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The Dissertation Acknowledgement That Went Viral on Chinese Social Media

“I knew I would always remember the sacrifice my brother made for me. But looking back, it was just the first of many sacrifices my brother would make.”

Manya Koetse

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A ‘thank you’ section in a PhD thesis has gone viral on Chinese social media these days, moving many netizens to tears.

The dissertation acknowledgments by Southeast University PhD student Zhong Jitao (仲济涛) started circulating on Weibo and beyond. The thank-you section was written by the Civil Engineering PhD candidate Zhong Jitao (仲济涛), who is now an associate professor at the Shandong University of Science and Technology. It was published in People’s Daily ‘Nightly Reading’ column before it went viral.

By now, the hashtag dedicated to the dissertation acknowledgment has been viewed over 170 million times on Weibo (#这篇博士论文致谢刷屏了#).

This is a translation of the acknowledgment (translation by What’s on Weibo*):

 

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1. Studying By Heart

“My hometown is a small rural village in the east of the Shandong Peninsula. When I was young, the village saw its first PhD graduate. In the depths of my carefree childhood memories, that was one of the few intense spiritual shocks.

When I attended my second year of high school, my dad fell ill and I experienced a sudden increase in stress. By the time I was a third-year student, I started to withdraw and I didn’t feel like going to university anymore. Later I couldn’t stand to see the disappointed expressions on my family’s face and I reluctantly entered an undergraduate program. I thought I would start working as soon as I graduated from college.

Later, my dad’s condition gradually improved, and I continued my studies as a graduate student. I thought I would stop studying as soon as I’d finish graduate school, and that I would hurry to find a job to share some of the burdens with my older brother. Eventually, I still continued my studies as a PhD student. If I look back on this curious turn of events, I feel guilty about my own selfishness and callousness. Step by step up to today, if the external factor was the relentless support of my parents and brother, behind their silence, then the internal factor perhaps was that one moment of spiritual shock.

2. My Brother as Father

The grass can’t repay the kindness of the warm sun. There are not enough words to thank my parents. Besides them, I’d like to express my thanks to my brother, who is seven years older than me. Perhaps it’s because he is so many years older than me that I’ve always felt that my older brother is somewhat like a father to me.

In the third year of elementary school, my brother faced the choice of getting into senior high school or getting into a vocational secondary school. If he’d go to senior high school, he would be able to get into university, but it would take several years of studying and several years of paying tuition fees. If he’d go to vocational school, there would be less tuition fees and he could start working earlier. It would also mean he’d miss out on the chance of getting into university. Based on my brother’s grades at the time, he could’ve picked either. But to alleviate the financial burden on our family, and mostly for the future studies of me as his little brother, my big brother, without hesitation, went to vocational school at the cost of his own future.

I felt that I would always remember the sacrifice my brother made for me at this time. But looking back on how life unfolded afterward, it was just the beginning of the many sacrifices my brother would make.

Because in the second year of high school, dad fell ill, and my brother, who had just started working, took on all the burden. I didn’t see my brother tossing and turning in bed during all of the sleepless nights, I didn’t see my brother take our dad to all the big and small hospitals in the province and in the city, I just saw my brother’s eyes sinking deeper every day, I saw how he was skin and bones, how his face was as pale as paper, how his hair was disheveled and ash-colored.

And while all of this was happening, I was studying in a warm and quiet classroom, because my brother had assumed all responsibilities.

3. The Lake and Sea Come Together

If I say that besides my dad, my brother is the number one guardian angel in my life, I must also acknowledge my wife and my former classmates.

As I prepared to do my PhD in Nanjing, my then-girlfriend, now wife, just completed her master’s degree. She had to make a choice. Going back to her hometown would mean going to a different place, coming to Nanjing would mean leaving her home. While the situation had me ruminating, my wife’s ticket to Nanjing dispelled all of my worries. We got married during the first year of my PhD. My wife worked every day, I studied every day. The faculty, the dining hall, and the home were our three frontline places. Every weekend, if we weren’t busy, we would go out strolling. If I was busy with studying, my wife would keep me company at the faculty, while also pretending to be a PhD student.

Living in a place far away from home, you’ll always run into people and situations that will upset you, and sometimes you have to deal with a sense of dispiritedness and disappointment. But all the grievances, frustrations, and depressions were dissolved by my wife’s comfort.

Ever since I met my wife, I found my ultimate trust and my home in her. She gave me inner strength, but also helped me grow a sense of responsibility.

4. Don’t Forget the Original Intention

Someone said, even if you can’t change the world, you also cannot let the world change the innocent you. This is perhaps my most lucky point – although time brings great changes and is unpredictable, and I have long ceased to be innocent, I am still me, still with a grateful heart.

Recently, on my train back to school, I was chatting with my brother on WeChat about our concerns regarding dad’s health. My brother replied to me saying: we are the ones to continue our parents’ lives and spirits. The best thing we can do to repay them is to live well and to keep on going. While reading that sentence on a train filled with snoring sounds at 2AM in the morning, tears started streaming down my face. I know my brother wanted to comfort me, and he also wanted to guide me in life. What I can do is definitely not let down those who love me and have placed their hopes in me, yes, I won’t disappoint them.

Time is like electricity, it slips through our fingers like sand. From starting my PhD to defending my dissertation, like a goose’s footprint in the snow – it’s already a part of my past. It’s useless to dwell on past mistakes, but we can still change the future.

In the end, I rarely drink but I will raise my glass; one to honor my parents and the bitter hardships they faced; one to my brother’s iron shoulder; and one to my wife and her steadfast loyalty and unfailing companionship.”

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Many people on social media comment how moved they are by Zhong’s words, and some share their own experiences.

“I’m also a PhD from Shandong Peninsula,” one commenter (@xiaolei雨田) writes: “While I was studying for my PhD, my mum passed away. I always felt guilty towards my parents, and like the author, I felt that studying for my doctorate was selfish, like I was only pursuing my own goals while the people who had silently supported me were passing away. After graduation, I was determined to go back to my hometown to help and take care of the family, making up for those years of regret.”

“This acknowledgment is heartfelt and resonates with so many people,” others write.

There are also those who, while praising Zhong Jitao’s dedication, also worry about the future prospects of other PhD candidates in China who come from impoverished families who have to sacrifice so much for one degree that might not even guarantee a well-paid job in China’s current-day competitive job market.

“This really moved me,” another commenter says: “It’s not easy to complete your PhD, and there’s always people who have your back and support you. When you feel like giving up, it’s their support that keeps you going.”

If you liked this story, you might also like “I Am Fan Yusu” (我是范雨素) (Full Translation) here.

By Manya Koetse

* Please note that this is a translation by What’s on Weibo, not all parts of the text are literal translations and that some sentences have been loosely translated.

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.

©2021 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 Memes & Viral

“Bye Bye Biden”: Biden’s Many Nicknames in Chinese

Throughout the years, Biden has received many nicknames on Chinese social media.

Manya Koetse

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Our Weibo phrase of the week is Bye Bye Biden (bài bài Bàidēng 拜拜拜登). As news of Biden dropping out of the presidential race went viral on Weibo early Monday local time, it’s time to reflect on some of the popular nicknames and phrases given to US President Joe Biden on Chinese social media.

 
🔹 Biden in Chinese: Bàidēng 拜登

Biden in Chinese is generally written pronounced and written as Bàidēng 拜登. Although the character 拜 (bài) means “to pay respect, to worship” and 登 (dēng) means “to ascend, to climb,” they’re used here primarily for their phonetic similarity. The characters chosen are neutral to avoid any negative implications in the official translation of Biden’s name.

Why are non-Chinese names translated into Chinese at all? With English and Chinese being vastly different languages with entirely different phonetics and scripts, most Chinese people find it difficult to pronounce a foreign name written in English. Writing foreign names in Chinese not only standardizes them but also makes pronunciation and memorization easier for Chinese speakers.

 
🔹 Bye Biden: Bài Bài Bàidēng 拜拜拜登

Because Biden is Bàidēng, and the Chinese for ‘bye bye’ is written as bài bài 拜拜, some netizens quickly created the wordplay “bài bài Bàidēng” 拜拜拜登 (“bye bye Biden”) upon hearing that Biden would not seek reelection. Try saying it out loud—it almost sounds like you’re stammering.

 
🔹 Old Joe: Lǎo Dēng Dēng 拜拜拜登

Another common farewell greeting to Biden seen online is “bài bài lǎo dēng dēng” 拜拜老登登, which sounds cute due to the repetition of sounds.

“Old Biden” or “lǎo dēng dēng” 老登登 is a common online nickname for Biden in Chinese. The reduplication of the 登 (dēng) makes it sound playful and affectionate, while the “old” prefix is commonly used when referring to someone older. It’s similar to calling someone “Old Joe” in English.

 
🔹 Biden Variations: 拜灯, 白等, 败蹬

Let’s look at some other ways Biden is nicknamed online:

Besides the official way of writing Biden with the 拜登 Bàidēng characters, there are also other variations:

拜灯: bài dēng
白等: bái děng
败蹬: bài dèng

These alternative ways of writing Biden’s name are not neutral. Although the first variation is not necessarily negative (using the formal Biden 拜 bài character but with ‘Light’ 灯 dēng instead of the other 登 ‘dēng’), the other two variations are usually used in more negative contexts.

In 白等 (bái děng), the first character 白 (bái) means “white,” which can evoke associations with old age due to white hair (白发). The character 等 (děng) means “to wait,” and the combination can imply being old and sluggish.

败蹬 (bài dèng) is typically used by netizens to reflect negative sentiments towards the American president. The characters separately mean 败 (bài): “to be defeated,” “to fail,” and 蹬 (dèng): “to step on,” “to kick.” This would never be used by official media and is also often used by netizens to circumvent censorship around a Biden-related topic.

 
🔹 Revive the Country Biden: Bài Zhènhuá 拜振华

Then there is 拜振华 Bài Zhènhuá: revive the country Biden

In recent years, Biden has come to be referred to with the Chinese nickname “Revive the Country Biden,” also translatable as ‘Thriving China Biden’. This nickname has circulated online since 2020 and matches one previously given to former President Trump, namely “Build the Country Trump” (Chuān Jiànguó 川建国).

The idea behind these humorous monikers is that both Trump and Biden are seen as benefitting China by doing a poor job in running the United States and dealing with China.

 
🔹 Sleepy King: Shuì wáng 睡王

Shuì wáng 睡王, Sleepy King, is another common nickname, similar to the English “Sleepy Joe.” During and after the 2020 American presidential elections, there were numerous discussions on Chinese social media about ‘Trump versus Biden.’ Many saw it as a contest between the ‘King of Knowing’ (懂王) and the ‘Sleepy King’ (睡王).

These nicknames were attributed to Trump, who frequently boasted about his unparalleled understanding of various matters, and Biden, who gained notoriety for being older and tired. Viral videos, some manipulated, showed him nodding off or seemingly disoriented. The name ‘Sleepy King’ then stuck.

 
🔹 Grandpa Biden: Bài Yéyé 拜爷爷

Throughout the years, Biden has also been nicknamed Bài yéyé 拜爷爷, “Grandpa Biden.” This is usually more affectionate, though it emphasizes his age—Trump is not much younger than Biden and is not nicknamed ‘Grandpa Trump.’

Another similar nickname is lǎo bái 老白, “Old White,” referring to Biden’s age and white hair. 白 (bái, white) can also be a surname in Chinese. This nickname makes it seem like Biden is an old, familiar friend.

On Weibo, many speculate that American Vice President Kamala Harris will be the new candidate for the Democrats, especially since she’s been endorsed by Biden. Many have little confidence that she can compete against Trump. Her Chinese name is Kǎmǎlā Hālǐsī 卡玛拉·哈里斯, commonly referred to as ‘Harris’ (Hālǐsī).

In light of the latest developments, some netizens jokingly write: “Bye bye Biden, Ha ha ha, Harris.” (Bài bài, Bàidēng. Hā hā hā, Hālǐsī 拜拜,拜登。 哈哈哈,哈里斯). With a new Democratic candidate entering the presidential race, we can expect a fresh batch of creative nicknames to join the mix on Chinese social media.

Want to read more? Also read: Why Trump has Two Different Names in Chinese.

By Manya Koetse

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 Memes & Viral

Enjoying the ‘Sea’ in Beijing’s Ditan Park

This “seaview” spot in Beijing’s Ditan Park has become a new ‘check-in spot’ among Chinese Xiaohongshu users and influencers.

Manya Koetse

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“‘The sea in Ditan Park’ is a perfect example of how Xiaohongshu netizens use their imagination to change the world,” a recent viral post on Weibo said (“地坛的海”完全可以入选《红薯人用想象力颠覆世界》的案例合集了”).

The post included screenshots of the Xiaohongshu app where users share their snaps of the supposed seaview in Beijing’s Ditan Park (地坛公园).

Ditan, the Temple of Earth Park, is one of the city’s biggest public parks with tree-lined paths and green gardens in Beijing, not too far from the Lama Temple in Dongcheng District, within the Second Ring Road.

On lifestyle and social media platform Xiaohongshu, users have recently been sharing tips on where and how to get the best seaview in the park, finding a moment of tranquility in the hustle and bustle of Beijing city life.

Post on Xiaohongshu to get the seaview in Ditan Park.

But there is something peculiar about this trend. There is no sea in Ditan Park, nor anywhere else in Beijing, for that matter, as the city is located inland.

The ‘seaview’ trend comes from the view of one of the park’s stone walls. In the late afternoon, somewhere around 16pm, when the sun is not too bright, the light creates an optical illusion from a certain viewpoint in the park, making the wall behind the bench look like water.

You do have to capture the right light at the right moment, or else the effect is non-existent.

Some photos taken at other times of the day clearly show the brick wall, which actually doesn’t look like a sea at all.

Although the ‘seaview in Ditan’ trend is popular among many Xiaohongshu users and influencers who flock to the spot to get that perfect picture, there are also some social media commenters who criticize the trend of netizens always looking for the next “check-in spot” (打卡点).

There are also other spots popular on social media that look like impressive areas but are actually just optical illusions. Here are some examples:

One Weibo user suggested that this trend is actually not about people appreciating the beauty around them, but more about chasing the next social media hype.

The Ditan seaview trend is not entirely new. In May of this year, Beijing government already published a post about the “sea” in Ditan becoming more popular among social media users who especially came to the park for the special spot.

The Beijing Tourism Bureau previously referred to the spot as “the sea at Ditan Park that even Shi Tiesheng didn’t discover” (#在地坛拍到了史铁生都没发现的海#).

Shi Tiesheng (1951–2010) is a famous Chinese author from Beijing whose most well-known work, “Me and Ditan,” reflects on his experiences and contemplations in Ditan Park. At the age of 21, Shi Tiesheng suffered a spinal cord injury that left him paralyzed from the waist down. Ditan Park became a place for him to ponder life, time, and nature. Despite the author’s deep connection with the park, he never described seeing a “sea” in the walls.

Shi Tiesheng in Ditan Park.

If you are visiting Ditan Park and would like to check out the ‘sea’ yourself in the late afternoon, there are guides on Xiaohongshu explaining the route to the viewpoint. But it should not be too difficult to find this summer—just follow the crowds.

By Manya Koetse and Ruixin Zhang

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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