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How A Single Picture Can Make You Famous In China

China is in full gears to becoming a cultural superpower, and its 400 million micro-bloggershave a huge stake in creating the future society.

A Chinese Cinderella Story – Kang Yikun, the ‘University Goddess’

BEIJING – Everyone in China these days is talking about KANG Yikun.

She is a delightful and attractive art graduate of Renmin University and was recently featured on her elite university’s homepage (see image). Within hours, the school’s website crashed due to the heaviest traffic in its history.

Tens of thousands of micro-bloggers syndicated the tale of the robe-wearing hottie. Days later, the mass media picked up this Chinese Cinderella story. Kang Yikun turned celebrity and national sex symbol overnight – without the sex. She now has hundreds of fan-pages, picture galleries, millions of followers, and was even dubbed the ‘Goddess of Renmin University’ by Global Times, the People’s Daily, and various media outlets throughout East-Asia.

Going Viral China-Style

Here’s what one blogger wrote: “When I first read about this story, I was skeptical. But after seeing her, I totally understand. She is definitely a head-turner and might just be the most beautiful Chinese lady I have ever seen. I can’t stop staring at her.”

China is in full gears to becoming a cultural superpower, and its 400 million micro-bloggers have a huge stake in creating the future society. To be sure, the public is seen as hungry for the unpredictable: As Kang’s photographer, Mao Yanzheng, told the press: “It’s unbelievable that it takes only one photo to make a person famous.”

China’s Sexual Revolution?

Pictures of sexy (but not nude) girls in China – they are called Měinǚ – are traded like gem stones in the lower spheres of the internet – mostly uncensored. The industry is comparable to Japanese and Korean society, albeit not yet as sophisticated; still, nothing like it of scale exists in America or Europe: Beautiful female students are often worshipped and venerated. Why?

Some people argue that this has to do with East-Asian societies being (Confucian) learning cultures. There’s huge stress on conformity, piety and rote learning. Thus, being sexy in China is linked to imagery of sweet high school students or university grads. It may be cliché, but true: Women in China don’t undress; they get an education. This also explains why millions of drooling fans go viral over an innocent looking, fully-dressed, hat-tossing female student.

This may all be a much-needed trigger to further escalate what Richard Burger in his latest book, ‘Sex in China,‘ calls the Chinese “Sexual Revolution”. Especially college students – living in shared dormitory rooms throughout much of their school years and at university – have a very limited sexual horizon and experiences with the other sex. They learn mostly from the internet, which, of course, is partly censored, partly a bad idea.

Unattainable College Girls

The Chinese high society with its strong ties to the Western world may be an exception to the rule. For example how modern Chinese college girls are depicted on TV can be seen in ‘Tiny Times‘, a popular entertainment program about four Shanghai celebrity gals. It’s a rip-off of ‘Sex and the City,’ but still: Their daily routines give away clues about beauty, materialism, and idol worship in mainland China – the girls are sassy and quite unattainable.

For some reasons the gentle sex in China is depicted hyper-female – more petite, lighter, slender, and more doll-like than most women in the West (it reminds of the kawaii (cute) culture in Japan). But that’s just my opinion. You will have your own.

Finally, Kang Yikun’s original picture was taken down from Renmin University’s website on August 7, 2013. The hype hasn’t retreated a bit.

Image credit: MAO Yanzheng KANG Yikun/

Read it at People’s Daily.


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