Tang ping

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Tang ping (Chinese: 躺平; pinyin: tǎng píng; lit. 'lying flat') is a lifestyle and social protest movement in China beginning in April 2021. It is a rejection of societal pressures to overwork, such as in the 996 working hour system, which is often regarded as a rat race with ever diminishing returns.[1][2][3][4] Those who participate in tang ping instead choose to "lie down flat and get over the beatings"[citation needed] via a low-desire, more indifferent attitude towards life. It can be thought as the Chinese equivalent of the hippies counter-culture movement.[5]

Novelist Liao Zenghu described "lying flat" as a resistance movement,[6] and The New York Times called it part of a nascent Chinese counterculture.[7] It has also been compared to the Great Resignation, a surge of resignations that began in the United States and much of the Western world at roughly the same time.[8][9][10] The National Language Resources Monitoring and Research Center, an institution affiliated to Education Ministry of China, listed the word as one of the 10 most popular memes for 2021 in Chinese Internet. Chinese search engine Sogou also listed the word at the top of its list of most trending memes for 2021.[11]

Unlike the hikikomori in Japan who are socially withdrawn, these young Chinese people who subscribe to "lying flat" are not necessarily socially isolated, but merely choose to lower their professional and economic ambitions and simplify their goals, still being fiscally productive for their own essential needs, and prioritize psychological health over economic materialism.[12]

Another newer related phrase is bai lan (Chinese: 摆烂; lit. 'let it rot').[13]

Origin[edit]

The movement began in April 2021 with a post by Luo Huazhong (username "Kind-Hearted Traveler") on the internet forum Baidu Tieba, in which he discussed his reasons for living a low-key, minimalist lifestyle. In 2016, 26-year-old Luo quit his factory job because it made him feel empty. He then cycled 2,100 km (1,300 mi) from Sichuan to Tibet, and now back in his home town Jiande in eastern Zhejiang Province, spends his time reading philosophy, and gets by doing a few odd jobs and taking US$60 a month from his savings.[14][7] He only eats two meals a day.[14]

Luo's post, entitled with "Lying Flat is Justice", illustrates:

I can just sleep in my barrel enjoying a sunbath like Diogenes, or live in a cave-like Heraclitus and think about 'Logos'. Since there has never really been a trend of thought that exalts human subjectivity in this land, I can create it for myself. Lying flat is my wise movement, only by lying down can humans become the measure of all things.[1][2]

Luo's post and story quickly gained a following on social media, being discussed and soon becoming a buzzword on Sina Weibo and Douban. The idea was praised by many and inspired numerous memes, and has been described as a sort of spiritual movement.[1] Business magazine ABC Money claimed it resonated with a growing silent majority of youth disillusioned by the officially endorsed "Chinese Dream" that encourages a life of hard work and sacrifice with no actual life satisfaction to show for it, spawning the catchphrase "a chive lying flat is difficult to reap" (躺平的韭菜不好割, Tǎng píng de jiǔcài bù hǎo gē).[15]

Response[edit]

The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) moved quickly to reject the idea. The CAC internet regulator ordered online platforms to "strictly restrict" posts on tang ping and had censors remove Luo's original Tieba post[16] while a discussion group of nearly 10,000 followers on Chinese social media site Douban is no longer accessible.[17] Selling tang ping-branded merchandise online is forbidden.[7]

In May 2021, Chinese state media Xinhua published an editorial asserting that "lying flat" is shameful.[18][19] In May, a video clip of CCTV news commentator Bai Yansong criticizing the low-key mindset circulated on the popular video-sharing website Bilibili,[12] and had attracted thousands of mockeries and slurs on the danmu commentaries in response.[20][21] The same month, a commentary of Hubei Radio and Television Economic Channel said, "you can accept your fate, but you mustn't lie flat."[22] An October article by CCP general secretary Xi Jinping, published in the Communist Party journal Qiushi, called for "avoiding 'involution' [nei juan] and 'lying flat'".[9][23]

However, there were official voices offering more empathic opinions on the tang ping phenomenon. Beijing's party-affiliated Guangming Daily newspaper added that tang ping should not be discounted without reflection—if China wants to cultivate diligence in the young generation, it should first try to improve their quality of life.[12] Huang Ping, a literature professor who researches youth culture at East China Normal University, told Sixth Tone that official media outlets may be concerned about the tang ping lifestyle because of its potential to threaten productivity, but "humans aren't merely tools for making things... when you can't catch up with society's development—say, skyrocketing home prices—tang ping is actually the most rational choice".[24]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c "China's new 'tang ping' trend aims to highlight pressures of work culture". BBC. June 3, 2021.
  2. ^ a b "An entire generation of Chinese youth is rejecting the pressures of hustle culture by 'lying flat'". The Independent. June 9, 2021. Archived from the original on 2022-05-26.
  3. ^ "China's youth are lying flat: the fear is, so might their futures". South China Morning Post. June 14, 2021.
  4. ^ "Young Chinese take a stand against pressures of modern life — by lying down". The Washington Post. June 5, 2021.
  5. ^ "How Western Media Misunderstand Chinese Culture". Fair Observer.
  6. ^ JOE McDONALD and FU TING (July 4, 2021). "Some Chinese shun grueling careers for 'low-desire life'". Associated Press.{{cite news}}: CS1 maint: uses authors parameter (link)
  7. ^ a b c Elsie Chen (July 3, 2021). "These Chinese Millennials Are 'Chilling,' and Beijing Isn't Happy". The New York Times. Young people in China have set off a nascent counterculture movement that involves lying down and doing as little as possible.
  8. ^ Kaplan, Juliana (3 November 2021). "The labor shortage is reshaping the economy and how people talk about work. Here's a glossary of all the new phrases that sum up workers' frustration with their deal, from 'lying flat' to 'antiwork.'". Business Insider.
  9. ^ a b Siqi, Ji; Huifeng, He; Peach, Brian (24 October 2021). "What is 'lying flat', and why are Chinese officials standing up to it?". South China Morning Post.
  10. ^ Tharoor, Ishaan (18 October 2021). "Analysis | The 'Great Resignation' goes global". Washington Post.
  11. ^ Li, Jane (2021-12-07). ""Lying flat" is officially one of China's top memes of 2021". Quartz. Archived from the original on 2021-12-07.
  12. ^ a b c Zhang, Wanqing; Liu, Mengqiu (2021-05-27). "Tired of Running in Place, Young Chinese 'Lie Down'". Sixth Tone. Retrieved 2021-07-15.
  13. ^ The rise of ‘bai lan’: why China’s frustrated youth are ready to ‘let it rot’ The Guardian. 2022.
  14. ^ a b Li, Jane (22 March 2019). "A niche Chinese Gen Z meme is ringing alarm bells for Beijing". Quartz. Retrieved 6 May 2022.
  15. ^ James, Claire (2021-06-22). "Why Chinese youth are 'lying flat' as a form of resistance to CCP rule". ABC Money. Retrieved 2021-07-15.
  16. ^ Yuan, Shawn (1 January 2022). "Silent resistance against social pressures in China". The Lancet Child & Adolescent Health. 6 (1): 11–12. doi:10.1016/S2352-4642(21)00378-3. ISSN 2352-4642. PMID 34921804. S2CID 245255571. Retrieved 6 May 2022.
  17. ^ "China's new 'tang ping' trend aims to highlight pressures of work culture". BBC News. 3 June 2021.
  18. ^ "'躺平'可耻,哪来的正义感?" ['Lying flat' shameful, where is sense of justice?] (in Chinese). Xinhua. May 20, 2021.
  19. ^ "The low-desire life: why people in China are rejecting high-pressure jobs in favour of 'lying flat'". the Guardian. 2021-07-05. Retrieved 2021-07-06.
  20. ^ "蚌埠住了,白岩松:"难道我们现在指望的是房价很低,然后一点压力都没有?不会吧?!"请看2021年4月房价排行榜". 哔哩哔哩弹幕视频网. Archived from the original on 2021-05-14. Retrieved 2021-05-11.
  21. ^ "中国年轻人:拒绝"加油干",只想"躺平"了". 德国之声中文网. 2021-06-06. Archived from the original on 2021-06-08. Retrieved 2021-06-23.
  22. ^ "湖北经视评论:"认命"可以 "躺平"不行" [Hubei Radio and Television Economic Channel commentary: "You can 'accept your fate', but you mustn't 'lie flat'."]. Phoenix Television (in Simplified Chinese). Hubei Radio and Television Economic Channel. 2021-05-20. Archived from the original on 2021-06-06. Retrieved 2021-06-06.
  23. ^ Xi Jinping (2021-10-15). "扎实推动共同富裕" [Solidly promoting common prosperity]. Qiushi (in Chinese).
  24. ^ Zhang, Wanqing; Liu, Mengqiu (2021-05-27). "Tired of Running in Place, Young Chinese 'Lie Down'". Sixth Tone. Retrieved 2022-03-30.

Further reading[edit]