Loved-and-hated actor/singer Xiao Zhan turned 29 this week. To celebrate his birthday, fans in Chongqing covered the street in front of the Sichuan Fine Arts Institute with graffiti.
Xiao Zhan’s fans are notorious for grand displays of affection, and social media quickly filled with posts condemning what they saw as an act of vandalism. But the Chongqing News revealed that the so-called “vandalism” was actually sanctioned by the school.
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On Huangjueping Graffiti Street, students and the public are permitted to cover the sidewalk, street, and buildings with (family-friendly) graffiti. The educational experiment has yielded the world’s longest street of public murals. After the nature of the event was clarified, the initial furor was forced to settle.
“Everyone waited in an orderly manner,” wrote one Weibo user. “After the event ended, the atmosphere was still warm and friendly.”
In fandom culture, idols’ birthdays reach a near-holiday status. For Xiao Zhan’s birthday, fans in Chongqing — one of China’s biggest cities — planned a drone show, public billboards, and the graffiti gathering in front of Institute.
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That night, netizens accused fans of yelling and being rowdy in the streets, bothering students and local street vendors. It seemed to many like a textbook incident for Xiao Zhan’s fanbase, who have trended multiple times this year alone for various incidents.
Chongqing News investigated the discrepancies between accounts of the event, finding that many of the accusations being thrown at fans were false. Students and business-owners were mostly unaware anything had occurred, and the claims of graffiti crime were ultimately unfounded.
Earlier this year, Xiao Zhan fans raised over 2 million RMB for medical equipment in Wuhan. Despite frequent positive social work such as this, it’s clear perceptions of those outside the fandom remain largely negative.
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