I was really struggling looking up a topic for a blog on Chinese Popular Culture to begin with. All I could think of was Gung Fu (yes Gung Fu) and wushu and Chinese martial arts and the medicinal arts but It does not feel like that has much to do with today’s pop culture, save maybe Bruce Lee and his legacy and its modern iterations in cinema. However I did finally find something interesting but something I had also never really thought about before: internet culture.
Many people don’t really think of the internet having its own culture, even here in America at first glance. But many people have taken to saying things like “lolz” and “brb” in everyday life even in conversations! (Or is that just me and the people I speak too? >_> anyway…) I decided to look into how the Chinese express themselves online. Here in America the anonymity granted by the internet and what ever handle you choose for yourself has led many people to indulge in the freedom of speech in a way that seemed absurd in real life but is completely normal on the internet. Would the same be true in a country where freedom of speech is only a dream in the real world?
To be honest yes it is, in a way. While things like emoticons and slang in the form of the so called “Martian Language” is a facet of Chinese online culture like it is here in America, because of the restriction on speech the internet community has turned into a very large investigative tool such as on the message board services, that are so popular there as opposed to the blogging services that are popular here in America. This coupled with the anonymity inherent in the internet has caused many webizens to discuss rather charged subjects on internet boards which at times has led to real world action by third party and Chinese governmental action for the better in the real world. This shows how the voice of the people is still alive and well in a country that has a restriction on freedom of speech. The collaboration of many different people can do amazing things but it can also be used for some rather nefarious purposes.
I am referring to what is being called the “Human Flesh Search Engine”. This is where members of the online community in china search someone out based upon information online and use it to harass that person in real life, using things like photos or logins and basic information to track down people and chastise them for their real world actions. For example an exchange student in america pictured drawing “free tibet” on a shirt was tracked down and sent thousands of pieces of hatemail for her unpatriotic ideas. Numerous other people have had their personal information released in public forums because of the things they have been found doing with online evidence and attacked for. This has led to even arrests by the Chinese government of citizens who speak out on small matters. Thus is the power of group think, it can be a dangerous thing especially in an area so polarized as in China. It reminds me of how the people of 4chan (the nadir of the internet) focused their powers and broke contest by an artist (Justin Beiber) about where he should have his next tour it was supposed to be chosen by the fans but 4chan hijacked it and made the results say he would have to have his next tour in Afghanistan. To which the artist promptly retracted his offer and nullified the contest. It does not matter where you are it seems that the fingers of the internet seem to move from the digital world and into the real (solid?) world.
Finally there is the phenomenon of the ‘meme’ something that I thought was wholly American (thank you 4chan). However I was very wrong not only are there Chinese ‘memes’ they are completely original and unique to the Chinese culture and view of the world. This is something I never imagined! There could be a Chinese version of lolcats (mother of god o_o). But this just goes to show that just cause we don’t notice something does not mean its not there, and no matter how badly the thought police try to search out dissent in China. There is still freedom, there is still a unity of thought in what people enjoy a defining thread that binds large groups of people in common enjoyment and understanding. Couple that with the amount of people in China, the amount of original ideas that can produce, and an internet language that combines Chinese characters, western characters and arabic numbers; the amount of things that can be shared and become memes in the inboxes and message boards of China are staggering. Not to mention wide reaching. I leave you with this thought if you are a denizen of the internet and its various corners you may have come across the phrase -orz. Orz is mainly used as an exclamation of complete and utter whatever the word it is attached to is. It is also used for various other uses that are probably too numerous to list. However in China the -orz meme has taken on an entirely different meaning. Look at the characters (O)(r)(z). They seem like regular characters individually but together they become a picture Orz of a man kneeling with the ‘O’ being the head the ‘r’ being the arms and ‘z’ being the bent legs. It is used in combination with ‘3Q’ which in Chinese is pronounced “sa-Q” as a way of saying thanks. Creativity is found everywhere, especially in Memes it seems.