There’s no such thing as doing things “nice and easy” in the artistic spheres; it’s either drenched or deserted out there. As we explore the outmost perimeters of China through Fashion and Urban Culture, without further ado, Temper presents its Top Ten 2022 munchies — in random order.
1. Silver Economy
The seventh national census released in May 2021 showed that by 2050, one in three people in China, or 487 million people, will be over the age of 60 – that’s more than the total population of the U.S. No other country in the world is facing such a great demographic challenge… Seems like quite the gloomy scenario, but, for now, let’s focus on the positive: a whole new world of supply and demand is opening up.
The 2021 China Report on the Development of the Silver Industry reads that the spending potential of China’s 60-plus populace will soar to 106 trillion yuan ($25.1 trillion) by 2050, making up a third of the nation’s gross domestic product. This means China will become the country with the world’s largest silver market.
With that calculation, once expected to selflessly stay at home and look after the grandkids, seniors – particularly women – have become a coveted market for products such as clothing, accessories, cosmetics and travel. And as is the case with any hot-off-the-press product, or market, there’s always the need for a new face.
Portraying older models in active, youthful lifestyles sells well in a culture with a strong tradition of respect and deference towards seniors.
2. Beijing’s Underground Scene
“I’m not sure what you mean by indie,” Matteo, Sardinian bass player of Beijing-based trashcore (fastcore, tomato/tomahto?) punk band Deprive, tells this musically illiterate author.
“To me, there are two main definitions First, indie as in independent, which could encompass any music genre, any artist or musician not signed to major or big labels. Second, indie as in that genre that puts on the alternative mask but what it really aspires to is airtime.” Ah.
And so, adhering to the first definition and accompanied by a sneering score of grungy guitar riffs, a voyage into the belly of the beast unfolds:
Beijing X Underground: the ultimate clash or two peas in a punk pod?
3. The Sway of Street Dance
Since street dance (街舞| jiē wǔ in Chinese) was introduced to China some three decades ago, it has spread nationwide to become a full-fledged industry. It has evolved into a breaking subculture in China, with an average of 5 million cutting their teeth into the activity every year–teens across Beijing, Shanghai and Shenzhen being the main consumers.
Brands trying to tap into the China market now aim to do so by selling items inspired by the urban slash subcultural sport. So what’s the pull of China’s pop ‘n lock?
4. Fashion Icon: Anna May Wong
The United States Mint 2022 American Women Quarters Rolls and Bags – Anna May Wong became available for purchase on October 25. The Anna May Wong quarter was the fifth coin in the American Women Quarters™ Program, a four-year series that celebrates the accomplishments and contributions made by women who have shaped history.
Flings (excusez-nous, “alleged flirtations”) with Marlene Dietrich, top hats, tuxedos, flapper androgyny avant-la-lettre… Wong was a Chinese-American actress who spent her entire career navigating a largely xenophobic industry, memorably resisting such labels as “exotic,” “Oriental,” and oh, right, “dragon lady.”
Despite all Hollywood whitewashing and yellowface practices back in the day, girlfriend leaves behind a storied legacy beyond stylish ensembles.
5. Metahuman Marketing
November 15, newsflash: “FBI ‘extremely concerned’ about China’s influence through TikTok on U.S. users,” CNBC reported. Federal Bureau of Investigation Director Christopher Wray’s remarks built on those from other government officials and members of U.S. Congress who have expressed deep skepticism about the “ability of the Chinese-owned video platform [its parent company is Beijing-based Bytedance] to protect U.S. user information from an adversarial government.”
As a resident of China’s capital who may not be on TikTok but certainly is on its Chinese peer, or should we say “parent,” Douyin, Wray’s remarks caused the mind of this fashion and urban culture-obsessed author to wander and wonder… Who in the Middle Kingdom’s social media scene actually wields the biggest influence of them all?
The answer was staring her in the face: the virtual idol.
6. The Temper Sampler: Diner
One Beijing-based artist who isn’t afraid to meander between musical genres, and who pours her heart and soul into every song she sculpts, is Diner.
Diner’s music is like a brilliant, multicolored nebula. Completely spellbinding with old school and traditional melodies illuminated by new school beats, a tune composed by Diner is easy to get lost in. And what’s better in this day and age where existence feels monotonous yet visceral than to escape into a galaxy of sonic fusion and stardust?
7. Tier Trends
Diana Vreeland (1903-1989), illustrious American fashion columnist and editor, said it before, and we’ll say it again, “One can see everything through fashion; the coming of a war, the rise or downfall of an economy, the day-to-day life.” E-ve-ry-thing.
With the accessibility and convenience of mobile and social commerce, fashion has become pervasive across China’s urban landscape. We spy with the Temper eye a trending revision of style as dictated by the traditional print layout because today, clothes can be seen, shared, and shopped across social media. The question brews…
As we can see e-ve-ry-thing, what does China’s lower-tier style tell us, from trendy to socio-politico penchants?
8. Performance Art
Performance art (| xíngwéiyìshù in Chinese–among other terms) has been pushing boundaries in China’s art scene as it opened up to Western ideas and, ehm, “values” back in the early 1980s, testing the limits of, well, any and every norm you could possibly think of. Temper looks at three shock jock artists in this bewildering field.
Confrontational, visceral and personal.
9. A Song of Male Beauty
One poem in The Book of Songs, one of China’s “Five Classics” traditionally said to have been compiled by Confucius, studied and memorized by scholars in China and neighboring countries over two millennia, encapsulates the Chinese definition of beauty. It uses green bamboo to describe the perfect man–one who stands tall, straight and robust.
Alibaba’s Tmall shopping site calls ours, the Roaring Twenties 2.0, the “Male Beauty Era” in China. The total value of the personal-care items that men are purchasing on Tmall is soaring across all categories – even makeup. Makeup purchases on Tmall by men have doubled over the past year, with the guys actively seeking out premium brands. If there are products made especially for men, China’s male consumers want them, according to a 2022 report by East West Bank’s Reach Further business magazine.
Androgynous looks, a more feminine aesthetic appeal, “gentle yet manly,” “innocent but sexy” make up the common narrative now invoked in the construction of masculinity in the Middle Kingdom. And sifting through the historical accounts, it appears this current face of male beauty in China mirrors that of the past.
It’s the regeneration of tradition.
10. Drag Divas: Velvet Teese
When we think of drag, we may not necessarily think of China. This “Drag Divas” series will show you just how the scene is very much alive in China’s urban slash underground culture.
In 2019, Temper tapped a seasoned drag show judge for his prediction on drag art in China. At the time, he defined the scene in Shanghai with one word: “booming.”
Since this prediction, the drag queen boom hasn’t just sent shockwaves through the Pearl of the Orient, but has also reverberated throughout the Middle Kingdom as a whole.
One such queen that felt the blast and found her inner diva is Beijing’s Velvet Teese.
A few words of wisdom for the New Year — courtesy of Confucius:
“Only the wisest and stupidest of men never change.”
Now bring on 2023. China is ready.
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