“‘F

Global Times US Edition - - LIFE -

ail­ure is not scary.’ Ac­tu­ally, what’s scary is that you think that’s true.” “When you start think­ing you are ugly and poor, do not fall into de­spair… this at least shows that your judge­ment is right on the nose.” Mot­toes full of neg­a­tive con­no­ta­tions are fast be­com­ing very pop­u­lar among China’s Post-1980 and Post1990 gen­er­a­tions. While older Chi­nese gen­er­a­tions may be used to look­ing for the sil­ver lin­ing in ev­ery cloud, an in­creas­ing amount of to­day’s young peo­ple tend to “en­joy” wal­low­ing in the blues. Many young Chi­nese re­fer to this as “Sang Cul­ture” (mourn­ing cul­ture), a type of black hu­mor which re­volves around phrases and pic­tures that con­vey dark mes­sages.

In­escapable sad­ness

The be­gin­nings of Sang Cul­ture can be traced back to a pic­ture that started to go vi­ral in mid-2016. The pic­ture is of a screen­shot from the well-loved 1993 com­edy drama I Love My Fam­ily in which vet­eran ac­tor Ge You, who plays the un-

suc­cess­ful in­ven­tor Ji Chun­sheng, can be seen ly­ing against a couch star­ing off into space. The pic­ture and that par­tic­u­lar sit­ting po­si­tioin soon be­came a meme known as the “Ge You Lie,” rep­re­sent­ing some­one who has fallen into ap­a­thy.

Around the same time, a new phrase “xiao que sang” (Lit: small cer­tain sad­ness) came about as a play on words of the phrase “xiao que xing” (Lit: small cer­tain hap­pi­ness). While the lat­ter is used to en­cour­age peo­ple to find hap­pi­ness in life’s small sur­prises, such as dis­cov­er­ing some for­got­ten money in one’s pocket or an un­ex­pected phone call from some­one you missed, xiao que sang is meant to re­mind peo­ple of those un­avoid­able and de­press­ing events, such as the be­gin­ning of the work week.

Cer­tain emo­jis and pic­tures have also be­come icons of Sang Cul­ture. Pop­u­lar fig­ures include Pepe the Frog spin-off Sad Frog, the self-hat­ing Bo­Jack Horse­man from the US car­toon of the same name and a fish with two legs.

More en­ter­pris­ing Chi­nese have even started cap­i­tal­iz­ing on this Sang Cul­ture.

Early this year, a fran­chise of tea shops called sangcha (mourn­ing tea), or Sung Tea in English, be­gan open­ing up in ma­jor Chi­nese cities. The shops are dec­o­rated in black and white and each of drink has its own unique and de­press­ing name. For in­stance, the black tea is called “no ac­com­plish­ments black tea” and if you want to or­der milk tea, you must ask for the “I am the fat­test milk tea.”

The con­fi­dence to face the world

“It’s a re­ac­tion to cut-throat com­pe­ti­tion for good jobs in an econ­omy that isn’t as ro­bust as it was a few years ago and when home-own­er­ship – long seen as a near-re­quire­ment for mar­riage in China – is in­creas­ingly unattain­able in ma­jor cities as apart­ment prices have soared,” Reuters wrote in an early Septem­ber report at­tribut­ing the pop­u­lar­ity of Sang Cul­ture to the in­creas­ingly large di­vide be­tween young peo­ple’s dreams and their re­al­ity.

While ris­ing rental costs and dif­fi­cult jobs with low pay may have con­trib­uted a rise in neg­a­tive at­ti­tudes, some young Chi­nese, how­ever, , does not think that Sang Cul­ture equals de­pres­sion.

Twenty-five-year-old Yan Shushu told the Global Times that she is a reg­u­lar cus­tomer at Sung Tea not be­cause she feels down but be­cause she finds the hu­mor on dis­play in­ter­est­ing.

“We like to call our­selves losers and show the gloomy side of our lives. I think this is just a way to poke fun at our­selves,” the young woman who came to Bei­jing a lit­tle over a year ago said.

“I don’t think these de­pressed mes­sages that my friends and I send each other are im­pact­ing me. On the con­trary, I find it fun.”

Ad­mit­ting that he is un­der pres­sure both at home and at work, 29-year-old Tang Zhi said that he thinks young Chi­nese are more will­ing to pre­sent a neg­a­tive face to the world be­cause they are ac­tu­ally more con­fi­dent about their lives and their will­ing­ness to work to achieve

more. “Who“W doesn’tdoesn have gloomyg thoughts?though The thing is, the on­lyo peo­ple will­ing to ex­press these thoughts are those who are op­ti­mistic about life,” he said. In an opin­ion ar­ti­cle pub­lished in the Chi­nese edi­tion of the Global Times, cul­tural critic Liu Yang wrote that while it is nat­u­ral for younger peo­ple to feel a cer­tain amount of sad­ness when head­ing out on their own and deal­ing with harsh re­al­i­ties, Sang Cul­ture is re­ally just a form of re­lease. “This so-called ‘Sang Cul­ture’ are just jokes of the type that young peo­ple make from time to time. It is hu­mor, noth­ing more,” he wrote.

Photo: Li Hao/ GT Photo: Wei Xi/ GT

These Chi­nese peo­ple do the “Ge You Lie.” A cup of Sung Tea

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