing about wanting to go to Disney.

Nuomi and his diss track, from the music video.

Nuomi filmed the music video for this diss track at a senior activity park in Chengdu’s Yulin subdistrict. The music video went viral in late March, and led to the park being nicknamed the ‘Chengdu Disney.’

The particular exercise machine on which Nuomi performed his rap quickly became an iconic landmark on Douyin, as everyone eagerly sought to visit, sit on the same see-saw-style exercise machine, and repeat the phrase, mimicking the viral video.

What began as a homonym led to people ‘Disneyfying’ the park itself, with crowds of visitors flocking to the park, some dressed in Disney-related costumes.

This further developed the concept of a Chengdu ‘Disney’ destination, turning the park playground into the happiest place in Yulin.

 
Chengdu: China’s Most Relaxed Hip Hop Hotspot
 

Chengdu holds a special place in China’s underground hip-hop scene, thanks to its vibrant music culture and the presence of many renowned Chinese hip-hop artists who incorporate the Sichuan dialect into their songs and raps.

This is one reason why this ‘Disney’ meme happened in Chengdu and not in any other Chinese city. But beyond its musical significance, the playful spirit of the meme also aligns with Chengdu’s reputation for being an incredibly laid-back city.

In recent years, the pursuit of a certain “relaxed feeling” (sōngchígǎn 松弛感) has gained popularity across the Chinese internet. Sōngchígǎn is a combination of the word for “relaxed,” “loose” or “lax” (松弛) and the word for “feeling” (感). Initially used to describe a particular female aesthetic, the term evolved to represent a lifestyle where individuals strive to maintain a relaxed demeanor, especially in the face of stressful situations.

 

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The concept gained traction online in mid-2022 when a Weibo user shared a story of a family remaining composed when their travel plans were unexpectedly disrupted due to passport issues. Their calm and collected response inspired the adoption of the “relaxed feeling” term (also read here).

Central to embodying this sense of relaxation is being unfazed by others’ opinions and avoiding unnecessary stress or haste out of fear of judgment.

Nowadays, Chinese cities aim to foster this sense of sōngchígǎn. Not too long ago, there were many hot topics suggesting that Chengdu is the most sōngchí 松弛, the most relaxed city in China.

This sentiment is reflected in the ‘Chengdu Disney’ trend, which both pokes fun at a certain hip-hop aesthetic deemed overly relaxed—like the guys who showed up with sagging pants—and embraces a carefree, childlike silliness that resonates with the city’s character and its people.

Mocking sagging pants at ‘Chengdu Disney.’

Despite the influx of visitors to the Chengdu Disney area, authorities have not yet significantly intervened. Community notices urging respect for nearby residents and the presence of police officers to maintain order indicate a relatively hands-off approach. For now, it seems most people are simply enjoying the relaxed atmosphere.

 
Being Part of the Meme
 

An important aspect that contributes to the appeal of Chengdu Disney is its nature as an online meme, allowing people to actively participate in it.

Scenes from Chengdu Disney, images via Weibo.

China has a very strong meme culture. Although there are all kinds of memes, from visual to verbal, many Chinese memes incorporate wordplay. In part, this has to do with the nature of Chinese language, as it offers various opportunities for puns, homophones, and linguistic creativity thanks to its tones and characters.

The use of homophones on Chinese social media is as old as Chinese social media itself. One of the most famous examples is the phrase ‘cǎo ní mǎ’ (草泥马), which literally means ‘grass mud horse’, but is pronounced in the same way as the vulgar “f*ck your mother” (which is written with three different characters).

In the case of the Chengdu Disney trend, it combines a verbal meme—stemming from the ‘diss nǐ’ / Díshìní homophone—and a visual meme, where people gather to pose for videos/photos in the same location, repeating the same phrase.

Moreover, the trend bridges the gap between the online and offline worlds, as people come together at the Chengdu playground, forming a tangible community through digital culture.

The fact that this is happening at a residential exercise park for the elderly adds to the humor: it’s a Chengdu take on what “urban” truly means. These colorful exercise machines are a common sight in Chinese parks nationwide and are actually very mundane. Transforming something so normal into something extraordinary is part of the meme.

A 3D-printed model version of the exercise equipment featured in Nuomi’s music video.

Lastly, the incorporation of the Disney element adds a touch of whimsy to the trend. By introducing characters like Snow White and Mickey Mouse, the trend blends American influences (hip-hop, Disney) with local Chengdu culture, creating a captivating and absurd backdrop for a viral phenomenon.

For some people, the pace in which these trends develop is just too quick. On Weibo, one popular tourism blogger (@吴必虎) wrote: “The viral hotspots are truly unpredictable these days. We’re still seeing buzz around the spicy hot pot in Gansu’s Tianshui, meanwhile, a small seesaw originally meant for the elderly in a residential community suddenly turns into “Chengdu Disneyland,” catching the cultural and tourism authorities of Sichuan and even Shanghai Disneyland off guard. Netizens are truly powerful, even making it difficult for me, as a professional cultural tourism researcher, to keep up with them.”

By Manya Koetse, co-authored by Ruixin Zhang

Independently reporting China trends for over a decade. Like what we do? Support us and get the story behind the hashtag by subscribing:

Spotted a mistake or want to add something? Please let us know in comments below or email us. First-time commenters, please be patient – we will have to manually approve your comment before it appears.

©2024 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

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China Music

The Chinese Viral TikTok Song Explained (No, It’s Not About Samsung)

The viral Chinese ‘Samsung’ Tiktok song is also not about cheating or getting back with your ex.

Manya Koetse

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Over the past few days, a Chinese song ‘challenge’ has been going viral on TikTok, with various TikTokers from America and beyond mastering the phonetics of a Mandarin song, lip-syncing it and delivering their own dramatic performance.

TikTok user Ajibola Olalekan posted the popular part of the song on March 16, receiving over 71k likes within two weeks, with various TikTokers using the sound for their own videos, some receiving millions of views (watch).

TikTok creator Emily, also known as Maverickmother, lip-synced the song from her car, writing: “Admit to your husband you were wrong and apologize or sing in Chinese..”

The popular video maker Azz (@theofficial_azz) also posted a video of himself singing the song, writing: “Admit you were wrong or sing in Chinese.”

TV host and content creator Mark Odea took things a bit further and put on a dramatic performance of himself lip-syncing the song, writing: “I didn’t realize this song was in English.” According to his interpretation of the song, the lyrics go like this:

Woman cheat
So true in shit sun sun
Would you lie? you shout It’s over Ya
But you are now women itchy
Loud loud itchy ya
Woman cheat send some d
Ching eat chang

While some think the song is about cheating or getting back with your ex, others also refer to this song as the “Chinese Samsung song,” because they believe the singer is singing about ‘Samsung.’ It’s actually the word cāngsāng (沧桑) they’re hearing, meaning ‘great changes’ or ‘ups and downs.’

The Chinese song in question is “This Life’s Fate” (今生缘) by the Beijing-born singer Chuan Zi (川子, real name Jiang Yachuan 姜亚川, born in 1969). Released in 2009, it is one of his most famous songs, which is about life and friendship.

The part of the song that has recently gone viral on TikTok is as follows:

我们今生注定是沧桑
Wǒmen jīnshēng zhùdìng shì cāngsāng
哭着来要笑着走过呀
Kūzhe lái yào xiàozhe zǒuguò ya
朋友啊让我们一起牢牢铭记呀
Péngyǒu a ràng wǒmen yìqǐ láo láo míngjì ya
我们今生兄弟情谊长
Wǒmen jīnshēng xiōngdì qíngyì cháng

“Our lives are destined to be full of change
We cried when we came [into this world], let’s leave with a smile
My friend, let’s remember very well
We’ll always be like brothers in this life”

By now, the Tiktok trend of foreigners pouring their hearts into mastering a song they may not even understand has also attracted attention on Chinese social media, where many netizens are enjoying the spectacle.

“The feelings of a ‘straight guy’ are just universal,” one top commenter writes (the word used is ‘Zhinan’ 直男, originally referring to heterosexual males, but then came to refer to an entire category of men in China).

“They may not get the exact meaning of the song, but the emotion is there,” others say.

The song, filled with nostalgia, contemplates life and death, emphasizing our shared journey and finding solace in companionship.

If you want to master the entire song yourself, here are the full lyrics (see full song here):

我们今生有缘在路上
Wǒmen jīnshēng yǒu yuán zài lùshàng
In this life, we are destined to be on this journey

只要我们彼此永不忘
Zhǐyào wǒmen bǐcǐ yǒng bù wàng
If only we never forget each other

朋友啊,让我们一起牢牢铭记呀
Péngyǒu a, ràng wǒmen yīqǐ láoláo míngjì ya
My friend, let’s remember very well

别在乎那一些忧和伤
Bié zàihu, nà yīxiē yōu hé shāng
Don’t mind about all that worry and pain

我们今生注定是沧桑
Wǒmen jīnshēng zhùdìng shì cāngsāng
Our lives are destined to be full of change

哭着来要笑着走过呀
Kūzhe lái yào xiàozhe zǒuguò ya
We cried when we came [into this world], let’s leave with a smile

朋友啊,让我们一起牢牢铭记呀
Péngyǒu a, ràng wǒmen yīqǐ láoláo míngjì ya.
My friend, let’s remember very well

我们今生兄弟情谊长
Wǒmen jīnshēng xiōngdì qíngyì cháng
We’ll always be like brothers in this life

朋友啊,让我们一起牢牢铭记呀
Péngyǒu a, ràng wǒmen yīqǐ láoláo míngjì ya
My friend, let’s remember very well

我们今生有缘在路上
Wǒmen jīnshēng yǒu yuán zài lùshàng
In this life, we are destined to be on this journey

只要我们彼此永不忘
Zhǐyào wǒmen bǐcǐ yǒng bù wàng
As long as we never forget each other.

朋友啊,让我们一起牢牢铭记呀
Péngyǒu a, ràng wǒmen yīqǐ láoláo míngjì ya
My friend, let’s remember very well

别在乎,那一些忧和伤
Bié zàihu, nà yīxiē yōu hé shāng
Don’t mind about all that worry and pain

我们今生就像梦一场
Wǒmen jīnshēng jiù xiàng mèng yī chǎng
This life is like a dream.

有你陪喝醉了又何妨
Yǒu nǐ péi hēzuì le yòu héfáng
What’s the harm in getting drunk together with you

朋友啊,让我们一起牢牢铭记呀
Péngyǒu a, ràng wǒmen yīqǐ láoláo míngjì ya
My friend, let’s remember it very well

凡尘过后终了无牵挂
Fánchén guòhòu zhōngle wú qiānguà.
After this mundane life, there will be no worries

朋友啊,让我们一起牢牢铭记呀
Péngyǒu a, ràng wǒmen yīqǐ láoláo míngjì ya.
My friend, let’s remember it very well

By Manya Koetse

Independently reporting China trends for over a decade. Like what we do? Support us and get the story behind the hashtag by subscribing:

Spotted a mistake or want to add something? Please let us know in comments below or email us. First-time commenters, please be patient – we will have to manually approve your comment before it appears.

©2024 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

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