Zhibo: New Year’s Plans and Foreign Invasions

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10:16 PM HKT, Tue February 13, 2018 2 mins read

Zhibo is a weekly column in which Beijing-based American Taylor Hartwell documents his journey down the rabbit hole of Chinese livestreaming app YingKe. If you know nothing about the livestreaming (直播; “zhibo”) phenomenon in China, start here.

Survey Topic of the week: Spring Festival

Even as I write this, Beijing is emptying out. Everyone — or so the common wisdom goes — heads back to their laojia (老家; hometown) to celebrate Chinese New Year (Spring Festival) with their families. Actually, laojia literally means “old home,” and although it’s often also used to mean the town someone is from, it’s technically supposed to be the place your family is *originally* from.

Beijingers in particular are very possessive of their 老北京人 (old Beijinger) status; if you want to be considered a “local,” you’d better know which hutong your great-grandparents lived when the Qing Dynasty was still kickin’.

Basically, you need to have been hutong hipsters since before the word “hipster” existed

But for anyone not from the big city, Spring Festival is a time to head home to see the folks, eat a whole lot of dumplings, and exchange little red envelopes full of cash. While I’m very excited to be spending my first chunjie (春节, Spring Festival) in Beijing and enjoying what I’ve heard are downright surreal levels of peace and quiet, everyone else seems to be getting out as per usual. So without expecting anything other than the obvious answer, I posed the following survey question to the audience:

Where are you going for Spring Festival?

1: I’m going to my hometown (老家) to celebrate with my family.

2: I’m traveling somewhere that isn’t my hometown.

3: I’m staying where I am (and I don’t live in my hometown).

Results: By my increasingly-scientific survey methods (I actually got a pencil involved this time!), I counted around 65 for option one, 10 for option two, and 8 for option three.

老家 was option one, so I think this pretty much sums it up.

As with the previous survey about coffee, I guess sometimes the common wisdom is common for a reason. Perhaps what I should have asked is whether people want to spend their (very limited) holiday time with mom and dad, as most personal conversations I have on the subject indicate that quite a few people would prefer a bit of vacation time for themselves.


Question of the Week:

What do you think of the invasion of China by the West in nineteenth century?

Easy: It was bad. I wasn’t around for it and neither were you. The European powers treated China like shit in the 19th century and, knowing what we know now, I wish they hadn’t. Next question.

Pictured: somewhere around time 9-10 he sent this question

Oh, I see. You’re going to repeat the question 19 more times and tell me that American devils aren’t welcome. Cute.

See, this is what happens when you bundle a whole bunch of people and places into one blanket term. China obviously is pretty famous for lumping all foreigners into one basket (外国人 = out-country-people), but our hands aren’t exactly clean here; we all-too-often use “The West” when what we really mean is “the group of countries that are closer together and more like each other than they are like China but nonetheless each have their own unique Sino-Something relationship.”

Case in point: while America can’t claim total innocence in China’s famous “Century of Humiliation” (their term, not ours), the British and French were the ones doing the actual invading, so I dunno what this fella was getting salty at me about. Has he not heard of the Korean War? Much better line of inquiry if you want to go after Americans.

Of course, I barely even want to go down that rabbit hole on RADII — we already have Jeremiah for matters of real history. I sure as hell am not trying to engage in a historical debate about a famously touchy topic in China with a zhibo troll who copy-pastes the same question twenty times inside an hour.


Comment of the Week:

Taylor is not a foreign devil, but a messenger.

Aha! Take that, invasion-of-china-by-the-west-in-nineteeth-century-troll!

Not sure what my message is, though. Other than what’s rapidly becoming my Yingke mantra — I’m just one American and I can only represent myself, not every other foreigner on earth — I think the vast majority of my “message” is made up of thoughts on coffee, it being too early to sing that song, and promises that I don’t dye my hair or wear colored contacts. Not exactly sermon on the mount stuff.

Video of the Week:

This sand in a bottle artist doing his thing.

I had no idea this was a thing, but I love it. (GIF version here.)

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