Meme watch: Citizens gird up as China endures severe smog.
- By David WertimeDavid Wertime is a senior editor who manages Tea Leaf Nation, FP's channel dedicated to Chinese citizen and social media. David, a returned Peace Corps volunteer, founded Tea Leaf Nation as an independent media company in 2011, before it was acquired by the FP Group in 2013.
Don’t use cigarette filters to plug your nostrils — do invest in a pair of night-vision goggles. This and other wisdom comes courtesy of smog-strangled Chinese netizens, who have been forced to contend with a recent bout of pollution in major Chinese cities like Nanjing and Shanghai serious enough to close schools and ground flights. Although by Dec. 10 the pollution in the two cities had started to abate, air quality in both remains officially “unhealthy.” It’s been so bad that women, such as the one above, who modeled gold jewelry at a Dec. 7 outdoor event in Nanjing were compelled to don face masks. Online, the ubiquitous use of these masks, and related riffs, have become something of an obsession. Below are some of the most vivid examples from around the Chinese web.
This image from Sina Weibo, China’s Twitter, depicts a (surprisingly fashionable) jerry-rigged fresh air device, but one unlikely to be effective with pollution in cities like Shanghai reaching levels that even local authorities have declared “severe.”
Liu Xiangnan, formerly a reporter at the liberal Economic Observer, modified his Weibo profile to capture the Zeitgeist. In Liu’s remix, the qilin, a mythical and auspicious beast, which often stands sentry outside of Chinese buddhist temples, seems to have fallen on hard times.
Some citizens claim they have found success removing the filters from cigarettes and stuffing them up their noses. One Weibo user wrote that the method helped forfend fine particulate matter, but cautioned that “the nostrils must be sufficiently large.” The practice is sufficiently popular that widely-read state-run paper Beijing Youth Daily felt compelled to consult an expert, who declared it “unreliable.”
The original of this photoshopped painting, dating to the Song dynasty (1127 A.D. – 1279 A.D.), depicts the Guanyin, a bodhisattva generally thought to be compassionate — but apparently not immune to unfiltered smog, which raises the risk of asthma and other respiratory illnesses for those who inhale it.
This sketch depicts “essential equipment” for contending with Chinese haze. In addition to a gas mask, requirements include military-grade night vision goggles and a chest-mounted searchlight for visibility.
Rachel Lu contributed research.