The World of Chinese



in the internet era,” Professor Yang observes.

Fake products and cheap copies have also thinned people’s trust of laozihao, Yang tells TWOC. Several years ago, authoritie­s discovered that 70 to 80 percent of the Chinese ink tagged Yidege, a major ink painting and calligraph­y brand establishe­d in 1865, were fake.

Neilianshe­ng has spent over a decade in lawsuits against company called “Fulianshen­g,” which has registered over 30 trademarks similar to the shoe company’s own. “We’ve spent over 1 million RMB on the lawsuits, but the compensati­on we win hardly cover the legal costs, let alone the cost of time, manpower and losses incurred on our brand’s reputation,” Cheng tells TWOC.

“Basically, laozihao’s developmen­t depends on whether they can catch up with the times,” says Yang. On review platform Meituan-dianping, a go-to resource for millennial­s, none of Quanjude’s stores are listed among the top 10 most popular and most highly rated roast duck restaurant­s in Beijing.

Brands Siji Minfu and Da Dong occupy the top spots, though both were establishe­d in the current century and charge higher prices than Quanjude—200 RMB to

400 RMB per person per meal, compared to 150 RMB at Quanjude. Reviews cite Da Dong’s stylish decoration, exquisite taste, and thoughtful service as selling points: “Perfect for banquets, anniversar­ies, and other big days,” one customer commented.

Over the last decade, Dianping, social media platforms such as Weibo and Xiaohongsh­u, and video apps like Douyin (Tiktok) have created wanghong (网红, “internet celebrity”) shops popular with young consumers born in the 1990s and 2000s, typically by offering new products and gimmicks for them to try—and show off on social media after. “The decoration, products, or services are new to me, and seemed quite interestin­g,” says Zhang, recalling her trips to wanghong businesses such as one restaurant that sent food to the table with a revolving slide and another that had live ducks running down the table.

Many laozihao have tried to launch wanghong products on their own or in cooperatio­n with other brands, popular online novels, games, or shows. Last May, when 60-year-old candy brand White Rabbit opened its first beverage shop with the

Happy Lemon milk tea brand in Shanghai, some customers queued for hours for their tea, according to The Paper. The brand has also created White Rabbit-themed lipsticks, perfume, clothes, and tote bags.

According to Cheng, Neilianshe­ng’s online sales now account for half of its revenue. “The number of customers aged below 45 increased from about 50 percent in 2013 to over 70 percent this year,” he crows, crediting the brand’s cooperatio­n with profession­al design colleges, well-known IPS, and fashion brands.

Zhu, the 33-year-old from

Nantong, tells TWOC that she bought a White Rabbit bag and folder out of nostalgia, but rated the taste of its ice cream and milk tea as just “ordinary.” “Many new products of laozihao are developed based on fads, but do not involve [the brand’s] expertise or differenti­ate themselves from similar products,” she complains.

Yang, though, encourages such experiment­s in today’s “economy of attention,” provided that laozihao can back them up with better brand value. Popularity, after all, is fleeting—but a truly great product never gets old.

flood h5ngshu@ earthquake d#zh-n volunteer zh#yu3nzh0

The flooding this year has caused China great economic losses.

J~nni1n de h5ngz`i g0i Zh4nggu5 z3och9ng le zh7ngd3 j~ngj# s^nsh~.

 ??  ?? Handcrafti­ng techniques of laozihao were often passed down from master to apprentice
Handcrafti­ng techniques of laozihao were often passed down from master to apprentice

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