From Diaosi to Sang:the Youth Culture of Self-Mockery and Self-Defeat in China

All Abstracts > From Diaosi to Sang:the Youth Culture of Self-Mockery and Self-Defeat in China

From Diaosi to Sang:the Youth Culture of Self-Mockery and Self-Defeat in China

Author | Affiliation:
Junqi Peng | Hong Kong Baptist University

Presenting at:
Panel 2C | China’s techno-social realities and futures


In the early 2010s, many young people in China enjoyed calling themselves diaosi (屌丝) which literally means “pubic hair”. Later, after the mid-2010s, sang (丧), which means loss, deprivation, death or funeral in Chinese, become the new trendy term. Both self-mockery catchphrases permeated the virtual space in forms of internet memes and further became everyday expressions and caused national resonance especially among urban youth. The booming digital technology in China, on the other hand, greatly facilitated the multimedia forms of expression and participation. In this study, I define diaosi, sang and similar ongoing phenomena as parts of this youth culture of self-mockery and self-defeat, and situate my study in mainly three fields: youth-subcultural studies, Internet or digital culture studies, youth cyberculture studies in China and elsewhere.

By textual analysis of the key cultural texts and empirical studies of the young participants’ everyday lives, this research intends to understand the mechanism of the online youth culture against the backdrop of China’s economic and technological growth and increasing nationalist sentiment in the 2010s. Rather than simplistic reading the culture as either carnival nature of the Internet or subcultural/political resistance toward the authoritative state, this study suggests that the culture reveals Chinese youth’s collective frustrations and the paradoxical realities the youth have been living with: the country’s fast economic growth with dreadful social stratifications; great family attention and support but also pressure and loneliness from one-child families and repressive education system; immense technological freedom and capability with strict Internet censorship; constant connectivity and self-exposure with extended working time and space also promoted by technology. Furthermore, by tracing the cultural flows, the study shows that the culture and the youth disenfranchisement are not unique in China but a global cultural phenomenon and living experience, especially in East Asian countries and regions.

About the author

Junqi Peng

Phone number (WhatsApp): +852 52624215
WeChat number: 356049216

PENG Junqi is currently a PhD student in communication department, Hong Kong Baptist University. His research interests are youth-subcultural studies, digital humanities and creative industry studies. His previous writings cover Korean popular culture and its Chinese fandom, Hip-hop case studies in China, and youth activism in Hong Kong. He got his MA degree in Cinema Studies from New York University Tisch School of the Arts. Before that, he was a filmmaker and screenwriter working in productions of web series, documentary and commercial in China.

%d bloggers like this: