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China Arts & Entertainment

Top 5: The Highlights of China’s 2023 CGM Spring Festival Gala

From satire to tear-jerking songs, these are five favorite performances of the 2023 Chinese ‘Chunwan’ Spring Festival Gala.

Manya Koetse

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On January 21, China’s annual Spring Festival Gala was aired, welcoming the Year of the Rabbit. Better known as the ‘Chunwan’ (春晚, short for 春节联欢晚会), the annual Chinese New Year’s show hosted by the China Media Group has a massive viewership and plays an important role in China’s media landscape and the Chinese New Year tradition.

The show lasted for more than four hours and included forty different acts, from songs to comical plays and acrobatic performances.

As every year, the show became a top trending topic on Chinese social media and afterward, with people discussing their most favorite and least favorite acts of the night in various threads on Weibo (#你最喜欢哪个春晚节目#).

What is noteworthy is that the parts of the show many expressed they loved the most were not necessarily the most spectacular acts, like the acrobatic or martial arts ones, but the most relatable and traditional ones.

Overall, this year’s Gala was also less focused on enormous spectacles such as those we’ve seen in the past (like the 540 dancing robots one), but instead focused on themes such as family, flowers, classical culture and common people, while using various innovative technologies to bring a super-modern and festive vibe to the more traditional performances. Instead of showing performances from various venues across the country, as in previous pre-Covid years, the entire show took place at the main CCTV Studio in Beijing.

For an overview of the entire show, check out our liveblog here. The following five performances/programs are among those that are mentioned the most by social media users as their favorite parts of the show.

 

#1 Comical Skit “Pit” (坑)

The comical skit that received the most attention on Chinese social media was one titled “Hole” or “Pit” (坑). The act featured Chinese comedian Shen Teng (沈腾), actress Ma Li (马丽), the multi-talented Chang Yuan (常远), and actors Ai Lun (艾伦), Song Yuan (宋阳), and Yu Jian (于健).

The short comical play is about a local authority office and their delay in fixing a hole in the road that has been there for months without anybody doing anything about it, despite it forming a danger to children, the elderly, and everybody else.

The skit is about the local official Mr. Hao (郝主任) of the transport office who has been evading his responsibilities and is shifting the blame to others. When Ms. Ma comes to the office to complain about the hole in the street, Hao does not realize she is actually the new office director until it is too late.

The skit was praised for being in sync with the times, and many commenters felt it was a “real” and “bold” way to criticize local officials who care more about their own positions than looking after people. One hashtag about the comical skit received over 97 million views on Weibo (#沈腾马丽小品坑完整版#).

See this performance here.

 

#2 Garden Full of Flowers (满庭芳·国色)

This stunning performance is called “Courtyard of Beauty, Colors of A Nation” (满庭芳·国色). Chinese actress Zhao Liying (赵丽颖) is the main singer, and she was joined on stage by the talented performers Tang Shiyi (唐诗逸), Wang Nianci (王念慈), Jiang Aidong (姜爱东), Li Yiran (李祎然), and Su Hailu (苏海陆).

The power of this performance mostly lies in how it combines Chinese traditional culture with modern technologies (such as VR, XR), which were a major part of the Gala’s stage this year. Chinese traditional instruments, melodies, customs, ink painting, and colors are combined with modern lights, shadow technology, and an innovative virtual presentation.

The performance is very popular on Chinese social media, where most agreed that the color explosions on screen (pink, cream, yellow/orange, blue, brown) were just really beautiful.

See this performance here.

 

#3 It’s Mother and Daughter (是妈妈是女儿)

Some people in the audience teared up during this song titled “It’s Mother and Daughter” (是妈妈是女儿), and many netizens also wrote that the song struck a chord with them. The song was composed by Qian Lei (钱雷) and the lyrics are by Tang Tian (唐恬).

The song tells the story of a mother and a daughter, and it starts with Chongqing-born singer Huang Qishan (aka Susan Huang 黄绮珊) as the mother, seated in the family home kitchen area, singing about how the process of being a mother also means learning to let go, and how she cried the first time her daughter went to school. Huang Qishan is a 54-year-old Chinese musician who has won several ‘best female singer’ awards.

The next “dear mum” part is then sung by the Beijing-born Curley Gao (希林娜依·高), who is performing as the daughter who is out on a train traveling, and admits she silently cried the first time she left home. The 24-year-old singer has a Uighur first name because her mum is from Xinjiang (her dad is Han Chinese from Beijing). Although she is known as ‘Curley’ in English, her actual first name is transcribed as Shirinay (Xilinnayi). She rose to fame due to her participation in the “Sing! China” talent show.

The song is about the bond between mother and daughter, about how the daughter is learning to find her way in life while the mother is learning how to accept that she cannot always be there to help her, but both really miss each other and want nothing but the best for each other in a life that is constantly changing.

While the song just sticks with you, many commenters also said the lyrics really touched them and the performance by Huang and Gao was convincing and moving.

See this performance here.

 

#4 As Beautiful as Brocade (锦绣)

This beautiful dance featuring main dancer Li Qian (李倩) and the Beijing Art Troupe is actually part of the dance drama Five Stars Rise in the East, which is set in the Han Dynasty (206 BC-AD 220) and is inspired by the precious ‘Five Stars Rise in the East’ brocade unearthed in Xinjiang.

On social media, one word keeps coming up when people say this was among their favorite acts of the night: “Breathtaking.”

See this performance here.

 

#5 No Worries when Flowers Blossom (花开忘忧)

Zhou Shen (周深) is singing this song (“花开忘忧”), with performances by Li Guangfu (李光复) and Sun Guitian (孙桂田).

Zhou Shen, also known as Charlie Zhou, is a very popular award-winning Chinese singer who first rose to fame after participating in “The Voice of China,” like many other younger singers who also appeared on the 2023 Spring Festival Gala, and for singing the theme song “Big Fish” for the 2016 Chinese animation film Big Fish and Begonia (大鱼海棠).

During this Gala performance, Zhou was singing the song while in the background we see an elderly loving couple sitting together in their living room, enjoying the flowers and looking through old photo albums. Zhou’s song is about love always finding its way through time and space.

Many people liked this performance because of Zhou’s warm singing voice and the positive message of the song.

See this performance here.

Another very popular part of the show was the mini-movie titled “Me and my Spring Festival Night” (“我和我的春晚”), which we will feature in an upcoming article, so stay tuned!

For more about the show and to see our liveblog, check this link.
For more about the Chinese Spring Festival Gala, see our other articles here.

By Manya Koetse 

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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.

©2023 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

Chengdu Disney: The Quirkiest Hotspot in China

How a senior activity park in Chengdu was ‘Disneyfied’ and became a viral hotspot.

Manya Koetse

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How did a common park turn into a buzzing hotspot? By mixing online trends with real-life fun, blending foreign styles with local charm, and adding a dash of humor and absurdity, Chengdu now boasts its very own ‘Chengdu Disney’. We explain the trend.

By Manya Koetse, co-authored by Ruixin Zhang

Have you heard about Chengdu Disney yet? If not, it’s probably unlike anything you’d imagine. It’s not actually a Disney theme park opening up in Chengdu, but it’s one of the city’s most viral hotspots these days.

What is now known as ‘Chengdu Disney’ all over the Chinese internet is actually a small outdoor park in a residential area in Chengdu’s Yulin area, which also serves as the local senior fitness activity center.

Crowds of young people are coming to this area to take photos and videos, hang out, sing songs, cosplay, and be part of China’s internet culture in an offline setting.

 
Once Upon a Rap Talent Show
 

The roots of ‘Chengdu Disney’ can be traced back to the Chinese hip-hop talent show The Rap of China (中国新说唱), where a performer named Nuomi (诺米), also known as Lodmemo, was eliminated by Chinese rapper Boss Shady (谢帝 Xièdì), one of the judges on the show.

Nuomi felt upset about the elimination and a comment made by his idol mentor, who mistakenly referred to a song Nuomi made for his ‘grandma’ instead of his grandfather. His frustration led to a viral livestream where he expressed his anger towards his participation in The Rap of China and Boss Shady.

However, it wasn’t only his anger that caught attention; it was his exaggerated way of speaking and mannerisms. Nuomi, with his Sichuan accent, repeatedly inserted English phrases like “y’know what I’m saying” and gestured as if throwing punches.

His oversized silver chain, sagging pants, and urban streetwear only reinforce the idea that Nuomi is trying a bit too hard to emulate the fashion style of American rappers from the early 2000s, complete with swagger and street credibility.

Lodmemo emulates the style of American rappers in the early 2000s, and he has made it his brand.

Although people mocked him for his wannabe ‘gangsta’ style, Nuomi embraced the teasing and turned it into an opportunity for fame.

He decided to create a diss track titled Xiè Tiān Xièdì 谢天谢帝, “Thank Heaven, Thank Emperor,” a word joke on Boss Shady’s name, which sounds like “Shady” but literally means ‘Thank the Emperor’ in Chinese. A diss track is a hip hop or rap song intended to mock someone else, usually a fellow musician.

In the song, when Nuomi disses Boss Shady (谢帝 Xièdì), he raps in Sichuan accent: “Xièdì Xièdì wǒ yào diss nǐ [谢帝谢帝我要diss你].” The last two words, namely “diss nǐ” actually means “to diss you” but sounds exactly like the Chinese word for ‘Disney’: Díshìní (迪士尼). This was soon picked up by netizens, who found humor in the similarity; it sounded as if the ‘tough’ rapper Nuomi was singing about wanting to go to Disney.

Nuomi and his diss track, from the music video.

Nuomi filmed the music video for this diss track at a senior activity park in Chengdu’s Yulin subdistrict. The music video went viral in late March, and led to the park being nicknamed the ‘Chengdu Disney.’

The particular exercise machine on which Nuomi performed his rap quickly became an iconic landmark on Douyin, as everyone eagerly sought to visit, sit on the same see-saw-style exercise machine, and repeat the phrase, mimicking the viral video.

What began as a homonym led to people ‘Disneyfying’ the park itself, with crowds of visitors flocking to the park, some dressed in Disney-related costumes.

This further developed the concept of a Chengdu ‘Disney’ destination, turning the park playground into the happiest place in Yulin.

 
Chengdu: China’s Most Relaxed Hip Hop Hotspot
 

Chengdu holds a special place in China’s underground hip-hop scene, thanks to its vibrant music culture and the presence of many renowned Chinese hip-hop artists who incorporate the Sichuan dialect into their songs and raps.

This is one reason why this ‘Disney’ meme happened in Chengdu and not in any other Chinese city. But beyond its musical significance, the playful spirit of the meme also aligns with Chengdu’s reputation for being an incredibly laid-back city.

In recent years, the pursuit of a certain “relaxed feeling” (sōngchígǎn 松弛感) has gained popularity across the Chinese internet. Sōngchígǎn is a combination of the word for “relaxed,” “loose” or “lax” (松弛) and the word for “feeling” (感). Initially used to describe a particular female aesthetic, the term evolved to represent a lifestyle where individuals strive to maintain a relaxed demeanor, especially in the face of stressful situations.

 

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The concept gained traction online in mid-2022 when a Weibo user shared a story of a family remaining composed when their travel plans were unexpectedly disrupted due to passport issues. Their calm and collected response inspired the adoption of the “relaxed feeling” term (also read here).

Central to embodying this sense of relaxation is being unfazed by others’ opinions and avoiding unnecessary stress or haste out of fear of judgment.

Nowadays, Chinese cities aim to foster this sense of sōngchígǎn. Not too long ago, there were many hot topics suggesting that Chengdu is the most sōngchí 松弛, the most relaxed city in China.

This sentiment is reflected in the ‘Chengdu Disney’ trend, which both pokes fun at a certain hip-hop aesthetic deemed overly relaxed—like the guys who showed up with sagging pants—and embraces a carefree, childlike silliness that resonates with the city’s character and its people.

Mocking sagging pants at ‘Chengdu Disney.’

Despite the influx of visitors to the Chengdu Disney area, authorities have not yet significantly intervened. Community notices urging respect for nearby residents and the presence of police officers to maintain order indicate a relatively hands-off approach. For now, it seems most people are simply enjoying the relaxed atmosphere.

 
Being Part of the Meme
 

An important aspect that contributes to the appeal of Chengdu Disney is its nature as an online meme, allowing people to actively participate in it.

Scenes from Chengdu Disney, images via Weibo.

China has a very strong meme culture. Although there are all kinds of memes, from visual to verbal, many Chinese memes incorporate wordplay. In part, this has to do with the nature of Chinese language, as it offers various opportunities for puns, homophones, and linguistic creativity thanks to its tones and characters.

The use of homophones on Chinese social media is as old as Chinese social media itself. One of the most famous examples is the phrase ‘cǎo ní mǎ’ (草泥马), which literally means ‘grass mud horse’, but is pronounced in the same way as the vulgar “f*ck your mother” (which is written with three different characters).

In the case of the Chengdu Disney trend, it combines a verbal meme—stemming from the ‘diss nǐ’ / Díshìní homophone—and a visual meme, where people gather to pose for videos/photos in the same location, repeating the same phrase.

Moreover, the trend bridges the gap between the online and offline worlds, as people come together at the Chengdu playground, forming a tangible community through digital culture.

The fact that this is happening at a residential exercise park for the elderly adds to the humor: it’s a Chengdu take on what “urban” truly means. These colorful exercise machines are a common sight in Chinese parks nationwide and are actually very mundane. Transforming something so normal into something extraordinary is part of the meme.

A 3D-printed model version of the exercise equipment featured in Nuomi’s music video.

Lastly, the incorporation of the Disney element adds a touch of whimsy to the trend. By introducing characters like Snow White and Mickey Mouse, the trend blends American influences (hip-hop, Disney) with local Chengdu culture, creating a captivating and absurd backdrop for a viral phenomenon.

For some people, the pace in which these trends develop is just too quick. On Weibo, one popular tourism blogger (@吴必虎) wrote: “The viral hotspots are truly unpredictable these days. We’re still seeing buzz around the spicy hot pot in Gansu’s Tianshui, meanwhile, a small seesaw originally meant for the elderly in a residential community suddenly turns into “Chengdu Disneyland,” catching the cultural and tourism authorities of Sichuan and even Shanghai Disneyland off guard. Netizens are truly powerful, even making it difficult for me, as a professional cultural tourism researcher, to keep up with them.”

By Manya Koetse, co-authored by Ruixin Zhang

Independently reporting China trends for over a decade. Like what we do? Support us and get the story behind the hashtag by subscribing:

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 Music

The Chinese Viral TikTok Song Explained (No, It’s Not About Samsung)

The viral Chinese ‘Samsung’ Tiktok song is also not about cheating or getting back with your ex.

Manya Koetse

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Over the past few days, a Chinese song ‘challenge’ has been going viral on TikTok, with various TikTokers from America and beyond mastering the phonetics of a Mandarin song, lip-syncing it and delivering their own dramatic performance.

TikTok user Ajibola Olalekan posted the popular part of the song on March 16, receiving over 71k likes within two weeks, with various TikTokers using the sound for their own videos, some receiving millions of views (watch).

TikTok creator Emily, also known as Maverickmother, lip-synced the song from her car, writing: “Admit to your husband you were wrong and apologize or sing in Chinese..”

The popular video maker Azz (@theofficial_azz) also posted a video of himself singing the song, writing: “Admit you were wrong or sing in Chinese.”

TV host and content creator Mark Odea took things a bit further and put on a dramatic performance of himself lip-syncing the song, writing: “I didn’t realize this song was in English.” According to his interpretation of the song, the lyrics go like this:

Woman cheat
So true in shit sun sun
Would you lie? you shout It’s over Ya
But you are now women itchy
Loud loud itchy ya
Woman cheat send some d
Ching eat chang

While some think the song is about cheating or getting back with your ex, others also refer to this song as the “Chinese Samsung song,” because they believe the singer is singing about ‘Samsung.’ It’s actually the word cāngsāng (沧桑) they’re hearing, meaning ‘great changes’ or ‘ups and downs.’

The Chinese song in question is “This Life’s Fate” (今生缘) by the Beijing-born singer Chuan Zi (川子, real name Jiang Yachuan 姜亚川, born in 1969). Released in 2009, it is one of his most famous songs, which is about life and friendship.

The part of the song that has recently gone viral on TikTok is as follows:

我们今生注定是沧桑
Wǒmen jīnshēng zhùdìng shì cāngsāng
哭着来要笑着走过呀
Kūzhe lái yào xiàozhe zǒuguò ya
朋友啊让我们一起牢牢铭记呀
Péngyǒu a ràng wǒmen yìqǐ láo láo míngjì ya
我们今生兄弟情谊长
Wǒmen jīnshēng xiōngdì qíngyì cháng

“Our lives are destined to be full of change
We cried when we came [into this world], let’s leave with a smile
My friend, let’s remember very well
We’ll always be like brothers in this life”

By now, the Tiktok trend of foreigners pouring their hearts into mastering a song they may not even understand has also attracted attention on Chinese social media, where many netizens are enjoying the spectacle.

“The feelings of a ‘straight guy’ are just universal,” one top commenter writes (the word used is ‘Zhinan’ 直男, originally referring to heterosexual males, but then came to refer to an entire category of men in China).

“They may not get the exact meaning of the song, but the emotion is there,” others say.

The song, filled with nostalgia, contemplates life and death, emphasizing our shared journey and finding solace in companionship.

If you want to master the entire song yourself, here are the full lyrics (see full song here):

我们今生有缘在路上
Wǒmen jīnshēng yǒu yuán zài lùshàng
In this life, we are destined to be on this journey

只要我们彼此永不忘
Zhǐyào wǒmen bǐcǐ yǒng bù wàng
If only we never forget each other

朋友啊,让我们一起牢牢铭记呀
Péngyǒu a, ràng wǒmen yīqǐ láoláo míngjì ya
My friend, let’s remember very well

别在乎那一些忧和伤
Bié zàihu, nà yīxiē yōu hé shāng
Don’t mind about all that worry and pain

我们今生注定是沧桑
Wǒmen jīnshēng zhùdìng shì cāngsāng
Our lives are destined to be full of change

哭着来要笑着走过呀
Kūzhe lái yào xiàozhe zǒuguò ya
We cried when we came [into this world], let’s leave with a smile

朋友啊,让我们一起牢牢铭记呀
Péngyǒu a, ràng wǒmen yīqǐ láoláo míngjì ya.
My friend, let’s remember very well

我们今生兄弟情谊长
Wǒmen jīnshēng xiōngdì qíngyì cháng
We’ll always be like brothers in this life

朋友啊,让我们一起牢牢铭记呀
Péngyǒu a, ràng wǒmen yīqǐ láoláo míngjì ya
My friend, let’s remember very well

我们今生有缘在路上
Wǒmen jīnshēng yǒu yuán zài lùshàng
In this life, we are destined to be on this journey

只要我们彼此永不忘
Zhǐyào wǒmen bǐcǐ yǒng bù wàng
As long as we never forget each other.

朋友啊,让我们一起牢牢铭记呀
Péngyǒu a, ràng wǒmen yīqǐ láoláo míngjì ya
My friend, let’s remember very well

别在乎,那一些忧和伤
Bié zàihu, nà yīxiē yōu hé shāng
Don’t mind about all that worry and pain

我们今生就像梦一场
Wǒmen jīnshēng jiù xiàng mèng yī chǎng
This life is like a dream.

有你陪喝醉了又何妨
Yǒu nǐ péi hēzuì le yòu héfáng
What’s the harm in getting drunk together with you

朋友啊,让我们一起牢牢铭记呀
Péngyǒu a, ràng wǒmen yīqǐ láoláo míngjì ya
My friend, let’s remember it very well

凡尘过后终了无牵挂
Fánchén guòhòu zhōngle wú qiānguà.
After this mundane life, there will be no worries

朋友啊,让我们一起牢牢铭记呀
Péngyǒu a, ràng wǒmen yīqǐ láoláo míngjì ya.
My friend, let’s remember it very well

By Manya Koetse

Independently reporting China trends for over a decade. Like what we do? Support us and get the story behind the hashtag by subscribing:

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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