Chinese millennials reflect on their roots at New Year

By Kerry Allen
BBC Monitoring

Image source, Sina Weibo
Image caption, Weibo users are showing the contrast between their modern lives and those of their parents

The start of the Year of the Rooster is prompting young Chinese social media users to reflect on their roots.

During Chinese New Year, it is common for urban-dwelling Chinese people to return to their rural hometowns and stay with their relatives.

This year, users of Weibo and WeChat have been taking a step back, and reflecting on the picture they present to the world of their modern lives.


Thousands of young professionals have been sharing pictures of themselves pulling vegetables, chopping trees, or washing dishes outside - the way their rural relatives still live.

Image source, Sina Weibo
Image caption, Some two million Weibo users are reading posts using the #BeforeVsAfterComingHome hashtag

On Sina Weibo, hundreds have used the #BeforeVsAfterComingHome hashtag on their posts. They mainly share "before" pictures of them dressed in formal attire, and "after" pictures of them in multiple layers of heavy outdoor clothing, mainly undertaking manual labour.

Popular news portal Sina News shows how the trend has spread to popular mobile messenger WeChat, sharing further pictures from the platform.

Author Gong Gaofeng posted on Weibo that the trend has been popular because Chinese celebrities have been sharing pictures of themselves in their hometowns.

Thousands have commented praising what they see as humbling pictures of famous actors including Wang Baoqiang, an actor famous for his portrayals of rural Chinese.

'People look happier'

Chinese millennials have been discussing how the pictures show the stark differences facing people living in urban and rural China.

Image source, Nuan Tiandi / Sina Weibo
Image caption, "Nuan Tiandi" said her rural family home has "no heating"

Many ridicule themselves for wearing "ugly" borrowed clothing from their parents or grandparents, but others speak frankly about the differences between theirs and their elders' generation.

Nuan Tiandi comments that when she returns home: "There is no heating, so my nose is freezing and I have puffy eyes."

Others surprise netizens by showing pictures of their parents' or grandparents' antiquated kitchen equipment.

But despite the stark differences between these pictures, many social media users say that they show people at their happiest.

Image source, Sina Weibo
Image caption, Social media users said the images showed people at their "happiest" and "truest"

One user comments on how seeing the pictures, he feels a sense of "relief".

Jiuming Yuelingmao says: "I feel as though people look happier in these 'after' pictures."

San Jin says the "after" pictures show people being "their truest selves".

The World Bank predicts that some 70% of Chinese will live in cities by 2030.

BBC Monitoring reports and analyses news from TV, radio, web and print media around the world. You can follow BBC Monitoring on Twitter and Facebook.

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