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Weibo Mourns Passing of Forbidden City’s “Most Beloved” Cat Little Zai’er

The “royal” stray cats of the Forbidden City have never been more popular than in 2018. This week, news of the death of Palace Museum cat Zai’er received over 300 million views on social media.

Gabi Verberg

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After the death of Forbidden City celebrity cat Baidian earlier this year, Palace Museum staff and millions of netizens are again mourning over the death of another cat, China’s most beloved “royal cat” Little Zai’er (小崽儿).

The massive outpouring of grief over the recent death of the popular Palace Museum cat Little Zai’er shows that Weibo’s “animal craze” is reaching new heights.

Staff from the Palace Museum, housed in the Forbidden City, run a Weibo account where they frequently share updates on the adventures and wellbeing of some of the cats living within the walls of the Museum.

Photo posted on Weibo by @花花与三猫CatLive.

Earlier this month, the staff of the Palace Museum first noted that the beloved ‘Little Zai’er’ was missing. On Sunday the 16th of December, they wrote that the remains of the cat were found in a remote corner somewhere in the Forbidden City. According to sources, the ten-year-old Little Zai’er died of natural causes.

The death of Little Zai’er received great attention on Chinese social media. The hashtag “Forbidden City little Zai’er passed away” (#故宫小崽儿走了#) received over 300 million views, with thousands of people commenting on the sad news, posting photos or stories of their encounters with the cat.

One Weibo blogger, @花花与三猫CatLive, who had the opportunity to shoot photo’s with Xia’er, wrote: “I wanted to tell you, If I’d had the chance I would come and see you and bring you a snack. I wish you have a good time in kitty heaven”

Photo posted on Weibo by @花花与三猫CatLive.

Another Weibo user going by the name ‘Catbrother’ commented: “Every time I went to the Forbidden City I specially went to the Treasure Hall to see this Cat. He was always so good, surrounded by people taking his picture, calmly sunbathing. The news of his passing makes me so sad.”

Yet another girl posted a photo of herself on Weibo with a young Little Zai’er. Above the picture, it reads: “Farewell Little Zai’er.”

Photo by Weibo user @zoe啊喂.

Many say this particular cat has become popular to his approachability and cuteness. Little Zai’er lived in the Forbidden City for nearly a decade, and throughout the years, has been photographed by many. The cat even made an appearance in the television show The New Palace Museum (上新了故宫), that is currently airing on Beijing Satellite TV.

Many stray cats live in and around the Palace Museum, and they even have some historical significance; cats have lived there ever since the complex was built in the 15th century. They also serve a practical purpose: the cats have played an important role in protecting the museum’s precious antiques and relics from damage done by rats and mice.

For more about this topic and another super popular Palace Museum cat, check out our previous article Paws at the Palace Museum.

The tremendous attention for the death of Little Zai’er on social media makes is one of the hottest hashtags on Weibo in 2018. For a list of the other most trending topics on social media in China in 2018, check our Trends of 2018 article here.

By Gabi Verberg

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©2018 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com

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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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China Insight

The Day After the “3•21” Devastating Yancheng Explosion: 47 Dead, 640 Injured

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The enormous explosion at a chemical plant in Jiangsu’s Yancheng on March 21st has sent shockwaves through the country. While state media are focusing on the efforts of rescue workers, Chinese social media users are mourning the lives lost and are searching for those still missing.

One day after a devastating explosion occurred at a chemical plant in Yancheng city in Jiangsu, at the Xiangshui Eco-chemical Industrial Zone, the number of confirmed casualties and injured has now gone up to 47 dead, 90 critically injured, with around 640 requiring hospital treatment (issued Friday 19.00 local time).

The explosion happened on Thursday around 14.48 local time at the Jiangsu Tianjiayi Chemical Plant (天嘉宜化工厂). Images and videos of the explosion and its aftermath quickly spread on Weibo and other social media, showing the huge impact of the blast.

Site of the explosion.

Footage showed shattered windows from buildings in the area and injured persons lying on the streets. Other videos showed children crying and blood on the pavements. There are residential areas and at least seven schools located in the vicinity of the chemical plant, leading to injuries among residents and students due to glass that was allegedly “flying around.”

According to official sources on Weibo, a total of 930 firefighters worked side by side to control the fire.

Trending photo on Friday: exhausted firefighters.

The hashtag “Lining Up to Donate Blood in Xiangshui” (#响水市民自发排队献血#) also attracted some attention on Weibo, with state media reporting that dozens of local residents have donated blood to help the injured. On Thursday night, there were long lines at a local mobile blood donation bus.

What is quite clear from the Chinese media reports on the incident and the social media posts coming from official (authorities) accounts, is that there is an emphasis on the number of people who are helping out, rather than a focus on the number of people that were killed: there are at least 930 firefighters, 192 fire trucks, 9 heavy construction machinery, 200 police officers, 88 people rescued, 3500 medical staff, 200 people donating blood, etc. – the number of people joining forces to provide assistance in the area is overwhelming.

Meanwhile, there are desperate family members who are turning to social media in search of loved ones, posting their photos and asking people if they know anything about their whereabouts since the explosion.

While dozens of Weibo users are airing their grievances on what happened, there are also more personal stories coming out. The wife of the local factory worker Jiang is devastated; her husband of four years, father of one son, celebrated his 30th birthday on Thursday. She received a message from her husband twenty minutes before the explosion occurred. He was one of the many people who lost their lives.

On Thursday, Chinese netizens complained that their posts about the Yancheng explosion were being taken offline, suggesting that information flows relating to the incident are being strictly controlled. “This is just too big to conceal,” one commenter said.

This is not the first time such an explosion makes headlines in China. In 2015, an enormous explosion at a petrol storage station in Tianjin killed 173 people and caused hundreds of people to be injured. Two years ago, an explosion at a Shandong petrochemical plant left 13 people dead.

By Manya Koetse 

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

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China Local News

Breaking: Jiangsu Yancheng Chemical Plant Explosion

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Update: The Day After the Explosion

On March 21st at about 14.48 local time, an explosion occurred at a chemical plant in Yancheng city in Jiangsu.

At time of writing, the news has become a top trending topic on social media site Weibo, where the hashtag “Jiangsu Yancheng Chemical Plant Explosion” (#江苏盐城化工厂爆炸#) has attracted some 100 million views.

The explosion, that occurred at the Xiangshui Eco-chemical Industrial Zone, was followed by a 2.2 earthquake at 14.48 local time in Jiangsu’s Lianyungang.

According to Sixth Tone, people who have been injured during the incident have been sent to a local hospital.

Footage published by WeMedia show the impact of the massive explosion, with shattered windows from buildings in the area, and showing at least one injured person lying on the street.

Other videos on social media show injured people lining up at the hospital, chaos, and wounded people lying on the street (Twitter link here and here).

According to the official account of China’s Fire Control Department (@中国消防), 31 persons were rescued from the scene around 17.00 local time, when a total of 188 firefighters were present at the scene.

According to various media reports, the chemical plant where the explosion happened is the Jiangsu Tianjiayi Chemical Plant (天嘉宜化工厂). The official website says that the Tianjiayi company was founded in 2007 and has over 280 staff members.

China’s Emergency Management Department (@中华人民共和国应急管理部), that was established in 2018, issued a post on Weibo at the beginning of the evening, stating that expert teams were rushed to the scene to assist local authorities in their rescue operations.

This is not the first time such an explosion makes headlines in China. In 2015, an enormous explosion at a petrol storage station in Tianjin injured hundreds of people. Two years ago, an explosion at a Shandong petrochemical plant left 8 persons dead and 9 people injured.

Chinese state media outlet Xinhua reported that the number of casualties at the Yancheng site are still unknown. Phoenix News reports that as of 19.00 local time, at least 6 people are confirmed to have died, with 30 people being critically injured. (UPDATE MARCH 22 SEE HERE).

On Weibo, people are sharing their concern for the people injured during the explosions, and are also expressing their worries on what exactly caused the explosion and what kind of chemicals people may have been exposed to.

“There are many residential areas and schools near the site of the explosion,” one official account on Weibo writes: “There’s a kindergarten some 1,1 kilometers away, and children have been injured. According to eyewitnesses, residents were injured because of the glass flying around.”

Sina News reports that there are at least seven schools in the vicinity of the explosion (see image below).

A live-streaming report by Tencent News, Beijing News, and WeMedia shows that at around 20.00 local time, the fire at the site of the explosion is still blazing, with a strong wind picking up.

Meanwhile, on Weibo, some netizens are complaining that footage of the explosion is being deleted from the social media platform, while others are disgruntled that residential areas and schools would be located so close to a chemical plant.

“I really wish the people there are safe and sound,” dozens of commenters say, posting praying emoji: “It is just so scary, I hope there won’t be any more casualties.”

By Manya Koetse 

Spotted a mistake or want to add something? Please email us.

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

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What’s on Weibo provides social, cultural & historical insights into an ever-changing China. What’s on Weibo sheds light on China’s digital media landscape and brings the story behind the hashtag. This independent news site is managed by sinologist Manya Koetse. Contact info@whatsonweibo.com. ©2014-2018

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