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China Memes & Viral

Meet China’s Latest Internet Celebrity: The “Vagrant Shanghai Professor” (上海流浪大师)

He is the latest online sensation in China, but what is this hype really about?

Gabi Verberg

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Over the past month, the popular short-video app Douyin flooded with videos of the so-called “Vagrant Shanghai Professor” (上海流浪大师), who has conquered the hearts of millions of Chinese netizens. His fans are determined to make the Shanghai drifter more famous, regardless of his own wishes.

It has been nine years since “Brother Sharp” (犀利哥), a homeless man from Ningbo, became an online hit in China for his fashionable and handsome appearance. Now, another homeless man, this time from Shanghai, has become an internet sensation for his poise, wisdom, and modesty.

‘Brother Sharp’ became an online hit in 2009 (image via Chinasmack).

It all started about three weeks ago when an online video of a homeless man who eloquently discusses literature and philosophy went viral on Chinese social media, receiving millions of views within a time span of just three days. The man was nicknamed the “Vagrant Shanghai Professor” (上海流浪大师).

Soon, more information about the man’s identity started making its rounds on the internet. The “Vagrant Professor” is named Shen Wei (沈巍), a 52-year-old who was born and raised in Shanghai. Shen reportedly once worked as a civil servant at the Shanghai’s Xuhui District Audit Bureau, before he took sick leave and started roaming the streets anonymously for more than twenty years.

Persistent rumors started circulating the internet, suggesting that Shen once graduated from the prestigious Fudan University in Shanghai and that he became a vagrant after his wife and daughter had died in a car crash. Despite Shen himself repeatedly denying these claims, the rumors kept appearing in articles and on social media.

Whether he likes it or not, Shen’s quiet days of reading books and collecting garbage are now seemingly over. Within a few days after the first video of Shen went viral, hundreds of people began searching for him near Shanghai’s Gaoke West Road, the place where he usually stays, hoping to catch a glimpse of the ‘Vagrant Professor’ and take a selfie with him.

Hundreds of photos and videos of Chen started flooding the internet, all showing the same image: Shen surrounded by people, holding their phones in his face.

Shen became a true social media phenomenon, even receiving attention outside of China, with both BBC and Washington Post reporting about this man’s sudden rise to fame.

For Shen, his online celebrity status has come at a price. When the crowds became too big, the Shanghai police had to intervene and escort him out of his shelter. While the police were trying to bring Shen to safety, people were still taking his picture and tried touching him. One woman even held up a cardboard sign saying: “Vagrant Professor, I want to marry you.”

Over the past week, Shen hasn’t been seen out in public. Some recent photos of Chen show that he had an apparent makeover when attending a class reunion that was specially organized for him by his former classmates.

As the hype around the ‘Vagrant Professor’ is slowly quieting down, more critical responses to Chen’s sudden fame are surfacing on Chinese social media, asking who this hype really is about in the end.

Many netizens question the invasion of Chen’s privacy, saying that this craze was not so much about Chen himself but more about people’s needs for a dramatic and touching story, and social media users’ greed for more clicks and likes for themselves through Chen. These so-called “like hunters” will try to get as many ‘likes’ as possible to make them feel good about themselves.

Commenters also point out that if it would have been about Chen himself, his ‘fans’ should have left him alone as he requested. Instead, they disrupted his life so drastically that he had to leave the streets he once called home.

On Weibo, one person wrote: “This is how I see it: all these people who took his photo are the real beggars, begging for likes.”

Other people wrote: “Society has gone mad,” and: “Even if you don’t want to be famous, they will just make you famous.”

The fashionable beggar ‘Brother Sharp’ who rose to fame in 2009 initially benefited from his overnight stardom. He received help from social workers, but once he looked like a ‘regular person’ again, people lost interest in him.

Brother Sharp after his makeover.

According to a recent media report, ‘Brother Sharp’ has, again, lost contact with his family and might be back on the street, anonymous this time. Perhaps the story of the ‘Vagrant Professor’ will see a similar ending once the hype has blown over.

By Gabi Verberg, edited by Manya Koetse

Spotted a mistake or want to add something? Please let us know in comments below or email us.

©2019 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com

Gabi Verberg is a Business graduate from the University of Amsterdam who has worked and studied in Shanghai and Beijing. She now lives in Amsterdam and works as a part-time translator, with a particular interest in Chinese modern culture and politics.

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2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Pierre

    April 16, 2019 at 7:27 am

    One new Buzz, interesting actually.
    I do not see what they are promoting, maybe a new KOL account.
    What do you think Gabi?

  2. Avatar

    Rod

    February 14, 2020 at 9:49 am

    It is a nice story, I really like it . Even if is fake(or storytelling) it is a nice message for the young generation of Chinese. And good inspiration for personal Branding.

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China Memes & Viral

Train Fight Between Chinese and Foreign Passenger over Mask-Wearing Goes Viral on Douyin

A video that shows a foreign man yelling at a Chinese woman on the high-speed train has gone viral on Chinese social media.

Manya Koetse

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“She is not the owner of the train! Shut up!” A short video of a quarrel on a train between a foreign man and a Chinese woman has gone viral on Chinese social media.

In the video, a Chinese woman can be heard yelling to a foreign man, saying: “Why can he go without a face mask?! Does he have special privilege? What is he doing in China if he doesn’t follow the rules?” The man then says: “She needs to shut up, she is harassing me!” A train attendant standing in between the passenger seats tries to calm down both passengers.

The incident reportedly took place on the G7530 high-speed train from Ninghai to Shanghai on May 5, where a dispute started over the man allegedly refusing to wear a face mask. The man does wear a face mask in the video.

The video went viral on Douyin, the Chinese TikTok, and also made its rounds on Kuaishou and Weibo (#阿姨怒怼不戴口罩外籍乘客#, #外籍男子未戴口罩还狂怼邻座阿姨#, #官方回应老外乘高铁拒戴口罩#).

The video sparked some anti-foreign sentiments on Weibo, where some commenters called the man a “foreign devil” or “foreign trash,” with others condemning his aggressive behavior and telling him to get out of China.

Shanghai Railways addressed the incident on its social media channel, confirming that the train conductor on the G7530 train indeed came across two passengers arguing because the foreign man was not wearing his mask correctly. In the post, the railways reminded all passengers to properly wear their masks while on the train.

Among the hundreds of people commenting on the statement, there are many who feel the train staff have been too lenient with the passenger.

This is not the first incident where foreigners make it to the (local) news in China for not wearing a mask. In April of 2020, a foreign man was detained in Beijing after he attempted to walk into a neighborhood community without a mask and then became aggressive with local security guards who wanted him to wear a face mask.

In December of 2020, another foreign man was filmed and triggered online anger as he walked around Wenzhou station not wearing a face mask, without anyone reminding him to wear one.

When it comes to train fights, the most famous ones are that of the ‘high speed train tyrant’ and the ‘train tyrant women.’ Both passengers went viral in 2018 for refusing to give up their seats although they were assigned to other passengers. At the time, both passengers were fined for their unruly behavior.

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.

©2021 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

Dancing Schoolgirl from Xi’an Becomes Viral Hit

This 10-year-old girl from Xi’an is taking over the internet with her boyish looks, confidence, and cool moves.

Manya Koetse

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A 10-year-old schoolgirl from Xi’an, Shaanxi Province, has become a viral hit on Chinese social media for her bold dance moves.

The girl, who is named Zhang Xinran (张忻然), became instantly famous this week when a video showing her dancing in the classroom on April 24 spread on social media. The girl’s strong moves, short haircut, and confidence attracted the attention of netizens on Douyin and beyond.

On Weibo, one page dedicated to the topic received over 120 million views over the past few days.

According to Xinran’s mother, the young girl has been confident ever since she was little. Xinran also models and previously walked the catwalk in children’s fashion shows. Xinran is active on Douyin (TikTok), where she’s had an account since 2017.

Although many people online are raving about the young girl’s star quality, there are also those who worry that her sudden rise to online fame could do her more harm than good. Stories of children who went viral on social media do not always end well, as the recent example of the ‘Little Jack Ma’ shows. Some also think that Xiran’s dance moves are “inappropriate.”

Nevertheless, many people are hoping to see Xinran perform on stage. “She is so confident and natural,” some say: “I would definitely buy a ticket to see her perform. “This girl is cool.”

Other people comment on the fact that the girl has short hair. “I was ridiculed at school for having short hair,” one female Weibo user writes: “It’s good to see these esthetics are changing and are more diversified now.”

In 2005, ‘Supergirl’ Li Yuchun was one of the first female pop stars in China to become famous for her boyish appearance, which was a major part of her success. Li was often called ‘handsome’ rather than ‘pretty.’

Many people are now also calling the little Xiran a ‘handsome girl.’

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.

©2021 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

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