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The “Tents of Love” Phenomenon: Chinese Parents Sleep in Tents At Their Kids’ New University

At the start of a new semester, more universities across China are setting up tented camps for parents who are seeing off their college freshman children. On Chinese social media, netizens discuss if these so-called “Tents of Love” (爱心帐篷) are indeed a sign of love, or epitomize the non-independence of China’s post-1990s generation.

Manya Koetse

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At the start of a new semester, more universities across China are setting up tented camps for parents who are seeing off their college freshman children. On Chinese social media, netizens discuss if these so-called ‘tents of love’ (爱心帐篷) are indeed a sign of love, or if they epitomize the non-independence of China’s post-1990s generation.

It is the first week of the new semester at Nanjing’s Forestry University (南京林业大学). While new students are getting enrolled and settled in their dorm rooms, their parents sleep in tents in the university sports hall.

Multiple Chinese universities, from Tianjin to Guangzhou, have started to set up tented camps at the start of the semester for the families of new students. There are also schools that simply provide mattresses, blankets and an air-conditioned space for parents of freshman students.

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The so-called ‘tents of love’ (爱心帐篷) are a relatively new phenomenon in mainland China. In 2012, Tianjin University was the first to set up an indoor ‘freshman parents’ camp with 200 tents, providing air-conditioning, free water, and shower facilities.

“Tents of Compassion”

It is common for Chinese parents to accompany their child when they first go to college. They sometimes run into problems, however, when they do not have a place to stay in the place where their child studies.

Some families arrive in the middle of the night after long travels, and nearby hotels and guesthouses are often fully booked at the start of the semester. There are also many parents who simply do not have the money to pay for accommodation.

Because this would previously result in parents sleeping on benches or laying down a mattress somewhere, some Chinese universities now offer free accommodation as a sign of compassion towards their student’s parents, which is why tents are called ‘tents of love’ or ‘tents of compassion’ (爱心帐篷).

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On Sina Weibo, netizens discuss the ‘tents of love’ after several Chinese media posted about them. The news has triggered discussions about China’s post-1990s generation. Many Chinese netizens think it is not right for parents to join their kids on their first days at college, as it makes them less independent and too pampered. There are also many, however, who think it is very normal for parents to see their children off and help them get settled in during their first days at university.

Spoilt and Pampered

“I went to school all by myself ever since kindergarten. Times have changed, and these are all only children – so precious to their parents,” one netizen comments.

The students that are now going to university belong to the post-1990s or post-1995 generation, a much-discussed age group in Chinese (social) media. Sometimes loved, sometimes hated, the generation is truly unique for being born in the new modern China, growing up amidst rapid socio-economical changes.

Not only are the post-1990ers mostly only children due to China’s one-child policy, they have also grown up in relative wealth in the era of modern house appliances, computers, and mobile phones. Because they generally are used to receive a lot of attention and (financial) help from their (grand) parents, they are often perceived as ‘spoilt princesses’ or ‘little emperors‘.

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“When I started university, my parents were busy. Nobody took me. I am quite envious of these kids,” one Weibo commenter says. Others say: “I understand they might want to bring their kids there, but why do they need to stay the night?”

On A School Trip

But many netizens support the initiative to set up tented camps for parents during the first days of college, and defend the custom for families to go to the university’s enrollment days together.

As one Weibo user writes: “What’s wrong with parents seeing off their kids? Who says it is a sign of their non-independence? When I just went to university, my parents also went with me. They stayed in a hotel, I stayed in my dorm room. After the registration process was finished, we went out to see my new town and new university together. It was like a family trip. I don’t see what’s bad about that.”

There are many reasons for families to join their kids on their first days at their new school. Mostly, it is for practical and emotional support. For many students it is the first time to leave their hometown, and their parents do not want them to travel alone to a strange city.

Setting out to start their life at campus, new students also bring a lot of luggage and are not able to carry everything by themselves. As a generation that has been pampered most of their lives, many post 1990s students can also use some help in other basic matters, such as purchasing bedsheets or navigating the city. One netizen writes: “My dad also brought me to college. He arranged my bed for me and cleaned the room. He left after he gave me a map of the city.”

But besides the worries parents have about their only child going off to a new school in a new city, there is also the simple curiosity of seeing the place where their child will study for the years to come. “There are many parents who do not necessarily have the money to stay at a hotel, but sending their kids off to college might be one of the very few chances for them to travel outside their hometowns,” one Weibo netizen says.

Another person remarks: “Parents also go because they want to travel a bit, have a look at the university their kid will be studying at, and walk around to see the scenery there. There’s nothing wrong with that.”

No Parents Allowed

In some cases, families are so proud of their college-going kid that they arrive at the university with grandparents, uncles, aunts and cousins. As Quartz magazine reported, one family arrived at Anhui University with a group of 14 last year. The school even put the family picture on social media.

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But not everybody is happy with new students’ entourage, and tell them not to bring them. “My university says we have to come alone,” one female netizen comments: “Parents are not allowed to come. But I am a girl with many things and I can’t carry it alone. I am also going to a strange city. So I’ll let my dad come with me. My mum also insisted on coming, but I told her no. Her eyes teared up. But there’s nothing I can do.”

For most netizens, however, parents joining their children for their first days of college is nothing but normal. As one female netizen from Henan says: “The people who hate on these parents bringing their kids to university are crazy. Some students have to cross the entire country before they can study. Some have had very little contact with the outside world before going off to college. It’s only normal for parents to worry about them and coming along, and also it is a chance for them to make a trip. It’s just very good.”

– By Manya Koetse

©2016 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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China and Covid19

The ‘Blank White Paper Protest’ in Beijing and Online Discussions on “Outside Forces”

As people in Beijing, Shanghai, and other places take to the streets holding up white papers, some have dubbed this the “A4 Revolution.”

Manya Koetse

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A majority of social media commenters support those who have recently taken to the streets, using blank sheets as a sign of protest against censorship and stringent Covid measures. But there are also online voices warning Chinese young people not to be influenced by ‘external forces.’

Over the past few days, there have been scenes of unrest and protest movements in various places across China.

While there were protests in Shanghai for the second night in a row, Beijing also saw crowds gathering around the Liangmahe area in the city’s Chaoyang District on Sunday night.

Some videos showed crowds softly singing the song “Farewell” (送别) in commemoration of those who lost their lives during the deadly inferno in Urumqi.

Later, people protested against stringent Covid measures.

“The crowds at Liangmahe are amazing,” some people on Weibo commented.

Photos and videos coming from the area showed how people were holding up blank sheets of white paper.

Earlier this weekend, students in Nanjing and Xi’an also held up blank paper sheets in protest of censorship and as the only ‘safe’ way to say what could otherwise not be said. This form of protest also popped up during the Hong Kong protests, as also described in the recent book by Louisa Lim (Indelible City: Dispossession and Defiance in Hong Kong).

The recurring use of blank paper sheets led to some dubbing the protests an “A4 Revolution.”

“When can we have freedom of speech? Maybe it can start at Beijng’s Liangmahe,” one person on Weibo wrote on Sunday night.

Another Beijing-based netizen wrote: “Before going to sleep I saw what was happening in Liangmahe on my WeChat Moments and then I looked at Weibo and saw that the Xicheng area had added 279 new Covid cases. I started thinking about my own everyday life and the things I am doing. I can’t help but feel a sense of isolation, because I can’t fight and do not dare to raise my voice.”

“I didn’t dare to believe this is happening in 2022. I didn’t dare to believe this is happening in Beijing. I do not dare to believe that again it will all have been useless tomorrow morning,” one Weibo user commented.

During the night, various people at the scene shouted out things such as “we want to go out and work,” and other hopes they have. One person yelled: “I want to go out and see a movie!”

“I want to go and see a movie.”

The phrase “I wanna go watch a movie” (“我要看电影”) was also picked up on social media, with some people commenting : “I am not interested in political regimes, I just want to be able to freely see a movie.” “I want to see a movie! I want to sit in a cinema and watch a movie! I want to watch a movie that is uncensored!”

Despite social media users showing a lot of support for students and locals standing up and making their voices heard, not everyone was supportive of this gathering in Beijing. Some suggested that since Liangmahe is near Beijing’s foreign embassy district, there must be some evil “foreign forces” meddling and creating unrest.

Others expressed that people were starting to demand too many different things instead of solely focusing on China’s zero Covid policies, losing the momentum of the original intention of the protest.

Political commentator Hu Xijin (胡锡进) also posted about the recent unrest on his Weibo account on Sunday night:

The people have the right to express their opinions, and you may have good and honest aspirations and have the intention to express legitimate demands. But I want to remind you that many things have their own rules, and when everyone participates in the movement, its direction might become very difficult for ordinary participants to continue to control, and it can easily to be used or even hijacked by separate forces, which may eventually turn into a flood that destroys all of our lives.”

Hu also called on people to keep striving to solve existing problems, but to stay clear-headed, suggesting that it is important for the people and the government to maintain unity in this challenging time.

The term “outside forces” or “external forces” (外部势力) increasingly popped up in social media discussions on late Sunday night.

“I worry a lot of meddling by external forces. Let’s be vigilant of a color revolution. I just hope things will get better,” one netizen from Hubei wrote.

“Young people should not be incited by a few phrases and blindly follow. Everyone will approve of people rationally defending their rights, but stay far away from color revolutions.”

The idea that foreign forces meddle in Chinese affairs for their own agenda has come up various times over the past years, during the Hong Kong protests but also during small-scale protests, such as a local student protest in Chengdu in 2021.

The term “color revolution” is recurring in these kind of discussions, with some netizens suggesting that foreign forces, such as the CIA, are trying to get local people to cause unrest through riots or demonstrations to undermine the stability of the government.

“It’s not always external forces, it can also just be opposition,” one person on Weibo replied: “In every country you’ll have different opinions.”

“What outside forces?” another commenter said: “I’m not an external force! I am just completely fed up with the Covid measures!”

Read more about the “11.24” unrest in China here.

By Manya Koetse , with contributions by Miranda Barnes

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China and Covid19

Tribute to Urumqi at Shanghai’s Wulumqi Road

In Shanghai, people paid tribute to the victims of the Ulumqi fire by lighting candles, and also found other ways to vent their frustrations.

Manya Koetse

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Image by @导筒directube

It has been a restless Saturday night in several places across China. Following the unrest in Urumqi after a devastating fire, various places across the country have seen people gathering, chanting together, and taking their anger to the streets.

There is anger about excessive Covid measures, long lockdowns, and how it has all brought suffering to many people.

One place where people gathered is Shanghai’s Wulumuqi Road, a street named after Urumqi (it is actually ‘Urumqi Road’ but the English name is commonly spelled as Wulumuqi).

In Shanghai, people paid tribute to the victims of the Urumqi fire by lighting candles, but also found other ways to vent frustrations related to the current Covid measures.

Some at the scene, for example, wore face masks with ‘404’ written on them – referring to the recurring online censorship in light of various epidemic-related incidents (404 is the common error code given when a page or file can no longer be found).

They also chanted for “freedom,” told the Covid QR ‘venue codes’ to go f*ck themselves, sang the The Internationale in Chinese, and held up white papers in protest (this has been a recurring sign of protest).

On Weibo, there was a flood of comments related to the Shanghai gathering.

“Don’t let history repeat itself. Please, everybody, protect yourself, go home and rest in time, remember this passion of yours and change your surrounding by following your own goals.”

Although social media users showed support for the protest in Shanghai, a majority of commenters also were worried about people placing themselves in harm’s way, reminding those on the streets to “protect themselves” no matter what.

After 3:00 AM, local time, Weibo shut down live commenting on the Shanghai topic.

On Twitter, Shanghai-based journalist Eva Rammeloo (@eefjerammeloo) reported that around 4:00 am local time, police reinforcement arrived at the scene to disperse the crowds, with some people allegedly being arrested.

“We’re all mourning Urumqi in our own ways,” one person on Weibo commented: “I think you’re really brave.”

Read more about the “11.24” unrest in China here.

By Manya Koetse 

If you appreciate what we do, please subscribe here or support us by donating.

Featured image by @导筒directube

 

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