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Sanlitun Houjie Demolished: The End of Beijing Bar Street?

As Beijing’s city center is changing with incredible speed, it is now Beijing’s nightlife hotspot Sanlitun bar street that is demolished and bricked up. While Beijing expats might shed a tear over the disappearance of their much-loved bars, many Weibo netizens are happy with the government’s decision to “clean up” the unpolished hubbub of Beijing nightlife.

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As Beijing’s city center is changing with incredible speed, it is now Beijing’s nightlife hotspot Sanlitun bar street that is demolished and bricked up. While Beijing expats might shed a tear over the disappearance of some of their favorite bars, many Weibo netizens are happy with the government’s decision to “clean up” the unpolished hubbub of Beijing nightlife.

Beijing is changing fast – really fast. As parts of the old hutongs are already unrecognizable or in the midst of being bricked up, bulldozers have now reached the area of Sanlitun Houjie / Tongli Studios, better known as the back street of Sanlitun Bar Street.

Sanlitun Bar Street is one of the most famous nightlife areas in Beijing, known for its cheap beers, many bars, restaurants, and street vendors.

Since the Beijing Olympics, the area at large has undergone drastic changes. With the coming of the Taikooli Shopping center in the summer of 2008, the transformation of Sanlitun from a low-key nightlife scene to an upscale shopping street was set in motion.

Bulldozers renovating the Sanlitun street in August of 2016.

For local bar lovers and many expats and students, there was always still the Sanlitun ‘back street’, or houjie, one of the few parts of the area that did not seem to have changed that much over the past decade and was not as polished or expensive as the newer parts of town.

 

“The demolishment of the area is another step in the mission of the city management to gentrify the area.”

 

The ‘rough part’ of Sanlitun was both loved and hated for its street vendors, loud music, 10 RMB beers, beggars, balloon sellers, occasional bar fights, and lively atmosphere.

View on Sanlitun houjie from Taikooli, 2016.

On April 24 the bulldozers and construction workers hit the street to start the demolishment of the street side across from Tongli Studios.

Rumors were going around for weeks that parts of the old bar street would be demolished. According to one of the staff at the old Luga’s bar that What’s on Weibo spoke to, they do plan to reopen again after renovations, but the exact plans of what is happening in the area is yet unclear. Other sources said that the whole side of the street would be closed and simply bricked up.

According to the Beijing Youth newspaper, the demolishment of the area is another step in the mission of the city management to gentrify the area so that houjie would no longer be a “dirty street” (“今起不再有’脏街'”). A total of 33 business will be demolished, among them are several DVD stores, bars, restaurants, shops, and nail salons.

On Chinese social media, the large-scale renovation of Sanlitun is receiving ample attention from various media outlets and netizens. Many Weibo commenters show their support for the latest government move and agree with the renovations, saying that the Beijing bar street needed to be cleaned up.

“This time, I give Beijing full points for this renovation,” one Beijing resident (@小威威的野蛮女友) says on Weibo: “This place was too crowded, too messy, too dirty.” Another commenter agrees: “They will make it pretty again.”

 

“Goodbye to that old Sanlitun dirty alley that now belongs to the memories of our youth.”

 

“The people who say this demolishment is not good obviously do not live in Beijing, haha,” one other person said.

But not everyone agrees. As the city center of Beijing is rapidly undergoing renovations, there are considerably fewer parts of the city that offer a laid-back and unpolished nightlife scene, while fancy bars and expensive dining places are mushrooming everywhere.

“There is a sense of beauty in these places that are are bit messy,” one commenter said: “They are more friendly, they are warmer.” “I agree,” another person says: “From now on, Sanlitun will not be as lively as before.”

“The street may have been somewhat dirty, but I love that kind of feeling,” one local resident (@bulabula安) commented.

There are also many people who say they feel sad over losing their favorite noodle place located across from the Tongli Studios or other popular bars and dining places.

“Goodbye dirty Sanlitun street!”, Beijing musician Liu Dayi writes on Weibo: “I can only say f*ck! Goodbye to that old Sanlitun dirty alley that now belongs to the memories of our youth.”

– By Manya Koetse

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©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 Food & Drinks

“A Hundred Reasons to Eat Bamboo Rats”: The Story of Two Farmers Who Became Internet Celebrities

Within days, the vlogs of two farmers using ridiculous selecting criteria for animal consumption racked millions of views.

Gabi Verberg

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In the past months, two farmers called “the Magnificent Farm Brothers” (华农兄弟) have become an internet sensation by vlogging their day-to-day life on a bamboo rat breeding farm in southern China, where these rodents are served as a delicacy. Their propensity to always find a pretext, no matter how ridiculous, for eating their own animals, has amused millions of netizens.

They are China’s most popular farmers of the past year: “The Magnificent Farm Brothers” Liu (刘) and Hu (胡).

It all started a few months ago when the two started vlogging about their day-to-day life on a bamboo rat breeding farm in Ganzhou, Jiangxi Province. The script hardly changes and is loaded with clickbait potential: Hu films his 29-year-old companion Liu doting on a cute-looking bamboo rat before finding an excuse to mercilessly execute and eat it.

Under the hashtag “A Hundred Reasons to Eat Bamboo Rats,” (#吃竹鼠的一百种理由#), with over 160 million views on Weibo, netizens have compiled countless scenes of the duet’s rat-gobbling.

There is no doubt that the comical value lies in Liu’s excuse-making. In one scene, a rat hasn’t eaten for three days due to a depression – Liu, feigning mercy, hastily concludes that he should put it out of its misery by eating it. Be it heat stroke, internal injuries, or some other health problem, Liu’s diagnosis for every rodent is always the same.

Aside from the gales of laughter incited by such provoking scenes, the duet’s vlog has also provided a business boost. In an interview with a local TV station, the two farmers stated that they started vlogging with the intention of turning the bamboo rat into a popular culinary delicacy.

Since going viral, the two farmers have been receiving orders for their bamboo rats from all over the country. The spike in demand for bamboo rat consumption has also benefited the two farmers’ co-workers – according to an article in the China Daily, the wages of other bamboo rat breeders have also increased thanks to the duet’s online following.

But the vlogs show more than just the farmer’s arbitrarily deciding which rat to kill next. To spare viewers, Liu kills the rodent off-screen, after which he resumes vlogging, explaining how to prepare a succulent meal of bamboo rat –marinate the dead rodent, stuff it with vegetables, then roast until cooked throughout.  The devouring of the meat is not left out, as viewers get to see the two farmers tuck into the so-called delicacies.

The false pretexts for animal-killing apply to anything that moves, not just bamboo rats. In one vlog, Liu catches a chicken, saying he’d better eat it since it might have caught a cold from last night’s rain. Ducks and pigs also receive a similar treatment. In some vlogs, Liu’s dogs make an appearance – but these he doesn’t eat (yet).

Netizens’ Reactions

The video channel of the “Magnificent Farm Brothers” on Bilibili, a Chinese video streaming website, has over 150 million views and 2.1 million subscribers to date.

A series of gags and memes have emerged from these viral vlogs. Some netizens joke that their own lives have a lot in common with the tragic fate of the little rodents that end up in Liu’s belly.

The text next to farmer Liu’s head reads “life” (生活) while the character on the rat reads “me” (我).

Others joke that Liu’s tendency to praise his livestock as “beautiful” or “cute” before devouring them highlights the danger of being deemed attractive, to the point where refusing to accept being complimented as good-looking is a necessary survival measure.

(Image below: “You are very beautiful!”, “No, I’m not, I’m really not, I’m not pretty.”)

One Weibo post with over 64 thousand likes reads “these are the scariest moments of my life,” followed by pictures of farmer Liu saying “you are so cute,” “I heard you got wet in the rain last night,” “I heard you got injured,” etc.

The two farmers may have become one of the biggest internet sensations this past year, but they have reacted calmly to their popularity. During a TV interview, the two commented:

At first, we were somewhat afraid that our popularity would perhaps disturb our quiet life on the farm. But fortunately, this is not the case.”

In any case, the duet has publicly expressed gratitude towards their fans, vowing to continue making videos of their skit-like, countryside life.

With animal activists nowhere to be seen, the success of the “Magnificent Farm Brothers” shows yet again the Chinese Internet’s magnetic attraction to gruesome content and irony-packed humor.

Want to judge for yourself? Check out some vlogs (no English subtitles) on Youtube here, here, or here.

By Gabi Verberg, edited by Eduardo Baptista.

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 Food & Drinks

BBC: Extreme Eating Trends and the Rise of Eating Disorders in China

The Food Chain by the BBC investigates the rise of eating disorders in China.

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The Food Chain by the BBC investigates the rise of eating disorders in China. What’s on Weibo editor Manya Koetse talks about some of China’s disturbing internet food trends in this recent episode.

The rise of eating disorders in China is the topic of a recent BBC online radio documentary episode (27 min) within the Food Chain series.

The Food Chain investigates the rise of eating disorders in China: is this an inevitable consequence of economic development? And if so, why are eating disorders still all too often seen as a rich white woman’s problem?

In the first of two episodes to explore the rising prevalence of eating disorders outside of the western world, Emily Thomas speaks to women with the illness in China and Hong Kong, who explain how hard it is to access support for binge-eating disorder, bulimia and anorexia, because of attitudes to food and weight, taboos around mental health, and a lack of treatment options. They describe the pressure on women to be ‘small’ and ‘diminutive’, but still take part in the country’s deeply entrenched eating culture.

A psychiatrist working in China’s only closed ward for eating disorders blames an abundance of food in the country, parental attitudes and the competitiveness of Chinese society. She also warns of the dangers of the uncontrolled diet pill industry. From there BBC delves into the sinister world of ‘vomit bars’ with Manya Koetse.

She tells Emily Thomas about the recent craze for live binge-eating among young Chinese women and how some of this is disturbingly followed by ‘purging’. Why do they call themselves ‘rabbits’? And why does no one use the term ‘eating disorder’ when talking about these trends?

BBC also explores the link between the rise of eating disorders and economic development. Does there need to be an abundance of food in a society before these problems develop?

To listen to a short fragment on China’s binge-eating rabbits by Manya Koetse, click here: https://www.bbc.co.uk/radio/play/p06mw03b .

To listen to the full documentary, please click here: https://www.bbc.co.uk/radio/play/p06mw03b.

Also read: Anorexia in China, and our article on Extreme Eating Trends.

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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