xu zhixian chinese cowboy horseback

Epic Horseback Ride From Europe to China Was a Lie, or Was It?

Xu Zhixian has used social media to document his travels on horseback from Europe to China. Now, he’s claiming it was all fake — but was it really?

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2 months ago 1 mins read

Earlier this year, 32-year-old Xu Zhixian (徐智显) gained fame for documenting his journey through Europe on horseback, with Chinese and European media outlets picking up his story. Since beginning his travels on February 20, Xu has gained over 185,000 followers on Douyin, China’s version of TikTok.


Last week, however, a reporter for the Chinese media outlet Cover News alleged that Xu lied about the entire journey, a claim amplified on the Chinese internet and by Xu himself. This revelation, though, raises questions.


spanish coverage of xu zhixian story

A Spanish newspaper’s coverage of Xu’s horseback travels. Image via Weibo


In a call with a Chinese reporter on September 23, Xu said he had actually been in Shanxi province in North China the entire time while posting about his European journey on social media. In a screenshot of a subsequent WeChat conversation, Xu responds “never” when asked if he has ever been to Europe.


However, he refused to call the reporter from a Chinese landline to prove he was in the country.

And there are other aspects of Xu’s new claim that he has never been to Europe that don’t add up. For instance, Xu’s Instagram feed is filled with pictures of him and his horse, Furion, in front of European landmarks like the Eiffel Tower. Other photos depict him and Furion in the ocean, despite Shanxi province being landlocked.

Mathijs Valcke (@valckepigeons), who commented on one of Xu’s Instagram posts in August, spoke with RADII, and confirmed that he had met Xu in the city of Ghent, Belgium.


“I made sure [Xu] had a location to sleep while he was on his trip,” said Valcke.


Additionally, in an Instagram post from August 28, Xu holds up a Dutch newspaper featuring an article about his travels — a story that only began appearing in Dutch newspapers in late August.


xu zhixian in the netherlands

Xu holds up a Dutch newspaper that features an article about his adventure. Image via Instagram


Interestingly, the initial Cover News story alleging that Xu lied can no longer be found on its website. However, its claims have been repeated by countless other media outlets.


Believing that Xu lied about his travels, many netizens have been angered by the Chinese media’s apparent gullibility for reporting that Xu was in Europe. One Weibo user wrote, “This is blatantly destroying media credibility (if there ever was any).”


The irony, however, is that it appears that Xu actually was in Europe and that media and netizens alike are possibly being duped by a new lie.


The claim that he is lying is not the first controversy to mar his travels. Earlier this month, many accused Xu of animal abuse for subjecting his horse to the long journey. Dutch police reportedly detained him for investigation but released him after they could not prove the allegations.


The saga of Xu’s travels has been compared to Tang Seng’s, the latter being a key character in the 16th-century Chinese epic Journey to the West. Unlike Tang, however, Xu’s adventure is now shrouded in controversy and mystery, which prompts a burning question: Why is he lying about lying?


Cover image via Instagram

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