Hazed and Confused

Meme watch: Citizens gird up as China endures severe smog.

AFP/Getty Images
AFP/Getty Images
AFP/Getty Images

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.

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. 

David Wertime is a senior editor at Foreign Policy, where he manages its China section, Tea Leaf Nation. In 2011, he co-founded Tea Leaf Nation as a private company translating and analyzing Chinese social media, which the FP Group acquired in September 2013. David has since created two new miniseries and launched FP’s Chinese-language service. His culture-bridging work has been profiled in books including The Athena Doctrine and Digital Cosmopolitans and magazines including Psychology Today. David frequently discusses China on television and radio and has testified before the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission. In his spare time, David is an avid marathon runner, a kitchen volunteer at So Others Might Eat, and an expert mentor at 1776, a Washington, D.C.-based incubator and seed fund. Originally from Jenkintown, Pennsylvania, David is a proud returned Peace Corps volunteer. He holds an English degree from Yale University and a law degree from Harvard University. Twitter: @dwertime

More from Foreign Policy

A Panzerhaubitze 2000 tank howitzer fires during a mission in Ukraine’s Donetsk region.
A Panzerhaubitze 2000 tank howitzer fires during a mission in Ukraine’s Donetsk region.

Lessons for the Next War

Twelve experts weigh in on how to prevent, deter, and—if necessary—fight the next conflict.

An illustration showing a torn Russian flag and Russian President Vladimir Putin.
An illustration showing a torn Russian flag and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

It’s High Time to Prepare for Russia’s Collapse

Not planning for the possibility of disintegration betrays a dangerous lack of imagination.

An unexploded tail section of a cluster bomb is seen in Ukraine.
An unexploded tail section of a cluster bomb is seen in Ukraine.

Turkey Is Sending Cold War-Era Cluster Bombs to Ukraine

The artillery-fired cluster munitions could be lethal to Russian troops—and Ukrainian civilians.

A joint session of Congress meets to count the Electoral College vote from the 2008 presidential election the House Chamber in the U.S. Capitol  January 8, 2009 in Washington.
A joint session of Congress meets to count the Electoral College vote from the 2008 presidential election the House Chamber in the U.S. Capitol January 8, 2009 in Washington.

Congrats, You’re a Member of Congress. Now Listen Up.

Some brief foreign-policy advice for the newest members of the U.S. legislature.