China's new favourite couple
Discussing how a fitness coach and his wife became a Shanghai pandemic lockdown hit
A recently little-known Taiwan-born singer, actor, and personal trainer has become an overnight viral sensation in China.
Since the beginning of lockdown in Shanghai, Liú Gēnghóng 刘畊宏 (aka Will Liu) has been broadcasting 90-minute work-out sessions from his apartment in Shanghai with his wife, Wáng Wǎnfēi 王婉霏 (Vivi Wang), every evening on Douyin, China's TikTok, as well as a session on Saturday mornings.
Millions of people in Shanghai are still under strict lockdown. Liu's work-outs give them something to look forward to each day (Sohu, Chinese).
If you open your social media feed every evening, you’ll see that at least half of your female friends have become ‘Liu Genghong girls’.
The number of viewers is staggering. Over the past month, more than 100 million people have watched Liu's livestreams. A single broadcast was watched by 44.76 million people, the biggest audience on Douyin this year, according to tech blog, 36Kr:
Liu Genghong’s followers on Douyin officially broke through 40 million. Even more crazy is on 20 April, his followers had reached 20 million, and on the next day he amazingly hit 30 million - in other words gaining another 10 million followers within one day.
Liu’s wife, Wáng Wǎnfēi 王婉霏 (Vivi Wang) also does sessions with him. She can’t always keep up with his incredible energy and is often in the background doing less intense exercises with a pained expression on her face; fans love this and can relate.
Liu has also been blocked by Douyin three times due to his chest being too big. He leveraged this as an opportunity by wearing a thick coat in his next sessions to stop the censors panicking and closing him down. This too was a big hit with fans.
But the real winner is Douyin. Many of Liu’s new fans are also new to the platform and joined to watch his livestreams.
Thanks to Liu’s success, there’s also talk of the fitness industry becoming China’s next big thing (163.com, Chinese):
Fitness is the next big thing in China. Fitness live streaming has always lacked a representative brand name. Liu Genghong has caught this trend. At the same time, Douyin has grabbed the opportunity of Liu’s rise.
So this week we explore conversations of Liu’s meteoric rise with my five favourite words, and then diving into the vocab you’ll need to discuss in more detail.
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The Favourite Five
Here are my favourite five words and phrases which defined this news story:
1. 磕CP kē c - p
love your favourite celebrity couple
这样的感情羡煞旁人，大家都沉浸在磕CP的快乐中 - The relationship they have is enviable. Fans are so happy just appreciating their favourite couple.
Note: ‘CP’ is Chinese internet slang for ‘couple’; 磕 kē means ‘to eat’ but here is means to like or appreciate.
More: also translated as ‘shipping’ - I am shipping that couple.
2. 撒狗粮 sǎ gǒu liáng
sprinkle dog food; couple showing their love/affection for each other
刘畊宏是和妻子一起健身，二人在健身过程中，还不忘“撒狗粮” - As Liu and his wife exercise together, they don’t forget to show their affection towards each other in the process.
3. 出圈儿 chū quān' ér
cross over into the mainstream
刘畊宏却是首个让健身直播出圈儿的人 - Liu Genghong is the first fitness live-streamer to cross over into the mainstream.
Related: 破圈 pò quān, break though (also 出圈 chū quān)
4. 反差萌 fǎn chā méng
妻子在一旁“划水”的痛苦表情也与屏幕前的网友形成共鸣，这一“反差萌”吸粉无数 - His wife, whose painful expression while trying hard to keep up alongside Liu, has struck a chord with netizens who feel the same pain as her. This 'cute contrast' between the two of them has helped attract countless new fans.
More: 划水 huá shuǐ - ‘rowing’ meaning to slack off or be lazy at work (same as 摸鱼, feeling fish); here it means to do less intense exercises.
5. 不温不火 bù wēn bù huǒ
neither warm nor hot; mediocre
以前在淘宝平台上的直播，刘畊宏直播不温不火 - Previously Liu Genghong’s Taobao performance was mediocre.
Note: this idiom appeared in almost every article I read on this story, so if you learn nothing else this week, commit this idiom to memory.
Consuming the conversation
Here are this week’s words of the week. I’ve included some basics too because the different words for excercise can be confusing.
跳操 tiào cāo - dancing, or working out (or somewhere in between)
燃脂 rán zhī - fat burning (fat can also be pronounced zhǐ)
毽子操 jiànzi cāo - kicking workout (this is a new one invented by Liu which is based on a type of traditional Chinese sport)
健身操 jiàn shēn cāo - aerobics
眼馋 yǎn chán
to be envious
刘畊宏成了最新顶流，各大平台看着眼馋不已 - Liu Genghong has become a top Internet celebrity on Douyin, which is making all the other platforms watch enviously.
乌龙 wū lóng
他因三次乌龙事件，引起大众对其的兴趣，他靠着三次禁播而“出圈”，频上热搜 - There were three mistakes which caused audiences to be interested in him. He took advantage of his livestream being blocked by the platform in order to cross over into the mainstream and regularly at the top of the search rankings.
Note: first discussed in 1 May newsletter last year.
卖力 mài lì
他一边做起大幅运动，一边卖力地喊着“come on动起来” - He exercises vigorously and at the same time does his best to shout ‘come on’ to get people moving.
打赏 dǎ shǎng
reward, online rewards paid by viewers
每场直播打赏分成50%，还赚了无限流量 - The platform takes 50% of earnings from online payments as well as gaining limitless traffic.
拉满 lā mǎn
a full experience, satisfied
超强且密集的健身动作、以及刘畊宏1V1私教般不停地鼓励，让网友们健身感直接拉满 - Strong and intense exercises, as well as Liu’s continuous 1-1 encouragement, create a great feeling and experience for netizens taking part.
Note: originally a gaming word meaning the ‘full combination’ of good skills and data.
涨粉 zhǎng fěn
grow number of fans
刘畊宏7天涨粉1000万的消息登上热搜，刷新了抖音涨粉记录 - In the space of seven days, Liu Genghong gained 10 million fans which topped the search rankings, and set new records for Douyin.
话痨 huà láo
刘畊宏的运动热情和“话痨”人设激起了粉丝的运动欲 - Liu Genghong’s passion for exercise and his talkative personality have inspired netizens to exercise.
分食 fēn shí
take a share of
抖音直播凭借刘畊宏的爆火，再次分食了Keep们的内容生产力 - Douyin have taken a share of the Keep livestream content fitness market through the popularity of Liu Genghong.
比肩 bǐ jiān
stand shoulder to shoulder; comparable
刘畊宏一跃成为了比肩李佳琦一样的现象级直播顶流明星 - Liu Genghong has in a very short time become a top livestream star as influential as Austin Lee.
火出天际 huǒ chū tiān jì
fire to the sky, become extremely popular very quickly
从4月开始，刘畊宏开始肉眼可见地火出了天际 - Since April, it’s plain to see that Liu Genghong has become ridiculously popular.
火爆不已 huǒ bào bù yǐ
过去一年，健身镜火爆不已 - Exercise mirrors have become extremely popular over the last year.
猝不及防 cù bù jí fáng
be put of guard or taken by surprise
猝不及防，刘畊宏是怎么火起来的？- It happened so suddenly. How did Liu Genghong become so popular?
一拥而上 yī yōng' ér shàng
rush forward in a crowd
流量焦虑让平台们一拥而上，希望能从自己的手中创造出下一个李佳琦 - The platforms are anxious to generate web traffic, all looking to create the next Austin Lee.
挥之不去 huī zhī bù qù
unable to take away or remove, can’t forget
到处充斥着刘畊宏毽子操再加工的视频，洗脑一般挥之不去 - Video clips of Liu Genghong’s workouts are all over the Internet. Once you’ve seen them you can’t forget them.
羡煞旁人 xiàn shà páng rén
the envy of others
这样的感情羡煞旁人，大家都沉浸在磕CP的快乐中 - The connection between the two of them makes people jealous; netizens are entranced by the happiness they bring.
痛并快乐着 tòng bìng kuài lè zhe
painfully happy; a love-hate relationship
一批刘畊宏的粉丝患上了“下楼恐惧症”，因健身太卖力引发的手脚酸痛症状冲上热搜，粉丝们“痛并快乐着” - A group of Liu’s fans have got the ‘fear of going downstairs’. The topic of sore limbs due to the intense exercise has also hit the top social media rankings. Liu’s fans are ‘painfully happy’.
野性消费 yě xìng xiāo fèi
还有粉丝催促刘畊宏快点开始直播带货，直言“我们要野性消费” - There are also fans who are calling for Liu Genghong to start livestream e-commerce. They can’t wait to start ‘wildly consuming’ his products.
非…莫属 fēi … mò shǔ
can only be…
刘畊宏走红，最大的收益平台非抖音莫属 - With the popularity of Liu Genghong, the platform with the biggest benefit can only be Douyin.
心有余而力不足 xīn yǒu yú ér lì bù zú
have the desire but not the energy
对于健身，不少人是有其心，而无力 - So many people have the desire to exercise but not the energy to do so.
Note: this first appeared in The Analects of Confucius (论语 lún yǔ), believed to have been written during the Warring States period (475–221 BC).
- Members Updates
This week’s vocab, example sentences, print-outs and downloads are all available in the member site.
As well as the audio newsletter, you also get access to exclusive member resources including a full database of more than 1,500 words and phrase with example sentences and audio (many of which you won’t find translated anywhere else on the Internet), printable word lists and example sentences, AND Pleco downloads.
Each week members also get extra reading practice, recommended reads and a short bit of classical Chinese to challenge themselves.
This week we learn an excerpt from The Analects, 论语 lún yǔ.
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- Recommended Podcast
The Language Mastery Show is a weekly podcast bringing you expert tips for getting fluent anywhere in the world. It’s hosted by John Fotheringham, a linguist, teacher, and the author of Master Japanese and Master Mandarin.
I spoke to John recently about this newsletter, my experience of learning Chinese and share some learning tips that I’ve found useful over the years.
The main one is what linguists call ‘chunking’ - learning language through memorising complete chunks of it, rather than worrying too much about grammar or other details.
- Other updates
Slow Chinese 每周漫闻 is now on Wechat! Please help follow and share. You can use the QR code below (save as image or share through Wechat), or just search Slow Chinese 每周漫闻 in Wechat.
That’s it for this week.
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