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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

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

©2018 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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China Animals

Outrage over Chinese Food Blogger Torturing Cat in Online Video

Chinese food vlogger Xu Zhihui (徐志辉) was part of a cat abuse chat group on QQ.

Manya Koetse

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A shocking and extremely cruel video in which a Chinese wanghong (online influencer) tortures a stolen cat has sparked outrage on Chinese social media.

The person involved is the Anhui-based food blogger/vlogger Xu Zhihui (徐志辉), who runs multiple accounts, including a Bilibili account with more than 400,000 followers and a Weibo account with over 20,000 fans (@杰克辣条). Xu is mostly known for posting videos of himself cooking and eating food.

The cat abuse incident happened on April 15 in Funan County’s Lucheng, Anhui Province, where the 29-year-old Xu filmed his horrific acts, including tying up the cat, binding it to a tree, cutting its paws, and burning it alive. He then uploaded the video and shared it to a QQ group dedicated to cat abuse. It later circulated around social media, triggering outrage.

According to screenshots that leaked online and the very fact Xu was part of a cruel ‘cat abuse chat group,’ this probably was not the first time for him to torture animals.

According to a police statement, authorities received reports about the stolen cat and the abuse video on April 26th, after which they immediately launched an investigation.

On April 27th, Xu posted an apology on his Weibo channel, in which he said he felt ashamed and sorry for what he did and that he was willing to bear “all the consequences” of his actions. He also wrote that he was being criticized and held accountable by both the public security bureau and Internet authorities. “Please give me another chance,” he wrote. The comments on the post were switched off.

A noteworthy part of Xu’s online apology is that it has a dedicated Weibo hashtag page including a ‘topic summary’ in which Xu apologized. The hashtag page was hosted by Toutiao News. The mix of the personal message by Xu on a hashtag page hosted by Chinese media seems to indicate that these parties worked together in spreading Xu’s words about how remorseful he allegedly is (#偷猫拍虐猫视频网红道歉#).

The comment sections suggest that most people will not forgive Xu for what he did. Many people say the story makes them feel sick to their stomach, and that the idea of ‘cat abuse’ chat groups makes their skin crawl.

“People like this do not change,” one person wrote. “Give you another chance?! Did you give that kitty a chance?!”

“Today he abuses a cat, tomorrow he kills a person. Straight to hell with him,” others wrote: “Go die!”

Xu’s actions are regarded as “negatively impacting society” and he currently is detained in Funan in accordance with the Public Security Administrative Punishments Law. His Bilibili account currently also displays a message that it is getting banned.

Although there are various laws in China regarding wildlife and the protection of animals, there currently is no national law that is explicitly against animal cruelty for all animals. Some legal bloggers explored under which laws Xu could be punished for his actions other than the abuse itself, such as stealing a cat and also uploading such a video to the internet (#虐待无主流浪猫狗或不被处罚#, #公共场合虐待动物并传播视频或犯罪#).

In recent years, voices calling for better laws on animal abuse in China have grown louder. In 2020, after a horrific story of a Chinese security guard pouring scalding water over a cat went viral, Chinese media outlet CCTV called out for a rapid legislation against animal abuse. That same video was shared in light of this incident again.

In 2021, home security cameras captured how anti-epidemic workers beat a pet dog to death in Shangrao. This also caused an online storm over animal abuse during ‘zero Covid.’

“I strongly call for legislation, [we must] defend the bottom line of morality,” some commenters now write: “We will never forgive this.”

By Manya Koetse

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©2023 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

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China Animals

Meanwhile in Panda News: Panda Talk during Macron’s China Visit, Yaya Set to Return to China in Late April

Panda updates! From Yaya in Memphis to Qiqi in Shanghai, these are the pandas that went trending this month.

Manya Koetse

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Panda news flash! After French President Macron’s China state visit, news of France hoping to lengthen the stay of panda celebrities Huan Huan and Yuan Zi in Beauval went trending on Weibo, along with the news that Memhpis-based Yaya is not coming home to China this week.

It is time for another update on what’s been going on in panda news recently for this second What’s on Weibo ‘meanwhile in panda news’ column to give you more insights into all the trending panda topics, including the controversies and politics surrounding them.

What’s been trending recently? There has been a lot of panda-related news. The following topics have been trending recently.

 

◼︎ PANDA TALK DURING MACRON’S CHINA VISIT

Hashtags: #马克龙想续租大熊猫#, #法国博瓦勒动物园想续租大熊猫#

 

In 1973, Chinese giant pandas Yen Yen and Li Li arrived at Zoo de Vincennes in Paris. The two pandas were gifted to French President Georges Pompidou by Zhou Enlai as part of China’s famous panda diplomacy. (Funny fact: the pair were originally thought to be male and female but were later discovered to be two males.)

Now, exactly fifty years later, President Emmanuel Macron is in China with his delegation. Apart from all the major issues such as EU-China relations and the war in Ukraine, ‘panda politics’ are also on the agenda.

Macron arrived in Beijing on April 5 as part of his state visit to China. Among the delegates and business leaders joining Macron, there is also Rodolphe Delord. Delord is the director of the ZooParc de Beauval, a French zoological park that is one of the largest in Europe.

The pandas Huan Huan (欢欢) and Yuan Zi (圆仔) are currently residing in the park. They arrived in France in 2012 as part of a decade-long research & conservation cooperation project between the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding and ZooParc de Beauval. Their arrival was also seen as a warming of China-France relations.

In 2017, they had a baby cub named Yuan Meng. In 2021, Huan Huan again gave birth to twin cubs Huan Lili and Yuan Dudu.

The park previously indicated it would like to lengthen the duration of their agreement so that Yuan Zi and Huan Huan can stay in France for the time to come. They are also called “the stars of Beauval.”

During Macron’s visit, the hashtags “Macron Wants to Renew Giang Panda Lease” (#马克龙想续租大熊猫#) and “French Beauval Zoo Wants to Renew the Giant Panda Lease” went trending (#法国博瓦勒动物园想续租大熊猫#).

The French President apparently has an affinity with pandas. As part of his 40th birthday celebrations, Macron met the baby panda Yuan Meng back in 2017. Macron’s wife Brigitte became the cub’s ‘godmother.’ It has not been reported yet at this point if there already is an agreement about the extended lease.

 

◼︎ YAYA TO COME HOME IN LATE APRIL

Hashtags: #孟菲斯提醒未经许可直播丫丫违规#, #丫丫#, #孟菲斯动物园将为丫丫举办告别派对#, #丫丫正式移交中方#

 

Panda Yaya (丫丫), who has been living in America’s Memphis Zoo for two decades, has been a big topic on Chinese social media platforms this year because netizens have been very concerned about her skinny and seemingly unhealthy appearance and how she is being treated in the U.S. (the heightening political tensions between the US and China have not exactly eased these concerns).

According to the American care team, Yaya has been suffering from a chronic skin and fur condition which is related to her immune system and hormonal fluctuations. They claim the condition does not affect her quality of life and that they are closely monitoring Yaya.

Yaya was previously scheduled to return to China in early April of 2023. Yaya’s Memphis Zoo stay was part of a long joint conservation and research project between the Chinese Association of Zoological Gardens and the U.S. with an agreement duration of ten years, which was extended by ten more years in 2013.

On April 7, the day that Yaya was allegedly scheduled to leave Memphis, it was reported that Memphis Zoo was organizing a ‘goodbye’ event, giving visitors the time to bid farewell to Yaya before she starts her journey to China at the end of April 2023. A related topic received over 170 million clicks on Weibo on Friday (#孟菲斯动物园将为丫丫举办告别派对#).

On Saturday, Yaya got snacks and even a special cake during the goodbye event, which also included Chinese cultural performances.

Although visitors have been livestreaming Yaya at the Memphis Zoo, Chinese state media reported earlier in April that the zoo reminded visitors not to record livestreams of Yaya as it goes against their policies.

This also became a hot topic on Chinese social media: “[Yaya] needs to be livestreamed, all the way until she returned to China,” some said, with others writing: “It’s not hard to understand why they don’t want Yaya to be livestreamed.”

Some netizens and panda fans are disappointed that they will still have to wait for the female panda to return to China. “Why won’t she come to China before late April? Why why why!?”

Although Yaya fans in China will still need to wait for the panda to return, she has officially been handed over to China and a joint team of American and Chinese carers will prepare her for the big trip home (#丫丫正式移交中方#).

 

◼︎ WAITING FOR PANDA QIQI’S RETURN FROM HOSPITAL

Hashtags: #七七确诊肠梗阻将进行手术#, #熊猫七七#

 

While many people are waiting for Yaya’s return, they are also worried about another panda that is Shanghai-based. As one of the most famous pandas living in the Shanghai Wild Animal Park, Qiqi attracted attention on Chinese social media in February of 2023 because of her health problems.

The 4-year-old female panda had a CT scan that showed there was an intestinal blockage, and the panda was rushed to the hospital for surgery.

Funny detail – Dr Wang arrived at work that day and saw Mr. ‘Panda’ on the patient list, he thought it was a patient named ‘Panda’ (Xiong Mao) until he discovered it was an actual panda getting a CT scan. “We’re a regular hospital,” he said: “Our patients are usually all humans.”

Although intestinal blockage is not common, Qiqi’s older brother Ya’ao (雅奥), who also lived at the park, died of the same condition in March of 2022.

After the surgery, Qiqi received further treatment. According to the latest news at this time, Qiqi has stabilized and is no longer in life danger.

Many Qiqi fans and panda lovers are now waiting for new pictures showing a Qiqi who has, hopefully, fully recovered. “Why haven’t we received more updates?” some wonder.

Read more panda news here.

By Manya Koetse 

Get the story behind the hashtag. Subscribe to What’s on Weibo here to receive our newsletter and get access to our latest articles:

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.

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