Irrational star-chasing, unhealthy trends and "opium of the people"

Slow Chinese 每周漫闻


Here are my ‘words of the week’ to nourish your language learning this weekend:

  1. Phrase of the week: Kris Wu scandal leads to regulators to take action on…

    非理性追星乱象 (fēi lǐxìng zhuīxīng luàn xiàng) - “Irrational star-chasing”

    And more internet words to talk about China’s chaotic fan culture:

    掐架 (Qiā jià) - online slanging match or fight

  2. Idiom of the week: the problem with chaotic fan culture…

    歪风邪气 (Wāifēng xiéqì) - unhealthy trends

    And yet more useful internet words:

    养号 (Yǎng hào) - cultivating a social media presence

  3. Deleted phrase of the week: a controversial article on the gaming industry as next target for regulators

    精神鸦片 (Jīngshén yāpiàn) - spiritual opium or ‘opium of the people’

    And useful idioms about aggressive growth of gaming companies:

    势如破竹 (Shìrúpòzhú) - exploding bamboo; smash into the enemy territory with the force of exploding bamboo; rapid expansion

This week’s word count: 

  • General words and phrases: 9

  • Internet / social media words: 10

  • Idioms: 6

  • Colloquialisms: 2

  • Dialect words: 1

  • Total: 28


Follow link to Pleco download page, click on ‘7 August Words of the Week Download’ link, and it should automatically open in Pleco under your bookmarks.

Before kicking off, two popular social media words from online commentary of Team China in Tokyo.

  • YYDS (永远滴神) - “the best”, “amazing” (see 10 July newsletter)

    杨倩YYDS - Yang Qian is the best!

  • 拿来吧你 (Ná lái ba nǐ) - ‘give it to me’, “amazing”

    金牌拿来吧你!好样的!杨倩获得东京奥运会首金 - Amazing! Yang Qian has won China’s first gold!

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1. Phrase of the week: irrational star-chasing (非理性追星乱象 - fēi lǐxìng zhuīxīng luàn xiàng)

Kris Wu (Wú Yìfán 吴亦凡) was detained by police last weekend following allegations made against him on social media (see 24 July newsletter).

A new word has been invented by netizens to celebrate his arrest:

吴签 (Wú qiān) - ‘Wu - tooth-pick’, which you might translate as ‘weakling Wu.’

  • 牙签 (Yáqiān) - toothpick is a derogatory slang to describe men as feeble or weak.

According to an excellent article in SupChina, China’s regulators think ‘irrational fans’ are part of the problem:

  • 整治不良粉丝文化乱象,规范和引导粉丝群体理性追星 - rectifying bad culture and chaotic fan behaviour, standardising and guiding fans towards rational star-chasing

An analysis in Sina points out:


Whoever creates a story attracts traffic; whoever has traffic has commercial value.

It drops in a useful colloquial phrase about talent not being enough:

  • 祖师爷赏饭吃 (Zǔ shīyé shǎng fàn chī) - “a patriarch appreciates the rice he eats”; naturally gifted

    即使有“祖师爷赏饭吃”的天赋,也得后天勤学苦练 - even if someone is naturally gifted at something they still have to work hard at their craft

Useful fan culture words

Here are some useful words if you want to hold your own in a convo about China’s chaotic fan culture:

  • 雷语 (Léi yǔ) - ‘thunder words’, viral sound bytes

    曝一句雷人雷语,还是热搜 - drop a few sentences and it goes to the top of the social media rankings

  • 黑粉 (Hēi fěn) - ‘anti-fans’; hired to create negative stories about celebs on social media

    在社交平台上为自家偶像冲热搜、造话题、跟“黑粉”掐架 - creating stories in support of their own stars to push them up the rankings, and engaging in slanging matches with ‘anti-fans’

  • 掐架 (Qiā jià) - strong disagreement or fight; online slanging match

    网络掐架最大的目的不是削倒谁,而是要撕下对方的面具 - online arugment and putting down of celebrities is not just to cut them down, but to totally sabotage their reputation

Three-character combos

Some three-character words to talk about dodgy celebs.

  • 半吊子 (Bàndiàozi) - half-hearted, mediocre

    但就这样“半吊子”的流量明星却能大火 - average [talentless] celebrities are able to become ‘traffic stars’ and become really famous

  • 靠脸蛋 (Kào liǎndàn) - rely on only one’s looks

    如果靠脸蛋张张嘴就能轻易有几百万上千万进账 - celebs can easily bring in millions if not tens of millions just by showing their face and opening their mouth

  • 顶流们 (Dǐng liúmen) - top internet celebs

    现在娱乐圈顶流们赚钱太容易 - now top internet celebs being able to make lots of money very easily


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2. Idiom of the week: 歪风邪气 (Wāifēng xiéqì) - “unhealthy trends” of chaotic fan culture

The announcement on rectifying chaotic fan culture was made by the Cyberspace Administration of China (国家互联网信息办公室 guójiā hùliánwǎng xìnxī bàngōngshì).

Watch the CCTV Evening news piece on the announcement for the official line.

A Sohu article goes deeper on the perceived problems of chaotic fan culture.

Three phrases you need to know:

  • 流量至上 (Liúliàng zhìshàng) - ‘web traffic is king’ (Note: I’m not totally happy with this translation - email me if you have a better one)

    坚决抵制追星和不良倾向和“流量至上” - resolutely resist chasing stars and the bad tendency towards ‘web traffic is king’

  • 流量明星 (Liúliàng míngxīng) - ‘web traffic star’

    在大量吸引眼球的同时打造“流量明星” - while attracting lots of eyeballs, also creating ‘web traffic stars’

  • 泛娱乐化 (Fàn yúlè huà) - entertianment-ising; turning everything into [low quality] entertainment

    泛娱乐化已经深入大众尤其是青年日常生活 - low quality entertainment is already a big part of daily life - especially for young people

Useful words

Two more words to add to your internet culture repertoire.

  • 怪圈 (Guàiquān) - vicious circle [used creatively here]

    一些“饭圈”早已沦为“怪圈” - some chaotic fan groups have descended into vicious fan groups

  • 养号 (Yǎng hào) - cultivating a social media presence; building a profile

    雇佣网络水军“养号”控评 - hiring paid-for fans to help build a profile and control the message


Three idioms about bed trends and making things worse.

  • 歪风邪气 (Wāifēng xiéqì) - unhealthy trends

    当病态追星大行其道,成为把很多青少年裹挟于其中的歪风邪气 - When pathological star-chasing became popular, it became an unhealthy trend that engulfed many young people

    • 裹挟于 (Guǒxié yú) - engulf, to trap

  • 兴风作浪 (Xīngfēngzuòlàng) - raise winds and waves; make trouble

    资本力量和一些机构兴风作浪 - capital (of investors) and some organisations add make trouble

  • 推波助澜 (tuībōzhùlán) - making waves, adding fuel to the fire

    资本力量和一些机构推波助澜 - capital (of investors) and some organisations add fuel to the fire


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3. Deleted phrase of the week: ‘opium of the people’ - 精神鸦片 Jīngshén yāpiàn

A report in the Economic Information Daily described video gaming as “spiritual opium” harming teenagers, singling out Tencent.

“精神鸦片”竟长成数千亿产业 - - spiritual opium [or ‘opium of the people’] has surprisingly become a multi-trillion industry

It’s main point:

任何一个产业、一项竞技都不能以毁掉一代人的方式来发展 - in any sector, a sport or game cannot be allowed to develop in a way that destroys an entire generation

The article was quickly taken down and re-published without the opium bit.

Tencent’s game, Honour of Kings (王者荣耀 - Wángzhě róngyào), was highlighted as a problem.

There’s even an internet slang word for the game, which can also mean the overall trend of gaming:

  • 农药 (Nóngyào) - ‘pesticide’; sounds the same as ‘honour’ (荣耀 - Róngyào) in Chinese.

    在全社会掀起“农药热潮”,进而推动发展出腾讯游戏的千亿产业 - with the rise of Honour of Kings to such a level in the whole of society, it has further promoted Tencent’s gaming into a trillion RMB industry

    是什么样的大环境促成此般“农药”大势 - what environmental factors have caused this gaming trend

Useful words

Useful words to talk about the trend.

  • 网瘾 (Wǎng yǐn) - internet addiction

    游戏控制是一个必然趋势,尤其是未成年人网瘾问题 - the controling of gaming is an inevitable trend, especially in considering the challenges of under-age internet addictions

  • 拥趸 (Yōng dǔn) - fans (note: Cantonese dialect word which means ‘fans’; mostly used in formal or written language; 粉丝 Fěnsī is more informal and used in spoken language)

    如此众多的拥趸 - such a large number of fans

  • 新宠 (Xīnchǒng) - new favourite, new darling of investors (see 31 July newsletter for a similar word - 宠儿)

    女性向的手游成为了近年来的市场新宠 - mobile games designed towards female user needs have become the new darling of the markets

And two three-character business-y words you have to know:

  • 风向标 (Fēngxiàngbiāo) - wine vane; indicator of the direction things are going in

    外界猜想,这则新闻报道是否有“风向标”作用 - the outside world are speculating if this article is a sign of things to come

  • 压舱石 (Yā cāng shí) - ballast stone; foundation, pillar or mainstay of a business

    游戏与社交,一直都是腾讯最重要的2块“压舱石”,缺一不可 - gaming and social networks have always been the two main pillars of Tencent’s business - one cannot exist without the other


Three useful business-y idioms about rapid growth.

  • 势如破竹 (Shìrúpòzhú) - exploding bamboo; smash into the enemy territory with the force of exploding bamboo; rapid expansion

    王者荣耀自2015年面世便势如破竹 - since Honour of Kings was launched in 2015 it has experienced explosive growth

  • 突飞猛进 (Tūfēiměngjìn) - advance in leaps and bounds, aggressive growth

    这一新型“毒品”却突飞猛进、发展壮大成一个巨大的产业 - but this new ‘drug’ grew rapidly and developed into an entire massive industry

  • 崭露头角 (zhǎnlù-tóujiǎo) - stand out conspicuously; make a name for yourself

    随着中国电子竞技战队在国际赛场崭露头角,电子竞技逐渐走入了主流圈 - With the Chinese e-sports team emerging in the international arena, e-sports have gradually entered the mainstream


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Doing your homework - review of previous internet words

Lots of fan culture and internet words came up this week that are in previous newsletters.

Let’s review some of them!

  • 水军 (Shuǐ jūn) - ‘navy’ - paid for traffic; people who are paid to bump up the numbers (see 15 May newsletter)

    强化平台“水军”“黑粉”治理 - strengthen platforms governance of paid for fans and anti-fans

  • 过气 (Guò qì) - past it, a has-been (see 10 July newsletter)

    很难火得久,往往几年就过气 - it’s very hard for [a game] to remain so popular for a long time, it’s usually past it after a few years

  • 饭圈 (Fàn quān) - fan groups, also translated as ‘chaotic fan groups’ (see 15 May newsletter)

    他身后的饭圈会为偶像、爱豆疯狂消费 - the chaotic fan group behind the celebrity or idiom will crazily buy all their products

And three useful idioms

  • 匪夷所思 (fěiyí suǒsī) - incredulous, incredible (see 12 June newsletter)

    一些来自“饭圈”的声音却让人匪夷所思 - some of things that come out of these fan groups is unbelievable

  • 半壁江山 (Bànbìjiāngshān) - half of the market (see 13 March newsletter)

    在中国游戏市场,腾讯更是占据了半壁江山 - Tencent occupies well over half of the gaming sector

  • 水涨船高 (Shuǐzhǎng chuángāo) - when the tide rises the boat floats higher; rising prices lead to higher fees being charged (see 20 February newsletter)

    片酬自然水涨船高 - the celebrity pay naturally goes up [as the industry rates rise]

That’s it for this week. 

Thanks for reading. 

Please try to drop some of these words into your Chinese conversations this week and let me now how you get on!

I’ll see you in your inbox around the same time next Saturday.

Finally, please do help share this newsletter with anyone who you think needs to brush up on their spoken, written, slang, idiomatic, poetic or classical Chinese language skills.

Thank you!

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