The Last Emperor
November 30 2017
溥仪 (Pŭyí) was the last Emperor of China. In 1908, two and a half years old, Pŭyí was given the throne: The last two emperors had died without leaving heirs, and so Pŭyí, who was the grandson of the emperor before them, was chosen to rule the Qīng Dynasty.
It became the last dynasty. In 1911, the Nationalist revolution forced Pŭyí off the throne, turning China into a republic, while allowing the child emperor to live the rest of his life in quiet dignity, as a regular citizen with a life stipend. This was until he was reinstalled by the invading Japanese, as a puppet ruler of Northern China in 1932.
After World War II, he was held hostage by the Soviets, who had helped take Northern China back from Japan. After Máo came into power, Pŭyí returned to China, married a nurse, and became a literary editor for the government. He had no children.
Reinstated - for a while. Wikimedia Commons
November 29 2017
王思聪 (Wáng Sīcōng) is the son of the richest man in China, owner of the Wàndá real estate conglomerate. He himself is a rich kid/playboy/business man with millions of followers on social media.
Wáng Sīcōng is known as the “National Husband” for his looks, his money, and – importantly – his single status. His long history of dating girls with beautiful 网红脸 (Wánghóngliăn) – “hot internet faces” – has not yet made the nation give up hope!
In addition to being a board member in his father’s company, he has invested millions in his own e-sports team, and is generally the face of that industry in China. He’s also invested in K-pop and hotels.
As a celebrity, he’s known as a searing online critic, tossing biting comments in all directions. Delivery company JD, for example, once took 8 days to deliver a computer desk for him. Woe, them!
Eligible? Huadong Online
Meet Happy Goat
November 28 2017
喜羊羊 (Xĭ Yángyáng) is a much-loved character in the cartoon of the same name. A happy primary school goat living in the Green-Green Pastures, he spends his time hanging out with his friends (who are named after their character traits just like the Smurfs, including Lazy Goat and Beautiful Goat), and trying to avoid being eaten by the big, bad wolf.
The wolf tries to catch the sheep in each episode, usually concocting some inventive ploy, a lot like Wile E. Coyote. He fails epically in every episode, often resulting in his narcissistic wife hitting him with a frying pan.
Kids watching the show are usually unaware of the many puns and references to famous people that it includes, but every schoolchild knows the characters, and one can’t walk far down a Chinese street without seeing the Happy Goat and his friends on a backpack or a t-shirt.
So fluffy. Creative Power Entertaining
From Concubine to Absolute Ruler
November 24 2017
武则天 (Wŭ Zétiān) was the only woman in China’s history to take the title of 皇帝 (huángdì), or emperor.
Starting as just another imperial concubine in Xī’ān, Wŭ Zétiān single-handedly interrupted the newly established Tang Dynasty, creating her own dynasty, her own written characters, introducing reforms, and effectively ruling China for 50 years.
Her reign was characterized by rising living standards, a growing population, and wars of conquest that expanded the empire.
Historical work on Wŭ Zétiān has often focused on her gender rather than her accomplishments: Several of her sons and senior public officials died under mysterious circumstances, which has led many to portray her as a power hungry witch. Recent treatments are more positive.
She is famous for insisting on designing her own tombstone –without characters on, which is unusual. The picture is painted several hundred years after she died in 705, so definitely don’t trust it.
Mean or fabulous? Legendary, regardless. Qulishi Online
Why We Have Grandchildren
November 23 2017
愚公移山 (Yúgōng yí shān) “Yúgōng Moves Mountains” is an ancient legend. Yúgōng (literally “foolish man”) was a very old man who didn’t like the two mountains next to his house.
He started digging the mountains away, throwing the dirt into the sea. One day, while the work was going on, a neighbor came and told him to stop wasting his energy – an old fool like him could barely cut down a tree, much less move a mountain!
But Yúgōng smiled and said he had only just begun. His children’s children's children would finish the job one day. The legend has now become an idiom used to encourage perseverance, somewhat similar to the English phrase “Rome wasn’t built in a day”.
Chairman Máo once famously used the story as a metaphor, saying that the Chinese people, over time, will be able to cast off the two mountains of imperialism and feudalism.
One step at a time. Duitang Online
The Most Hated Celebrity in China
November 22 2017
郭敬明 (Guō Jìngmíng) is the wealthiest writer in China, and only 34 years old. For three years in a row, he has been voted “Most Hated Male Celebrity in China” on the popular gossip forum Tianya.cn, both because of some ugly plagiarism charges, and because of his general attitude and extravagant lifestyle.
Himself a teen celebrity (he started winning prestigious writing prizes in high school), his primary audience is young adults who enjoy his love stories, which often include fantasy elements.
His most famous story, 小时代 (Xiăoshídài), “Tiny Times”, was published in installments in his own magazine, and has since been turned into a wildly popular three-season TV series. It tells the story of four girls who live in Shànghăi, including their love-related challenges.
If you ask an average person in the street about him, their first comment is likely to be about his size: At 4’ 10’’ (147 cm), Guō Jìngmíng’s received hatred per inch is unparallelled.
You love him or you hate him Most do the latter. Official Weibo Account
Coca-Cola, Beware: Here Comes Canned Tea
November 21st 2017
凉茶(Liángchá), cold herbal tea, has gone from being a traditional beverage from the Guăngdōng/ Hong Kong/ Macau area, to becoming a massively popular canned soft drink with sales numbers that rival those of Coca Cola.
The main ingredients of liángchá are water, sugar, honeysuckle, chrysanthemum and Chinese mesona (a plant in the mint family). In traditional Chinese medicine lingo, liángchá reduces body “heat”, and is good for balancing a hot or fatty diet, which makes it particularly popular with meat dishes. An unnamed Mingbai editor also recommends it for hangovers.
The two famous rival companies, 王老吉 (Wáng Lăo Jí) and 加多宝 (Jiā Duō Băo), have extremely similar designs - red cans with yellow characters - and have fought long and vicious high profile court cases over the rights to the design and the recipe. The winner? The advertising industry, of course!
Like Coke and Pepsi, but with more drama. Nanfang Online
Speak of the Devil
November 20th 2017
曹操 (Cáo Cāo) is the ultimate villain character in Chinese mythology. Based on a real person, Cáo Cāo is the bad guy in The Romance of the Three Kingdoms, one of China’s most important epic legends.
As any really evil mastermind, he first allies with the good guys in the story, helping them defeat an evil (but not as evil as Cáo Cāo) warlord, but then he pounces while the empire is weak, effectively ending the Hàn Dynasty in 220 AD and ushering in the unstable Three Kingdoms period.
Now, modern history research is slowly giving Cáo Cāo a better name - he was apparently quite nice to the people he didn’t ruthlessly kill.
Cáo Cāo’s legend is preserved in modern language: The English phrase, “speak of the devil” is in Chinese 说曹操，曹操到 (shuō Cáo Cāo, Cáo Cāo dào), or “when you mention Cáo Cāo, Cáo Cāo comes.”
The tyrant as depicted in a Beijing opera. Wikimedia Commons
Leave the Noodles. Take the Hot Sauce.
November 17th 2017
老干妈 (Lǎo Gān Mā), “Godmother”, is China's premier brand of hot sauce. The famous founder, 陶华碧 (Táo Huá Bì), never graduated from primary school. She first opened a restaurant in Guìzhōu Province, selling bean jelly and cold noodles.
However, after a while, she realized that people didn’t actually come to her restaurant for her noodles - they came for her hot sauce! Some came only for the sauce, not even wanting the noodles.
She has since won the “8th of March Red Banner Holder's Award”, the highest women-only award in China, and has also become a National People’s Congress delegate for Guìzhōu.
Lǎo Gān Mā can be found in every Chinese supermarket abroad, but because the price is high there, Chinese who study abroad will often bring a jar along from home (about $1 apiece versus about $5 in the US!).
A godmother and a national hot sauce. Guizhou local government and TMall
The Queen of Sassy
November 16th 2017
金星 (Jīn Xīng) is China’s most famous transgender person. Starting life as a man, Jīn Xīng became a professional dancer, training in New York, touring in Europe, and winning the Táolĭ Cup, China’s most prestigious dance award.
At age 26, Jīn Xīng became the first to get Chinese government approval to undergo a sex change operation and be officially regarded as fully female. The operation left her leg temporarily paralyzed, but she eventually regained her dancing ability. She adopted three children and married a German before rising to superstardom as a judge in the Chinese version of “So You Think You Can Dance?”
She since started her own weekly talk show, the Jīn Xīng Show, where she has been sassily roasting famous people in front of an audience of 100 million. Her trademarks are her sharp criticisms of everything, and her special hand gesture, “完美” (wánmeĭ) - “Perfect”.
Swirl, then out: "Perfect". Aifuqing Online
Bad Dads? Great Reality TV!
November 15th 2017
爸爸去哪儿? (Bàba qù náer?), “Where are we going, Dad?”, is a family reality show produced by Hunan TV. Each season follows five or six famous men (often movie stars or athletes) and their 3 to 7-year old children as they go exploring in some faraway location such as a small village, a desert, a tropical island, or a safari park.
Here they have to face challenges such as sub-par living conditions, eating competitions, and sudden dad-swaps. The show uses dads instead of moms to test the stereotype that many people have that dads are messier and worse at taking care of children – with varying results!
For example, in one now-famous episode, Olympic diver Tián Liàng had no idea what to do when his daughter came to their rural shooting location and started to cry unstoppably. Tián Liàng helplessly kept saying “don't cry, don’t cry” while the whole country looked on with a mix of pity and amusement.
"Where are we going, Dad?" Dad has no idea. Official Weibo account
The White Rabbit
November 13th 2017
大白兔 (Dàbáitù), marketed abroad as “White Rabbit Creamy Candy”, is one of the most-sold sweets in China. Many Chinese have fond childhood memories associated with the milky treats.
They were first produced by the famous Shanghai Guānshēngyuán Food Company in 1959, specially made for the 10th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic. This was the time of the great famine following the Great Leap Forward, and the use of food stamps made sweets a rare luxury.
Today, Dàbáitù is nothing less than a national symbol. In fact, Dàbáitù is so essential to the Chinese nation that they were presented as a gift to President Nixon, the first US president to visit China after the revolution.
Dàbáitù took a PR hit under the 2008 milk melamine contamination scandal, but quickly returned to popularity with a superhuman feat of brand management – a case often taught in Chinese business schools.
There are two layers of wrapping - the inner one is edible rice paper. Wikimedia Commons
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