Zhibo is a weekly column in which Beijing-based American Taylor Hartwell documents his journey down the rabbit hole of Chinese livestreaming app YingKe. If you know nothing about the livestreaming (直播; “zhibo”) phenomenon in China, start here.
It took me a while to figure out that the Chinese language draws a big distinction between shēngxiào (生肖; the Chinese zodiac signs) and xīngzuò (星座; the Western zodiac signs). Whereas I’m happy to lump all of that sort of thing into one big basket of “ways in which people seem to think arbitrary points in space determine who they should go out with,” the Yingke audience is quick to remind me that the Chinese thing is — of course — entirely different from the Western thing.
See, the little squiggles are entirely different!
But, do they really think that? It occurred to me to ask about zodiac signs when I noticed that the Yingke profile page asks you to choose your 星座 (Western zodiac sign), not your 生肖 (Chinese zodiac sign).
One of the questions I see most often, in fact, is basically “hey baby, what’s your sign?” I usually respond with “well, I’m a 金牛 (Taurus, literally “gold cow”) in the West and a 猴子 (monkey) in China, but I don’t really think it matters what space thinks about me.”
Without fail, this prompts at least a dozen frantic “NO NO NO FOREIGNER YOU DON’T UNDERSTAND, WE MEANT 星座, NOT 生肖, THEY ARE NOT THE SAME. YOU SEE 星座 ARE YOUR WESTERN STAR SIGNS AND 生肖 ARE BASED ON OUR ANCIENT 12-YEAR CYCLE.”
Ah well. I suppose I should be honored that so many people on the Chinese internet are so very concerned when they think I don’t understand something.
So, in the spirit of the two zodiac systems being oh so very different — and since I was curious why people seemed to be more interested in the Western version — I decided to do a little survey with the following choices:
1: I care about 生肖, the Chinese zodiac.
2: I care about 星座, the Western zodiac.
3: I don’t care what space thinks about me.
I’m gonna need a better data-gathering method in the future…
I did my best with the screenshots, but the 3’s definitely have it. Well done, Yingke!
[If you’ve got a question you’d like tossed to the masses, let me know.]
Comment of the Week:
I want the drugs you are on, plz.
I’m choosing to take this as a compliment — the fact that it came from someone with enough of a sense of humor to name themselves after the illustrious father of Chicago West is just gravy. I am usually caffeinated out of my skull by the time an 8am stream rolls around, so I’ll just assume that was what this fellow was picking up on — I kinda doubt it was my natural reserves of positive energy and outgoing charm.
Video of the Week:
This artsy fortress of doom.
Some things speak for themselves. (If you’re having VPN issues catch the GIF version here.)
Thing People Keep Asking:
Why is it day/night? Where are you?
I’m Stateside right now, meaning I’m on EST and therefore 13 hours behind China. And fun fact: all of China is on the same time zone. In one of many “good enough for Beijing, good enough for you” moves (see also: Mandarin), the PRC set everything to GMT +8 (Beijing time) despite the fact that China spans what would otherwise be five different time zones. So if you’re the kind of person who likes to hit snooze a few times, consider moving to Xinjiang (far west) and enjoying the 10am sunrises. People there follow their own local time for — I assume — the sake of not going nuts, but officially, everyone is on Beijing’s clock.
But to be fair, China figured out that daylight savings time made no sense way back in 1991. You win some, you lose some.