Zhibo: “Small Fresh Meat” and the Art of Sanguinity (Part 2)

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7:25 PM HKT, Mon December 18, 2017 3 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.

Welcome back! Last week, we went over a few of the 印象, or impressions the Yingke community can use to “tag” their favorite streamers with. In case you missed it, here’s Part 1:

And here are a few more:

才艺 — Talented (94)

“Talent” on Yingke usually refers to musical talent, specifically singing. I’d say that around 75% of the “music” I see in streaming rooms consists of someone singing with KTV (karaoke) tracks and the echo turned up to ten.

Beyond that, there are some niche performers with traditional Chinese instruments – quite a few guzheng (that long stringed board people pluck with crazy metal fingernail attachments), pipa (like a lute), and dizi (bamboo flute) to be seen. There are also several DJ-style acts, ranging from people with a small home setup to DJs and EDM artists livestreaming their actual shows.

Actual advice, for once: If you’ve got some basic piano/guitar skills and can carry a tune, you’ve got yourself a path to a huge audience on Yingke. Learn yourself a few simple Chinese pop songs and watch the likes and follows pile up.

阳光暖男 — “Sunshine Boy” (153)

Look, some things go beyond my ability to explain them. The fact that 153 humans used their thumbs to knowingly tap this button with the intent of non-ironically describing me kind of transcends the concept of “funny.” I need a new word to describe this feeling.

For bonus humor, several sources I checked (including the all-knowing Pleco!) also say that this term refers to a man who is considered family-oriented and/or considerate/protective. I don’t have a punchline. This is just odd.

Not quite “it was the plants all along” odd, but odd

逗比搞笑 — Snarky/Silly-but-Funny (162)

Ah, the world makes sense again. The only thing that confuses me about this is that it’s not my #1 “impression.” I’m gonna chalk that up to the fact that at any given time, at least half of the audience is completely confused by my sarcasm and genuinely believes that I don’t like Chinese food or I live inside their phone or I’m 100 years old or whatever.

By the way, the notion that sarcasm simply *doesn’t work* in Chinese — a notion told to me by multiple Chinese teachers — is, as with all things, more nuanced than I once thought. There’s definitely a case to be made that owing to the nature of the education system here (a lot of commands and rote memorization and not a lot of questioning things), many people grow up to be shockingly literal and reactive in terms of their thinking. I’m often reminded of the big blue/grey guy* in Guardians of the Galaxy not understanding what Chris Pratt means when he draws a finger across his throat.

But people are people. If you say something that’s obviously not true with a big eye roll, plenty of people are going to get that it’s a joke (even if they don’t think it’s funny). And plenty more people who don’t get that it’s a joke will ask you what you mean and get it the next time. I’ve found that just crossing the *first conversation* barrier with a new acquaintance usually gets us most of the way there when it comes to making-sarcastic-jokes-land. It’s true that there is always a solid base of *oh, your foreign humor is confusing, we can’t understand it* sort of comments, but they seem to come from the same people who see the American flag in my username and still ask where I’m from.

Let’s not forget that no matter where you are, there’s a lot of dumb people on the internet.

活泼开朗 — Vivacious and Sanguine

I’m sad to say I don’t have a single one of these tags — they seem to be limited to women only. I’m going to have to work on my vivacious giggle. In fact, quite a lot of the “impressions” are gender-specific, or at least heavily tilted in one direction. For example:

美妆达人 — A Beautifully Made-Up/Adorned Person

“达人” also is sort of a formal term for a well-informed person, but since it appears after a LOT of tags that have nothing to do with intelligence, I think it might just be a polite way to describe people.

御姐 — “Controlling Sister”

That’s the literal translation, though the phrase can also mean sexy, but in a mature way (in contrast to the usual ideal of petite youthful giggling schoolgirl types).

清纯 — Fresh and Pure


舞蹈达人 — Dancer

Seemingly applied to every popular female streamer, even if they’ve never once done anything resembling dancing on their stream.

I’m not sure how much actionable information these tags actually give someone looking to conquer the world of Chinese livestreaming — “people like music,” “humor is good,” and “throw on a suit now and then” all seem pretty self-evident to me. If there’s any advice for someone interested in zhibo buried in here, I’d say look at the first few impressions you get and use that to gauge what it is about you that people like seeing. After all, the audience may know you better than you know yourself!

Hopefully not literally

* I know his name is Drax the Destroyer. We’re writing for a general audience here. Put that comment back in the bag.

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