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Twists and Turns in the Tragic Story of the Xuzhou Chained Mother

There are still many questions about the Xuzhou woman, but what is clear is that she now has come to represent many women like her.

Manya Koetse

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It’s been three weeks and there were four official statements, but the story of the Xuzhou mother-of-eight is still seeing new developments, and it is sparking even more anger on Chinese social media.

While the Beijing Olympics are still in full swing, many on Chinese social media are focused on developments taking place some 430 miles south of the capital. Three weeks after the story of a mother of eight children being chained up in a hut next to the family home first sent shockwaves across Chinese social media, the Xuzhou chained mother is still one of the biggest topics discussed on Weibo.

The ball started rolling in late January of this year when a video of the woman, filmed by a local TikTok user, went viral online and triggered massive outrage with thousands of people demanding answers about the woman’s circumstances. The woman, who seemed confused, was kept in a dirty shed without a door in the freezing cold – she did not even wear a coat. Videos showed how her husband Dong Zhimin (董志民) and their eight children were playing and talking in the family home right next to the hut. These videos were all filmed in the village of Huankou.

What’s on Weibo first reported this trending topic on January 29, and after BBC also reported the story on January 31st, the Xuzhou mother also started making international headlines. Meanwhile, on Chinese social media, updates to new developments in the story continued to go viral.

Local authorities in Xuzhou, the largest city of northern Jiangsu, and the Feng county-level division, where the village of Huankou is located, started looking into the case after the video went trending. The first statement by Feng County was issued on January 28 and it said that the woman, named Yang (杨), married her husband Dong Zhimin in 1998 and that there was no indication that she was a victim of human trafficking, which was a concern raised by so many netizens.

The woman was dealing with mental problems and would display sudden violent outbursts, beating children and older people. The family allegedly thought it was best to separate her from the family home during these episodes, letting her stay chained up in a small hut next to the house.

The first statement raised more questions than it answered. Many people on Weibo were angry and drew comparisons to the 2007 movie Blind Mountain (盲山). That movie, directed by Li Yang (李杨), tells the story of a woman named Bai who is kidnapped and sold to a villager in the mountains, leaving Bai completely trapped.

Scene from Blind Mountain.

Netizens started to do their own research and suggested that ‘Yang’ could actually be Li Ying (李莹), a woman who went missing in Sichuan’s Nanchong 26 years ago. Online, many people called for DNA research to see if Yang was indeed related to Li Ying’s family.

The mother of eight in Xuzhou compared to the missing woman Li Ying.

While netizens were speculating about the case, it became clear that the husband Dong Zhimin was giving more interviews about his eight children (seven sons, one daughter), spoke of how his sons would become providers for the family in the future, and even promoted local companies. This only led to more speculation and online anger, and Weibo shut down some of the hashtags dedicated to this topic.

 

More Statements

 

On January 30, Feng County local officials responded to the controversy in a second statement, in which the Xuzhou mother was identified as Yang *Xia (杨某侠) who allegedly once was “a beggar on the streets” in the summer of 1998 when she was taken in by Dong family and ended up marrying their 30-something son Dong Zhimin.

Local officials did not properly check and verify Yang’s identity information when registering the marriage certificate and the local family planning department also made errors in implementing birth control measures and following up with the family.

Yang did have mental problems before, but her condition allegedly worsened in June of 2021 when she displayed more aggressive behavior and was tied up in the shed. The statement said that Yang had been diagnosed with schizophrenia and was receiving treatment.

On February 7th, Xuzhou authorities released a third statement with an update of their investigation, which had brought them to the village of Yagu (亚谷村) in Yunnan – a place that was mentioned on Yang’s marriage certificate.

With the help of local authorities, villagers, and household registers, they were able to determine Yang’s identity and stated that she was actually Xiao Huamei (小花梅) who was born and raised in Yagu, Fugong county. In 1994, she married and moved to the city of Baoshan, but she divorced and returned to her village two years later.

Her parents, now deceased, ordered a female fellow villager who had married someone from Jiangsu to take Xiao with her to receive treatment and look for a suitable partner for marriage. Although the woman took Xiao with her on a train from Yunnan’s Kunming city to Jiangsu’s Donghai, Xiao allegedly went missing shortly after arrival. The woman, named Sang (桑), never reported Xiao Huamei missing to the police and she also did not notify Xiao’s family.

The Xuzhou authorities further write that DNA research has confirmed that all of the eight children are the parents’ biological children.

A fourth statement was issued on February 10th through the Xuzhou official Weibo channel (@徐州发布). According to that statement, Yang’s DNA had been compared to that of the family of Xiao Huamei and it was determined that Yang and Xiao Huamei were definitely the same person.

The statement further said that three persons were held criminally responsible for illegal detainment and human trafficking in the case of Xiao Huamei: Sang, her husband, and Dong Zhimin, the father of the eight children.

Meanwhile, Chinese news outlet The Paper reported that the family of Li Ying, the missing woman who resembled Yang so much, received official confirmation that there was no DNA match between Li Ying and Yang.

 

Weibo Detectives and Journalists

 

Following the last statement, online anger did not subside. Was Yang’s husband only accused of ‘illegal detention’? What about rape and abuse?

By now, there are multiple stories going around the Chinese internet of other women living in Xuzhou who might have also been a victim of human trafficking. What about them? What are their names? Who cares about them? Who is still out there looking for them?

Another issue raised by Weibo users was that of the age of Xiao Huamei, which was never mentioned in the official statement. Was Xiao Huamei underage when she was trafficked? How old is the Xuzhou mother of eight?

Determined to find out the truth, some investigative journalists and concerned netizens decided to do their own research.

Two Weibo users (using the accounts @小梦姐姐小拳拳, @乌衣古城, and @我能抱起120斤) drove to Feng County, Xuzhou, with the goal of verifying the information disclosed by the local government and pressuring them to arrest husband Dong for his crime. The women, who had been sharing all details of their trip on Weibo, were planning on visiting Yang and talking to other people in the area.

After they arrived in Feng County, the local police allegedly removed the slogans they had written on their own car, calling for Dong’s arrest. They were denied entrance at the facility where Yang supposedly is treated and someone tried to take their phone. When the two women went to the police station to report the attempted phone robbery, the police detained them for “picking quarrels and provoking trouble” (“寻衅滋事罪”). A supertopic on Weibo dedicated to helping the two women was taken offline.

One other important person dedicated to this case is the Chinese investigative journalist Deng Fei (邓飞), who has over five million followers on his Weibo account. On February 13, Deng said that according to Yang’s verified ID card, which he obtained via online channels, her date of birth is June 6, 1969. This means Yang’s age would be 52.

The photo on Yang’s ID card, which says she was born in 1969.

Deng and others questioned Yang’s age, especially considering their youngest baby just turned two. Would a woman in her mid and late 40s, living in such harsh conditions, still be able to have multiple babies? Why was her hair not greying at all? Were authorities lying about her age?

Deng Fei later obtained and published a photo of the marriage certificate of ‘Yang Qingxiang’ and ‘Dong Zhimin,’ which shows their marriage was registered in August of 1998 and was approved by the Huankou township. Here, Yang’s date of birth is also said to be June of 1969. However, what struck Deng and many others is that the photo on the marriage certificate seems to be a different woman from Yang.


The well-known screenwriter and author Li Yaling (@李亚玲) also researched the Xuzhou case, and she claimed that according to her sources, Xiao Huamei was born in 1977 and was initially sold to another man by Sang for 6000 yuan ($950) before she ended up marrying Dong. Li also claims that the vlogger who filmed the first viral video put the chains around the woman’s neck himself. The chains were already there, and were in fact used to sometimes tie up the mother, but they were allegedly only put on her to help get more attention for the woman and her impoverished family.

The account of the vlogger who originally posted the viral video has since been deleted.

After three weeks of developments and four statements later, there are still so many questions, and there are still many doubts about whether or not Xiao Huamei from Yagu village is really Yang from Huankou village, and who the woman in the photo is.

Another issue raised is that the oldest son of the family, Dong *gang (董某港) was born in March of 1997, but according to one of the earlier statements issued in this case, Dong Zhimin’s father took in Yang in the summer of 1998 and their marriage certificate was issued in August of that year. So whose child is the oldest kid?

Many people think that perhaps Xiao Huamei – who was trafficked in 1996 – was actually once married to Dong and is the mother of the oldest child, but that the chained mother in Xuzhou is another woman. Since Xiao Huamei was married before in 1994, the ex-husband could surely confirm if Yang in Xuzhou is indeed the woman he was once married to, but so far his identity has not been disclosed.

 

The Women in the Dark Rooms

 

While details surrounding the case of the ‘chained Xuzhou mother of eight’ are still being discussed a lot, it has become clear that by now, Yang has come to represent many more women like her.

Since early February, more stories have surfaced of other women like Yang, often suffering from a mental or physical handicap. One of these stories involved a disabled woman also from Xuzhou, Feng County – a video that showed her lying on the floor also went viral on social media including a second video showing the woman living in terrible conditions, although there has not been a follow-up on her specific situation.

In light of the recent developments, media insider Zhang Xiaolei (@媒体人张晓磊) posted a segment of a TV documentary from ten years ago on Weibo titled “The Woman Leaving the Dark Room” (走出黑屋的女人), in which a naked and confused middle-aged woman was kept locked in a hut in a village in Shandong province, just a one-hour drive from Huankou village. Zhang wrote that the reporter, with the help of local authorities, was able to rescue the woman and eventually succeeded in locating her family.

Still from the decade-old documentary (走出黑屋的女人) about a woman kept in a small house, just 40 kilometers away from where the Xuzhou mother of eight lived.

Zhang’s post was taken offline, as were other initiatives to raise more awareness. On Valentine’s Day, a group of people from Yueyang, Hunan, spoke up for the Xuzhou mother and posted a group photo in which they carried banners and hashtagged the post “stand up for human rights.” That post was also soon deleted, along with a letter signed by 10 graduates of Peking University to call for an investigation of local officials involved in the case, changes to the law, and more details on the Xuzhou woman’s identity.

Despite censorship, netizens keep posting about the case and putting pressure on authorities to do more research and take more action. How could Yang have been so neglected? Why didn’t authorities do more to prevent such a tragedy from happening?

Their calls do seem to have some impact, as the higher authorities of Jiangsu provincial government have reportedly now also decided to set up an investigation team to conduct an investigation into the Xuzhou case.

Meanwhile, there are many artists who are using their artwork, from sculptures to graphic design, to express their feelings about the case and condemn how local authorities have dealt with this case.

They also pay their respects to the chained-up woman in the video. Regardless of who she is, and how she got there, there is one thing everyone agrees on; her story is a tragic one, and no matter who gets punished for what happened to her, there are no winners here.

 

By Manya Koetse

With contributions by Miranda Barnes.

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.

©2022 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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3 Comments

3 Comments

  1. Avatar

    reader

    February 18, 2022 at 9:59 pm

    Menanwhile -> meanwhile

    Great, enlightening yet concise write-up

    thank you
    goed gedaan

    • Avatar

      Admin

      February 20, 2022 at 6:36 pm

      Thanks so much for noticing, adjusted!

  2. Avatar

    Sam

    February 19, 2022 at 6:46 pm

    No one believes this still happen in a 21st century in China, and I am extremely outrageous after reading this story, and can not find word for this kind of cruelty, immoral and illegal behavior in rural area. Everyone need to keep following this for answers and steps to complete saving of thousands of similar women in China. The gender imbalance due to the one cold policy has resulted in this kind of human trafficking of women in China’s rural areas.

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China Insight

The Tragic Story of “Fat Cat”: How a Chinese Gamer’s Suicide Went Viral

The story of ‘Fat Cat’ has become a hot topic in China, sparking widespread sympathy and discussions online.

Manya Koetse

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The tragic story behind the recent suicide of a 21-year-old Chinese gamer nicknamed ‘Fat Cat’ has become a major topic of discussion on Chinese social media, touching upon broader societal issues from unfair gender dynamics to businesses taking advantage of grieving internet users.

The story of a 21-year-old Chinese gamer from Hunan who committed suicide has gone completely viral on Weibo and beyond this week, generating many discussions.

In late April of this year, the young man nicknamed ‘Fat Cat’ (胖猫 Pàng Māo, literally fat or chubby cat), tragically ended his life by jumping into the river near the Chongqing Yangtze River Bridge (重庆长江大桥) following a breakup with his girlfriend. By now, the incident has come to be known as the “Fat Cat Jumping Into the River Incident” (胖猫跳江事件).

News of his suicide soon made its rounds on the internet, and some bloggers started looking into what was behind the story. The man’s sister also spoke out through online channels, and numerous chat records between the young man and his girlfriend emerged online.

One aspect of his story that gained traction in early May is the revelation that the man had invested all his resources into the relationship. Allegedly, he made significant financial sacrifices, giving his girlfriend over 510,000 RMB (approximately 71,000 USD) throughout their relationship, in a time frame of two years.

When his girlfriend ended the relationship, despite all of his efforts, he was devastated and took his own life.

The story was picked up by various Chinese media outlets, and prominent social and political commentator Hu Xijin also wrote a post about Fat Cat, stating the sad story had made him tear up.

As the news spread, it sparked a multitude of hashtags on Weibo, with thousands of netizens pouring out their thoughts and emotions in response to the story.

 
Playing Games for Love
 

The main part of this story that is triggering online discussions is how ‘Fat Cat,’ a young man who possessed virtually nothing, managed to provide his girlfriend, who was six years older, with such a significant amount of money – and why he was willing to sacrifice so much in order to do so.

The young man reportedly was able to make money by playing video games, specifically by being a so-called ‘booster’ by playing with others and helping them get to a higher level in multiplayer online battle games.

According to his sister, he started working as a ‘professional’ video gamer as a means of generating money to satisfy his girlfriend, who allegedly always demanded more.

He registered a total of 36 accounts to receive orders to play online games, making 20 yuan per game (about $2.80). Because this consumed all of his time, he barely went out anymore and his social life was dead.

In order to save more money, he tried to keep his own expenses as low as possible, and would only get takeout food for himself for no more than 10 yuan ($1,4). His online avatar was an image of a cat saying “I don’t want to eat vegetables, I want to eat McDonald’s.”

The woman in question who he made so many sacrifices for is named Tan Zhu (谭竹), and she soon became the topic of public scrutiny. In one screenshot of a chat conversation between Tan and her boyfriend that leaked online, she claimed she needed money for various things. The two had agreed to get married later in this year.

Despite of this, she still broke up with him, driving him to jump off the bridge after transferring his remaining 66,000 RMB (9135 USD) to Tan Zhu.

As the story fermented online, Tan Zhu also shared her side of the story. She claimed that she had met ‘Fat Cat’ over two years ago through online gaming and had started a long distance relationship with him. They had actually only met up twice before he moved to Chongqing. She emphasized that financial gain was never a motivating factor in their relationship.

Tan additionally asserted that she had previously repaid 130,000 RMB (18,000 USD) to him and that they had reached a settlement agreement shortly before his tragic death.

 
Ordering Take-Out to Mourn Fat Cat
 

– “I hope you rest in peace.”
– “Little fat cat, I hope you’ll be less foolish in your next life.”
– “In your next life, love yourself first.”

These are just a few of the messages left by netizens on notes attached to takeout food deliveries near the Chongqing Yangtze River Bridge.

AI-generated image spread on Chinese social media in connection to the event.

As Fat Cat’s story stirred up significant online discussion, with many expressing sympathy for the young man who rarely indulged in spending on food and drinks, some internet users took the step of ordering McDonalds and other food delivery services to the bridge, where he tragically jumped from, in his honor.

This soon snowballed into more people ordering food and drinks to the bridge, resulting in a constant flow of delivery staff and a pile-up of take-out bags.

Delivery food on the bridge, photo via Weibo.

However, as the food delivery efforts picked up pace, it came to light that some of the deliveries ordered and paid for were either empty or contained something different; certain restaurants, aware of the collective effort to honor the young man, deliberately left the food boxes empty or substituted sodas or tea with tap water.

At least five restaurants were caught not delivering the actual orders. Chinese bubble tea shop ChaPanda was exposed for substituting water for milk tea in their cups. On May 3rd, ChaPanda responded that they had fired the responsible employee.

Another store, the Zhu Xiaoxiao Luosifen (朱小小螺蛳粉), responded on that they had temporarily closed the shop in question to deal with the issue. Chinese fast food chain NewYobo (牛约堡) also acknowledged that at least twenty orders they received were incomplete.

Fast food company Wallace (华莱士) responded to the controversy by stating they had dismissed the employees involved. Mixue Ice Cream & Tea (蜜雪冰城) issued an apology and temporarily closed one of their stores implicated in delivering empty orders.

In the midst of all the controversy, Fat Cat’s sister asked internet users to refrain from ordering take-out food as a means of mourning and honoring her brother.

Nevertheless, take-out food and flowers continued to accumulate near the bridge, prompting local authorities to think of ways of how to deal with this unique method of honoring the deceased gamer.

 
Gamer Boy Meets Girl
 

On Chinese social media, this story has also become a topic of debate in the context of gender dynamics and social inequality.

There are some male bloggers who are angry with Tan Zhu, suggesting her behaviour is an example of everything that’s supposedly “wrong” with Chinese women in this day and age.

Others place blame on Fat Cat for believing that he could buy love and maintain a relationship through financial means. This irked some feminist bloggers, who see it as a chauvinistic attitude towards women.

A main, recurring idea in these discussions is that young Chinese men such as Fat Cat, who are at the low end of the social ladder, are actually particularly vulnerable in a fiercely competitive society. Here, a gender imbalance and surplus of unmarried men make it easier for women to potentially exploit those desperate for companionship.

The story of Fat Cat brings back memories of ‘Mo Cha Official,’ a not-so-famous blogger who gained posthumous fame in 2021 when details of his unhappy life surfaced online.

Likewise, the tragic tale of WePhone founder Su Xiangmao (苏享茂) resurfaces. In 2017, the 37-year-old IT entrepreneur from Beijing took his own life, leaving behind a note alleging blackmail by his 29-year-old ex-wife, who demanded 10 million RMB (±1.5 million USD) (read story).

Another aspect of this viral story that is mentioned by netizens is how it gained so much attention during the Chinese May holidays, coinciding with the tragic news of the southern China highway collapse in Guangdong. That major incident resulted in the deaths of at least 48 people, and triggered questions over road safety and flawed construction designs. Some speculate that the prominence given to the Fat Cat story on trending topic lists may have been a deliberate attempt to divert attention away from this incident.

‘Fat Cat’ was cremated. His family stated their intention to take necessary legal steps to recover the money from his former girlfriend, but Tan Zhu reportedly already reached an agreement with the father and settled the case. Nevertheless, the case continues to generate discussions online, with some people wondering: “Is it over yet? Can we talk about something different now?”

Fat Cat images projected in Times Square

However, given that images of the ‘Fat Cat’ avatar have even appeared in Times Square in New York by now (Chinese internet users projected it on one of the big LED screens), it’s likely that this story will be remembered and talked about for some time to come.

By Manya Koetse

– With contributions by Miranda Barnes and 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:

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China Brands, Marketing & Consumers

A Brew of Controversy: Lu Xun and LELECHA’s ‘Smoky’ Oolong Tea

Chinese tea brand LELECHA faced backlash for using the iconic literary figure Lu Xun to promote their “Smoky Oolong” milk tea, sparking controversy over the exploitation of his legacy.

Manya Koetse

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It seemed like such a good idea. For this year’s World Book Day, Chinese tea brand LELECHA (乐乐茶) put a spotlight on Lu Xun (鲁迅, 1881-1936), one of the most celebrated Chinese authors the 20th century and turned him into the the ‘brand ambassador’ of their special new “Smoky Oolong” (烟腔乌龙) milk tea.

LELECHA is a Chinese chain specializing in new-style tea beverages, including bubble tea and fruit tea. It debuted in Shanghai in 2016, and since then, it has expanded rapidly, opening dozens of new stores not only in Shanghai but also in other major cities across China.

Starting on April 23, not only did the LELECHA ‘Smoky Oolong” paper cups feature Lu Xun’s portrait, but also other promotional materials by LELECHA, such as menus and paper bags, accompanied by the slogan: “Old Smoky Oolong, New Youth” (“老烟腔,新青年”). The marketing campaign was a joint collaboration between LELECHA and publishing house Yilin Press.

Lu Xun featured on LELECHA products, image via Netease.

The slogan “Old Smoky Oolong, New Youth” is a play on the Chinese magazine ‘New Youth’ or ‘La Jeunesse’ (新青年), the influential literary magazine in which Lu’s famous short story, “Diary of a Madman,” was published in 1918.

The design of the tea featuring Lu Xun’s image, its colors, and painting style also pay homage to the era in which Lu Xun rose to prominence.

Lu Xun (pen name of Zhou Shuren) was a leading figure within China’s May Fourth Movement. The May Fourth Movement (1915-24) is also referred to as the Chinese Enlightenment or the Chinese Renaissance. It was the cultural revolution brought about by the political demonstrations on the fourth of May 1919 when citizens and students in Beijing paraded the streets to protest decisions made at the post-World War I Versailles Conference and called for the destruction of traditional culture[1].

In this historical context, Lu Xun emerged as a significant cultural figure, renowned for his critical and enlightened perspectives on Chinese society.

To this day, Lu Xun remains a highly respected figure. In the post-Mao era, some critics felt that Lu Xun was actually revered a bit too much, and called for efforts to ‘demystify’ him. In 1979, for example, writer Mao Dun called for a halt to the movement to turn Lu Xun into “a god-like figure”[2].

Perhaps LELECHA’s marketing team figured they could not go wrong by creating a milk tea product around China’s beloved Lu Xun. But for various reasons, the marketing campaign backfired, landing LELECHA in hot water. The topic went trending on Chinese social media, where many criticized the tea company.

 
Commodification of ‘Marxist’ Lu Xun
 

The first issue with LELECHA’s Lu Xun campaign is a legal one. It seems the tea chain used Lu Xun’s portrait without permission. Zhou Lingfei, Lu Xun’s great-grandson and president of the Lu Xun Cultural Foundation, quickly demanded an end to the unauthorized use of Lu Xun’s image on tea cups and other merchandise. He even hired a law firm to take legal action against the campaign.

Others noted that the image of Lu Xun that was used by LELECHA resembled a famous painting of Lu Xun by Yang Zhiguang (杨之光), potentially also infringing on Yang’s copyright.

But there are more reasons why people online are upset about the Lu Xun x LELECHA marketing campaign. One is how the use of the word “smoky” is seen as disrespectful towards Lu Xun. Lu Xun was known for his heavy smoking, which ultimately contributed to his early death.

It’s also ironic that Lu Xun, widely seen as a Marxist, is being used as a ‘brand ambassador’ for a commercial tea brand. This exploits Lu Xun’s image for profit, turning his legacy into a commodity with the ‘smoky oolong’ tea and related merchandise.

“Such blatant commercialization of Lu Xun, is there no bottom limit anymore?”, one Weibo user wrote. Another person commented: “If Lu Xun were still alive and knew he had become a tool for capitalists to make money, he’d probably scold you in an article. ”

On April 29, LELECHA finally issued an apology to Lu Xun’s relatives and the Lu Xun Cultural Foundation for neglecting the legal aspects of their marketing campaign. They claimed it was meant to promote reading among China’s youth. All Lu Xun materials have now been removed from LELECHA’s stores.

Statement by LELECHA.

On Chinese social media, where the hot tea became a hot potato, opinions on the issue are divided. While many netizens think it is unacceptable to infringe on Lu Xun’s portrait rights like that, there are others who appreciate the merchandise.

The LELECHA controversy is similar to another issue that went trending in late 2023, when the well-known Chinese tea chain HeyTea (喜茶) collaborated with the Jingdezhen Ceramics Museum to release a special ‘Buddha’s Happiness’ (佛喜) latte tea series adorned with Buddha images on the cups, along with other merchandise such as stickers and magnets. The series featured three customized “Buddha’s Happiness” cups modeled on the “Speechless Bodhisattva” (无语菩萨), which soon became popular among netizens.

The HeyTea Buddha latte series, including merchandise, was pulled from shelves just three days after its launch.

However, the ‘Buddha’s Happiness’ success came to an abrupt halt when the Ethnic and Religious Affairs Bureau of Shenzhen intervened, citing regulations that prohibit commercial promotion of religion. HeyTea wasted no time challenging the objections made by the Bureau and promptly removed the tea series and all related merchandise from its stores, just three days after its initial launch.

Following the Happy Buddha and Lu Xun milk tea controversies, Chinese tea brands are bound to be more careful in the future when it comes to their collaborative marketing campaigns and whether or not they’re crossing any boundaries.

Some people couldn’t care less if they don’t launch another campaign at all. One Weibo user wrote: “Every day there’s a new collaboration here, another one there, but I’d just prefer a simple cup of tea.”

By Manya Koetse

[1]Schoppa, Keith. 2000. The Columbia Guide to Modern Chinese History. New York: Columbia UP, 159.

[2]Zhong, Xueping. 2010. “Who Is Afraid Of Lu Xun? The Politics Of ‘Debates About Lu Xun’ (鲁迅论争lu Xun Lun Zheng) And The Question Of His Legacy In Post-Revolution China.” In Culture and Social Transformations in Reform Era China, 257–284, 262.

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