Category Archives: Web Focus

They Did Not Marry Each Other

lileiandhanmeimei 李雷和韩梅梅 T恤

(T-shirt with textbook characters, photos from yule.baidu.com )

Fictitious Characters in Textbook Caused Collective Sorrow among Chinese Young People

In the newly published English textbook for Chinese junior high school students, two names “Li Lei” and “Han Meimei” appeared again. In this edition, “Han Meimei” is described as a married young woman with stylish curly hair, who is always busy working in the kitchen and taking care of her two children. However, her husband is NOT “Li Lei”, but a new role named “Han Gang”.

The “cruel fact” that “Han Meimei” is already married with another man seemed unacceptable to the audience and caused strong disappointments among Chinese young people, most of whom were born in the 1980s in China, and are often called “The 80s”. They collectively felt disappointed and sad, and expressed their emotions in words or songs on various Chinese web pages.

Who are Li Lei and Han Meimei?

(Li Lei and Han Meimei, photos from yule.baidu.com )

“Li Lei” and “Han Meimei” are two of the leading roles in the English textbook widely used in Chinese junior high schools from the year 1990 to 2000. This set of English textbook was based on family and school life. “Li Lei” is a Chinese boy, who is reliable and has great sense of responsibility. “Han Meimei” is a Chinese girl with short straight hair, who is usually serious, conservative, lovely, and ready to help others.

 

(English textbook, photo from yule.baidu.com )

This edition of textbook was initially adopted in eight cities and towns including Chongwen District in Beijing and Chengdu in Sichuan Province in 1990. In 1993, it became the prevailing English textbook all over China, except in Shanghai. It is estimated that in the decade between 1990 and 2000, over 10,000,000 junior high school students learned English with this textbook.

About Their Story

(illustrations from the English textbook, pictures from yule.baidu.com )

Interestingly, the romantic story of “Li Lei” and “Han Meimei” is based on imagination of some students, who claimed that the English text book was actually telling a romantic story. On the website Tianya.com, a post called “Li Lei and Han Meimei are Supposed to be Married now, right?” spread widely soon on the web. Followers ardently discussed their understandings of this romantic story. Some people said that “Jim from England and Li Lei from China both adore Han Meimei a lot. However, Han Meimei and another girl Lucy (from England) both favor Li Lei.” and they listed evidences and examples (the illustrations from the textbook) to prove their opinions. 

For instance, in one scene, Han Meimei is borrowing a ruler from Li Lei, and Jim, who is sitting behind them, is staring at Li Lei. This scene is cited as an example of “Jim’s jealousy “. “There’s a mix of jealousy and upset in his eyes.” said one netizen. The other girl Lucy, who is sitting beside them, is said to “ put her head down with grievance, almost burst into tears….”

In another scene, Han Meimei is picking apples in an apple tree. This scene is described as “She is busy chatting with LiLei, and this makes Jim, who is holding the ladder for her, really nervous and shouted out ‘Be Careful!’ twice.”

The readers not only remembered the leading roles, but also recalled many other characters such as the Parrot Polly, Uncle Wang who enjoys inventing new machines, and a senior lady who says her age is a secret.

According to some social researcher, for most of The 80s, 1993 was the year when they entered junior high school, began to learn English, and met “Li Lei” and “Han Meimei” for the first time. These two “friends” accompanied them in the following three years’ of English learning. Thus, these two characters can be regarded as two symbols that carry their collective memories of the days when they were simple and unsophisticated teenagers.

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‘I’m going back to 1997…’ Web Post Followed by Over 930,000 Chinese Netizens

(screen snap of the web page on tianya.cn)

‘I’m going back to 1997…’

On May 30, 2008, a seemingly nonsensical post appeared on Tianya.cn, one of China’s most popular web-based forums. It contains only one sentence “I’m going back to year 1997, and I hate to part with you all.” By Dec. 12, 2009, approximately 931,394 people read this post and over 13,688 replied.

In the beginning, it seemed just one of those ordinary post-and-follow games on websites, but soon,  this post surprisingly evoked tremendous sympathy among readers. Many people confessed that they were just bantering when began reading this post while finally replied it in tears.

Here are some of their replies:

“Please go back to my college times and urge me to study hard instead of skipping classes to play computer games all the time and making my parents so upset.”

“Please go back to 1997 and tell me to treat my parents better, so much better…, because after that I’d lead a vagrant life in a foreign country for over 7 years, and it’s so difficult just to meet them once again.”

‘Tell me I must go home to see grandma for the last time during the holiday of 2003. Tell her I am sorry that I haven’t made any money yet, and I haven’t had the chance to buy her the clothes that I promised to buy as a child, and the candies.”

“Tell me to treat grandma nicely. She always loves me best. Otherwise, I would stand in front of her tomb filled with regret in year 2004.”

“Please tell me in 1998 that the boy sitting behind me would be my husband in the future. I could have begun to cultivate him with concentrated attention early then!”

“Please tell the people in Sichuan Province to leave their hometown, no matter what, before May12th of 2008 (when the destructive earthquake happened).”

“Tell me to buy an apartment right after graduation from college in 2005, even if I had to borrow money for that!”

“Tell me not to fall in love with a boy studying fine arts in 2001, be a good girl in college in 2003, and treat the man who liked me more nicely in 2006 because otherwise I would find him gone in 2007, when I realized I was also keen on him!”

“Please take me with you. I am going to beat myself in year 1997,1998,1999,2000,2001,2002…2007, and 2008.”

“Tell my dad not to go for that dinner party in 2006, not to take that cold water shower right after coming back home, not to immediately go to his room afterwards and leave us behind!”

“Please go to the ##square at 8pm on June 12th of 2001 and find me there. Ask me to tell that girl I love her and I can marry her.”

“If possible, please ask my dad to treat my mom tenderly and get along with her well.”

“Tell me the result of lottery so that I’d be rich!”

Among the tens of thousands of replies, some expressed their thanks, some recalled lost romance, some regret the past, and some made jokes. Most of the followers are young people born in the 80s and 90s.

According to a Chinese psychologist, such phenomenon reveals the worries towards future and dissatisfaction of current life among young people born in the 80s or 90s.