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China Arts & Entertainment

The Success of China’s Hit Talk Show Qi Pa Shuo (U Can U Bibi)

The fourth season of China’s most popular online talk show Qi Pa Shuo is well underway. Using trendy design and funny sound effects, the show is a fresh debate competition where Chinese celebrities and showbiz newcomers discuss contemporary social and cultural issues. Qi Pa Shuo is a new type of entertainment show especially liked by China’s post-1980s and post-1990s generations for various reasons.

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The fourth season of China’s most popular online talk show Qi Pa Shuo is well underway. Using trendy design and funny sound effects, the show is a fresh debate competition where Chinese celebrities and showbiz newcomers discuss contemporary social and cultural issues. Qi Pa Shuo is a new type of entertainment show especially liked by China’s post-1980s and post-1990s generations for various reasons.

Not a week goes by without Qi Pa Shuo (奇葩说), an online talk show competition created by iQiyi (爱奇艺), becoming the focus of discussion on Chinese social media sites. Although the show is already in its fourth season, it is now more popular than ever.

Qi Pa Shuo is a contemporary talk show concept that brings together a group of very diverse – often funny and extravagant – Chinese people to debate various topics and dilemma’s relating to, amongst others, love, marriage, family, career, and friendship.

Qi Pa Shuo was first aired in November of 2014 and still has staggering viewer ratings. The talk show is also big on Weibo, where its official page has over 1,1 million fans. Hashtags related to the show often become trending topics.

The panel of hosts/judges on Qi Pa Shuo, led by He Jiong, a key figure in China’s entertainment industry.

The huge success of the show lies in its marketing and concept as a purely online variety show that brings a somewhat sophisticated form of celebrity entertainment.

 

LET’S GET IT ONLINE: BOOMING ONLINE VIDEO MARKET

“Chinese tech giant Xiaomi paid a staggering 140 million rmb (±20 million US$) to be Qipashuo’s main sponsor.”

 

Qi Pa Shuo is an online talkshow, meaning that is created by Chinese online video portal iQiyi, where it is streamed twice a week. It is also online in the sense that the show interacts with topics that come from Chinese online social media.

Although China still has a flourishing television market, younger audiences now prefer online streaming to traditional TV channels. China has the largest online population in the world, and 88% of its internet users watch online videos, either on mobile or computer.

This percentage is higher when it comes to the younger online audiences, with 90.6% of the post-95s generation visiting video websites.

iQiyi (爱奇艺) is one of the biggest online video platforms of China. Sometimes referred to as “China’s Netflix”, iQiyi is an ad-supported video portal that offers high-definition licensed content to registered users. Apart from its online library with a myriad of movies from China and abroad, iQiyi also has its own production studio that produces films and other online content.

With the creation of Qi Pa Shuo, iQiyi has made a smart move. Since the majority of iQiyi users are born post-1980s, the program caters to the interests of that generation – not just in terms of content, but also in terms of style and fashion. The show already had 260 million views and then 300 million views in its first and second season.

The show is free to watch but is heavily sponsored; not a scene goes by without seeing product placement. Chinese tech giant Xiaomi reportedly paid a staggering 140 million rmb (±20 million US$) to be Qi Pa Shuo’s main sponsor for the fourth season. The Xiaomi brand name is visible in the show’s logo and practically everywhere else in the studio.

Qi Pa Shuo’s host He Jiong with branded content from sponsors on his desk.

Besides Xiaomi and Head & Shoulders shampoo, Chunzhen Yoghurt is also a prominent sponsor of the show, with packs of the products standing on all desks and tables.

As mentioned, the show is not just broadcasted online, it also interacts with online topics; the issues addressed in the show are selected from different online Chinese Quora-like Q&A forums such as Baidu Zhidao and Zhihu.

The most popular online topics related to love, lifestyle & career are selected to come on the show. In selecting the topics this way, the producers already know that they are of interest to a great number of netizens.

 

RIGHT TOPICS, RIGHT PEOPLE

“Is it a waste for women with a higher education to become a full-time housewife?”

 

Over the past few years, Qi Pa Shuo has seen a myriad of topics, including:

– “Is it okay to check your partner’s mobile phone?”
– “Should you have a stable career by 30 or should you chase your dreams?”
– “Can you get married without being in love?”
– “Is it a waste for women with a higher education to become a full-time housewife?”
– “Should you push your friends to return the money you borrowed them?”
– “Could you be a single mum?”
– “Should you help a school friend who is being bullied in fighting back or do you tell the teacher?”
– “Will you be happier with or without buying a house?”

Participants on the show, some being established names and others newcomers to Chinese showbiz, battle against each other in two teams in who is the best debater and who has the best Chinese speech skills. Celebrity judges or ‘mentors’ have to comment on the performance of the debaters, and debaters also have to try to convince the audience.

Qi Pa Shuo is called ‘Let’s Talk’ or ‘U Can You BiBi’ in English (the latter is a wordplay on Chinglish), but its Chinese title can be roughly translated as “Weirdo’s Say” or “Unusual Talk.” The term “Qi Pa” (奇葩) is often used to describe someone or something that is very odd or unusual. Participants on the show, both the newcomers and the well-known faces, are outspoken personalities with a special way of talking or unique fashion style.

By bringing together an eclectic group of big names and newbies, Qi Pa Shuo has the best of both worlds; it is a platform that attracts viewers because it features some of China’s most loved celebrities (host He Jiong, for example, has 83.8 million followers on Weibo), and it also keeps fans curious and attracted by introducing some new faces (Hu Tianya, Yan Rujing, Jiang Sida, etc.) – many of which have already become major celebrities themselves since the start of the show.

Presenter Shen Xia a.k.a. Dawang (1989) gained popularity after appearing on Qipashuo as a debater.

Although many of the topics discussed are frivolous and funny (“What would you do if you found an egg placed by an alien?”), the show has also seen some groundbreaking moments since it first aired.

Yan Rujing (1991) had her major breakthrough after becoming a Qi Pa Shuo debater.

In 2015, an episode on whether or not gays should come out to their parents moved many people to tears when celebrity mentor Kevin Tsai (Cai Kangyong/蔡康永) spoke openly about coming out as homosexual during his career as a Taiwanese TV host.

In an emotional speech, Tsai shared his difficult experiences of being openly gay in the showbusiness and said he hoped to convince people that “we’re not monsters.”

The show also made headlines in 2016 when internet celebrity Xi Ming a.k.a. Chao Xiaomi came on the show to talk about how it is to be gender fluid and not conform to a certain gender.

Chao Xiaomi came on the show in 2016 and discussed experiences as gender fluid individual (image via Time Out Beijing 2016).

Reactions on Chinese social media show just how alive the issues discussed in Qi Pa Shuo are, as topics adressed during the show often turn into heated discussions on Sina Weibo and other social media platforms, where netizens give their own viewpoint or discuss why they think their favorite debater is the best public speaker.

 

IMPROVING SPEECH SKILLS

“Communicating, convincing, negotiating, public speaking, debating – it is a basic skill we use in everyday life, but really mastering it is not easy.”

 

Recently, the success of Qi Pa Shuo is also often discussed in the Chinese media. According to an article by Rednet.com, one important reason why the talk show is such a hit is because young people in China are increasingly interested in debating and improving speech skills.

The Rednet article argues that Qi Pa Shuo is part of a broader talk show entertainment genre that is currently becoming more popular, showing that after online games and more superficial types of entertainment, there is now a new group of online audiences who want to see entertainment that is a bit more sophisticated and educational.

The growing interest in speech skills is also evident looking at the success of the podcasts and books on how to speak that sprang from the show, initiated by mentor Ma Dong and debater Ma Weiwei. Having good debating skills and general eloquence is seen as an asset for one’s career and social status.

Ma Weiwei (left) and Ma Dong.

“Because Qipashuo recommended this book, I simply just bought it to read it,” one netizen says on Weibo: “Who does not want to be able to speak like people such as Ma Dong or Ma Weiwei, so composed and self-assured. The book is pretty good, it teaches people how to speak well and how to say the right thing, it all makes sense. Communicating, convincing, negotiating, public speaking, debating – it is a basic skill we use in everyday life, but really mastering it is not easy.”

“How to Speak Well”, the book that have sprung from the Qi Pa Shuo programme.

On Weibo there are also vloggers like Baituola Junior (@拜托啦学妹) who take the topics as discussed in Qi Pa Shuo and make people on the streets discuss them.

These kinds of videos and trends show the rise of a generation that has a passion for speaking their mind and building strong arguments. Qi Pa Shuo further stimulates this drive by showing that anyone – girl or boy, young or old, gay or straight, goofy or trendy, celebrity or not – can be an effective and witty speaker if they put their mind to it.

Qi Pa Shuo is broadcasted every Friday and Saturday at 20.00 at iQiyi.com.

– 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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1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Alex

    May 25, 2017 at 4:36 am

    Very interesting article! Is there somewhere I can watch this with English subtitles? My Chinese is not good enough to follow yet… I’m particularly interested in Chao Xiaomi’s episode about gender fluidity

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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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