Over the weekend, two women posted a picture of themselves posing with their Mercedes parked in front of Beijing’s Forbidden City, sparking a widespread conversation about privilege, wealth, and cultural dignity. And, of course, socially conscious memes and a platform game.
Weibo user Lu Xiaobao has since deleted the post, but the widely-reposted photos show her and a friend flexing their luxury car in a seemingly empty museum grounds. The caption read, “On Mondays the Palace Museum is closed, so we dodged the crowds and went to play in the Forbidden City.”
#ForbiddenCityRespondsToDrivingIncident and #DrivingIntoTheForbiddenCity both shot to the top of Weibo’s trending list, followed by an enormous wave of comments and condemnations from not only ordinary social media users, but also prominent state media figures like Global Times editor-in-chief Hu Xijin and the editorial board of the People’s Daily.
The Palace Museum (the official name for the Forbidden City) implemented a full ban on motor vehicles in 2013, leading to massive anger over Lu’s frivolous rule breaking at the respected cultural heritage site.
People began to dig into Lu’s social media, relentlessly meme-ing the fact that she takes expensive vacations to Las Vegas, and claims to be a descendant of a Chinese revolutionary hero. One user 互联网分析湿 wrote, “The red generation shed blood and tears in order to overthrow the privileged class, and now their descendants have become part of their original resistance. Irony~”
The Palace Museum initially responded by saying it was “hurt” by the story and was investigating. However, netizens weren’t having it. One user commented, “This apology can’t quell the anger of millions. We strongly demand the resignation of Director Wang Xudong.”
One developer has responded to the event with a playable mini game
As the scandal grew, the Palace Museum issued a follow-up post, and suspended the deputy director and security director for inspection.
There have been several not-so-proper visitors to The Forbidden City in the past, including a nude photoshoot and other instances of driving inside the site. But the concentrated anger of millions of netizens indicates that this particular instance of wealth-flaunting struck a unique chord.
A side-scrolling web game, developed by Rein Lv, pokes fun at the entire thing, and firmly cements the incident in the digital zeitgeist. If you download the installer, you can play as a car driving through the Forbidden City, hopping over stone lions.
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