Memes go viral on Chinese social networking
During this year's Spring Festival, Ma Rui made a meme by collaging her portrait and images of firecrackers and golden coins. Ma sent it to relatives and friends on social media as her new year's greeting.
"Traditional text greetings are tedious. A meme sticker of myself is more creative and personal," said Ma, a 38-year-old woman working in Yinchuan, the capital city of northwest China's Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region.
As a regular meme maker, Ma also made her cat and dog the main characters of her creations. With her ever-increasing meme collection, she can deal with most online communications by sending memes without sending a text message.
On China's most popular social networking apps WeChat and QQ, many users have developed the habit of collecting memes in their accounts, including those featuring celebrities, animals, and cartoon characters.
In November 2020, WeChat unveiled six new emojis. They became an instant hit as they conveyed more vivid emotions, including sighing faces, cracked-up smiles, and rolling eyes. Their launch also stirred up heated discussion on Weibo, China's Twitter-like social media platform.
Ma has been using emojis and memes on Wechat for about 10 years, but they were limited in the past.
In recent years, meme-making has become a new trend, with the emergence of more designers and apps for making memes. With free apps, people can create their own memes and share them online.
As an industry, meme-making can also bring decent incomes for meme designers, injecting vitality into related products and industries.
"A good meme can accurately express what one means and reduce misunderstanding and embarrassment. This is why people need it," said Luo Yalong, a 30-year-old meme designer.
Luo created a cartoon character named "Little Chubby Inu." With this image, he designed nearly one thousand memes with different expressions, which have been used billions of times on WeChat since it was first introduced in 2017.
The image of Little Chubby Inu has also been printed on T-Shirts, mugs, and cosmetics and packages of popular drink brands. This year, Luo opened an online store for Little Chubby Inu-themed products.
Li Jian, a young promoter of intangible cultural heritage, led her team to design a series of memes with cliff paintings from Helan Mountain in Ningxia, which has existed since ancient times.
"In this way, more young people in other places can learn about this cultural heritage," Li said.
By drawing inspiration from popular websites young people like to visit, Luo has become a prolific meme-maker, creating a new series of memes every two or three months.
"Attractive memes are emerging every day, while users' tastes are ever-changing. For us designers, it causes great pressure but also presents immense opportunities," Luo said.