For those of you too busy to check in on the RADII website every day, we’ve got you every Tuesday with a summary of all we got on China’s youth culture from the last week. In this edition:
- While some creatives are threatened by AI art, others, like Chinese artist Zzai, are using it to take their craft to unprecedented heights.
- Amid the periodic school lockdowns in China, college students are crawling around their campuses to vent their frustration and build a sense of community.
- The Chinese Ministry of Education plans to eliminate certain majors as part of an effort to increase the employment rate for college graduates.
- After midnight on November 21, a wooden ship dating back to China’s Qing Dynasty was salvaged from the Yangtze River after nearly 10 months of recovery work.
Intrigued? Keep scrolling, my friend.
A divisive topic in recent months, AI-generated art is worrying to some artists, who wonder whether they’ll be replaced by algorithms. Meanwhile, others deem AI creations as little more than high-tech plagiarism.
In 2022, an array of AI tools have become available to the general public. The most accessible ones only require inputting a few words to create original images, which has resulted in a tidal wave of surreal memes — who doesn’t want to see the Demogorgon from Stranger Things playing basketball?
However, when a work of art made with AI controversially won an art prize in Colorado in September, many realized that the technology has more to offer than just memes.
A digital artist experimenting with AI is Zzai (born Chen Zhe). Born in the Chinese province of Guangxi, Zzai teaches visual communication, boasts a phD in media studies, and has been exhibited around China.
While browsing Zzai’s mesmerizing creations, few might guess that the artist has been experimenting with AI for only half a year.
“In May I started following some bloggers on Xiaohongshu [a Chinese social media platform similar to Instagram] and I was really inspired by their creations, so I started learning,” says the artist in an interview with RADII.
Relying on a software called Midjourney, Zzai creates visionary images that put cyberpunk spins on Chinese culture and history.
Chinese college students are growing increasingly dissatisfied with the rolling campus lockdowns that have become commonplace amid China’s hardline approach to managing the Covid-19 pandemic. Some are venting their frustration by taking handmade cardboard ‘pets’ out for a walk (seriously, we aren’t making this shit up) or, more recently, by crawling on the ground.
Xiaoyuanpa (校园爬, crawling on campus) is a new trend among Chinese college students, including at some elite schools such as the Communication University of China (shown in the video above). According to Baidu Index, the number of searches for the term ‘crawling’ increased sixfold from November 10 to 14. Chinese lifestyle platform Xiaohongshu has even hosted a crawling competition, which has generated almost 4 million views.
Crawling pals, or payou (爬友) in Chinese, coordinate a time and location in group chats and meet up to crawl around their campus per the organizer’s instructions.
The college students embracing crawling as an exercise and method of venting their angst were inspired by a viral meme: crawling in the dark (阴暗地爬行). This is part of a more significant trend called ‘insane writing’ (发疯文学, fafeng wenxue), which has made waves on the Chinese internet, where netizens express their emotions in illogical and inconsistent words and phrases.
Netizens initially used ‘insane writing’ when arguing with ecommerce customer service staff, but the writing format soon became popular among college students. The mobile game Arknightshas made it even more well-known, especially among anime-loving Gen Zers, as it uses strangely worded in-game text.
According to one expert, the crawling college students are bringing the insanity of their online text-based communications to the real world to reestablish control over their current situation (Covid-19 lockdowns and bleak job prospects) and build a sense of community.
Xinwenyue Shi (施鑫文月), aka Duke Wang Jiang, is a bilingual hip-hop singer/songwriter.
His music is imbued with western influences from his nearly 10 years of living in Boston, though he stays true to his Chengdu roots. His music effortlessly blends Asian culture with hip-hop and R&B. Specifically, he's employed his distinct "silky-smooth hip-hop style" to translate Bashu culture into a global language.
RADII spoke to Shi about how his music combines his love for both Boston and Chengdu, and how he comes to terms with his identity while maneuvering in both worlds.
- Just hours after the 2022 FIFA World Cup kicked off in Qatar, the sporting event instantly became a trending topic on the Chinese internet — memes and gossip galore!
- A woman in South China sued an online memorial platform after stumbling upon her own obituary, which claimed that she had died tragically over a decade ago.
- In addition to giving ‘The Nutcracker,’ a classic Christmas ballet with a history of yellowface, a much-needed facelift, the has released NFT tickets with interactive artwork.
- Blizzard Entertainment, the maker of titles such as ‘World of Warcraft’ and ‘Diablo III’ will cease operations in China when its license with tech giant NetEase expires in January 2023.