By Liu Shuqing

After the Spring Festival, people, especially young people, who had been holding back for three years began to show an eagerness, perhaps a vengeful enthusiasm for traveling. Take Jinan, the city where I live, as an example. Every weekend, every scenic spot in the city is crowded with people, and the roads near these scenic spots are often jammed in the evening. The Chaoran Building in the Daming Lake area has unexpectedly become a trendy online check-in spot. Every day at 6 o’clock in the afternoon, people start to gather in the square in front of the building, and even many foreigners come here to check in, just to shoot the turning on of the lights at 6:50.

I can understand young people going out for this “revenge.” After all, they had been locked down for a long time. In the past few years, this repressed and strictly controlled condition has rendered much of their youth colorless and devoid of life, so there will inevitably be a rebound. But I didn’t expect that this wave of travel enthusiasm would result in such a wave of online check-in hot spots. And in my opinion, the formation of these hot spots is nonsensical, has a certain degree of randomness. And young peoples zeal to pursue these check-in points is not easy to understand if you look at it rationally, because whether the barbecue in Zibo [a hotspot during the lunar New Year period] or the lights of the Chaoran Building, they are too pedestrian, not able to attract tourists through own unique characteristics or charm. In essence, it is the things posted by tourists on Douyin that are attracting tourists.

A few days ago, I was talking about this phenomenon with a young man named Luo, who is just 20 years old this year, but has been working for 3 years and majored in interior design. He was downstairs waiting for the building lights to turn on. When I came back from work, I saw him standing there with a mobile phone to shoot a video, so I struck up a conversation with him.

Mr. Luo didn’t dislike me as some long-winded old man, and answered almost every question. He also admitted that the lighting of the Chaoran Building is very ordinary. He said that everyone comes to just to be there. Maybe the tourism department in Jinan was also behind a promotion of some kind, and wanted to use the traffic to make the Chaoran Building a famous scenic spot, and then charge for it.

I laughed, mystified, and said that you young people are really different from us. I know that people can make money by making videos that generate Internet traffic, but so many people come to post videos of the same scenic spot, which reduces the views for any individual. I am afraid that no uploader will be able to earn very much. And someone helps the Chaoran building to attract visitors, it starts to charge when the site becomes famous, and people will also be charged again when they go upstairs. Isnt this working hard for the benefit of others? He smiled and said yes.

As for the briefly hot trend of Zibo barbecue, I read on the Internet that a young woman in Heze took a 3-hour slow train to Jinan, and then took a high-speed train from Jinan to Zibo for an hour, all in order to go to Zibo to eat barbecue. She lined up at a certain barbecue restaurant for two hours to eat barbecue. Was the food really that good? Mr. Luo said that Zibo’s barbecue is indeed very tasty, and that he himself also went there two weeks ago.

Mr. Luo was very amiable, and didn’t mind telling me his monthly salary. He usually only takes one day off every two weeks, and his monthly basic salary is only 2,000 yuan, plus a bonus of about 500 yuan. His monthly income is thus 2,500 yuan, not including food or housing. To be honest, I was not surprised when he revealed his income, his words just confirming my guess.

Mr. Luo previously had a dream to go to Beijing to study, but later found that the advanced technology studies he wanted to pursue were useless. Basically, the companies that might hire him did not have such high-paying positions. He said that he is now engaged in sales, and his commission is a bit more. If he can get 60,000 yuan in business for the company, he can get a commission of about 1,500 yuan, while those graphics technicians can only earn 600 yuan.

To be honest, I feel sorry for these young people. Will they find love?

Mr. Luo said that on a date, you are supposed to always invite the woman to dinner and watch a movie, but given how little money we earn, “Ha,” he laughed at himself. When he said this, there was no sadness and no resentment, let alone anger.

Mr. Luo’s situation, in a certain sense, made me understand why he would go to Zibo to eat barbecue, and come to the Chaoran Building to check in.

These young people are mired in an economic depression, and many of them have been unemployed since graduation, or became unemployed and are living at home due to company closures, layoffs, the departure of foreign companies, etc. Even if they have jobs, their income is very low.  According to Xiao Luo, there are many young people like him who struggle to maintain their basic needs. What’s even more sad is that they can’t see any end to this embarrassing state.

People without empathy can only see the irrationality in riding for a few hours, then spending 300-500 yuan merely to have barbecue in a different place. But such people can’t see that behind this “irrationality” lies the fact that these young people have given up on any plans for their futures.

When a person is unable, no matter how carefully he spends or saves, to meet basic human needs such as falling in love, getting married, buying a house and having children, there is a high probability that he will simply muddle through, give up on planning his life, spiritually lie down [a phenomenon sometimes translated as “lie flat”], and escape.

All kinds of hotspot check-ins in a certain sense can be regarded as a relatively restrained carnival. In a carnival, one forgets the inner pain and pressure, and submerges oneself in a noisy and packed crowd to relax. This is also a way of self-healing. At a barbecue booth in Zibo, the song sung by a young men there was “The Big Bridal Sedan Chair” [a 1995 Chinese hit song]. From the perspective of Freudian psychoanalysis, the lyrics of this song are vulgar, but they contain a wildness and passion for life, and a desire for love and sex.

Restricted by their income as the people doing it are, this kind of “carnival” check-in behavior is destined to be impossible to last. After this wave of previously repressed travel fever passes, things will quickly quiet down. Zibo wants to use Internet-generated traffic to create a lasting barbecue economy, but I’m afraid it’s just a beautiful dream.

I didn’t leave any contact information for Mr. Luo, because I knew I couldn’t help him, but when I said goodbye, I still said a few simple words, and told him to never give up hope. Fall in love and get married, dont live too kind- heartedly otherwise you will lose a lot, read more books because reading enriches the mind, if you feel pained and restrained, you should say it out loud, best to write it out and post it on the Internet.

I don’t know if he understood what I said.

Liu Shuqing, April 19, 2023


This piece was translated from Yibao Chinese. If republished, please be sure to add the source and link, , before the text when reposting.


The views of the author do not necessarily represent those of this journal.