Friday, July 17, 2015

信春哥,得永生

I feel down one of those wormholes the internet is famous for - I could retrace my trajectory but it's hardly significant - and found this: Older Brother Chun Religion: Believe in Older Brother Chun, Receive Eternal Life! Brother Chun is the nickname of Chinese pop star 李宇春 Li Yuchun, whose fame peaked about 2009 (according to Wikipedia). She's known as 春哥 Older Brother Chun because of a certain tomboyish look in her youth. Her cult following was especially strong among students. One of my undergrad friends at Fudan (the wonders of WeChat) told me:

it feels like a kind of joke when I was a high school student 5 years ago. It was really popular among us and students shouted "信春哥,不挂科" [Believe in Brother Chun, Don't Fail!] when teachers were to give out exams papers. That is the only ritual.

I'd love to know this following became self-consciously, if parodically, religious - what images of religion fed into it, etc. I'm intrigued also because of the gender switch at its center. Apparently the step from brother Chun to eternal life (and then on to more pressing things like exam success) was the formula 铁血真汉子,春哥纯爷们 Made of Iron and Blood, Chun Ge is Pure Male, often posted with photoshopped pictures of Li's head on a muscled male body.

This is no more "really religious" than the Flying Spaghetti Monster religion, but that doesn't mean it isn't interesting from a religious studies perspective. And it wasn't just students invoking Li's co(s)mic gender switch. Apparently signs were also seen on condemned buildings with the words: 信春哥 房子不会被拆 Believe in Brother Chun, House Won't Be Demolished. More than parody's going on there.

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