Zhibo: Privacy, Hand-Dancing, and Starvation

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6:00 PM HKT, Mon January 15, 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.

Hey y’all. It’s a new year and I’d like to try something new with this column. Rather than writing longwinded China essays that are, at best, vaguely related to zhibo (livestreaming), I’ll be attempting to turn this into a weekly roundup of the funniest/weirdest/most entertaining interactions I’m having with the Chinese internet’s citizenry. Coincidentally, this will also be a lot less work for yours truly.

Additionally, it has occurred to me — worrisomely late in the game — that having 75,000 citizens of the PRC in one (digital) place at one time gives me a pretty unique power of survey. If you’re curious about what Chinese millennials think about this or that, feel free to send me questions and I’ll report back the following week! (If you’ve never read this column before, ignore everything I just said, or start here.)


Comment of the Week:

There is NO private question in the world! people pretend to be!

Guys of a bro-y nature on Yingke tend to ask less than family-friendly questions about my personal life (usually by asking me to provide certain…statistics). Setting aside for now how disappointed they’d probably be by my honest answer, I always answer the “how many…” sorts of questions with either an unsubtle pivot to a new topic or a polite “Yeah, that’s not really something I’m looking to get into with 50,000 people, thanks.”

Apparently, some people disagree with my interpretation of “private.”


Video of the Week:

This spellbinding Michael Jackson coordinated hand-dance.

Yingke really has an insane variety of Vine-like videos, but like Vine (RIP), the vast majority fall into a few pre-determined categories: hot girls being hot, hunky guys being hunky, cute animals being cute, very specific sets of joke patterns, magic tricks, and various other visually impressive skills. I’ll try to share the ones that most break the mold — and this is definitely the first fingers-only dance routine I’ve ever seen.


Thing People Keep Asking:

Have you eaten?

Chinese people care about food. Like, a lot.

You would too if Chinese food just meant “food” to you

I know it’s not great to lead with big sweeping generalizations about a billion people, but this one is pretty indisputable. This is a nation where 吃饭了吗 (have you eaten?) is a perfectly normal greeting. Not — to be clear — as part of a greeting, i.e. hey, how’s it going, long time no see, have you eaten lunch yet? No, I mean people starting and ending their “hello” with the actual question “have you eaten?”

This is particularly true in the morning. There’s a Chinese saying (isn’t there always?) that goes as follows:


In the morning, eat till you’re full. In the afternoon, eat well. In the evening, eat little.

Of course, everyone gets to have their opinion and structure their caloric intake however they so choose: I personally stopped eating breakfast years ago for reasons that I don’t need to bore the internet with. But while in America I can simply avoid the topic or just say “yep” and move on, people in China seem to almost always follow this question up with what did you eat?!?

So at that point I either need to start constructing a daily lie (I stream every morning) or be rude and ignore the question. At this point, I usually just answer with “noididnteat inevereatbreakfast andiknowthatdriveseveryonecrazy butreallyattheendoftheday myeatinghabitsshouldntreally botheryousoletsall justmoveonwithourlives.

It’s either that or this awkward *womp womp* face

If only real-life people were so easy to answer. Telling a Chinese friend that you haven’t eaten — particularly in the morning — more often than not results in genuine concern which clearly comes from a good place but translates into pretty frustrating pushiness.

As with a lot of things in China, you have to remember that culture and attitudes take a few generations to adjust to huge changes in society — consider how a Chinese grandparent who lived through the 1960s probably talked to their children about food. There may be a KFC on every corner these days, but it’ll probably be another generation before China’s urban population refocuses its concern on things like childhood obesity.

But for now, I’ll just keep lying, thank you very much.


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