Or, Words in Progress Wednesday. Updated regularly, one fandom jargon at a time.
Literally: fan circles. An umbrella term for fandom. Mostly referring to celebrity fandom in the entertainment context and mostly in the digital sphere.
Other common phrases: fanquan culture (饭圈文化), fanquan girls (饭圈女孩), fanquan-ized (饭圈化)
Different from celebrities/stars (名人/明星) or artists (艺人), idols are used to refer to a specific type of celebrity who are normally young, good-looking on-stage performers. They can be singers, rappers, dancers, and sometimes they are all three.
Other phrases: Traffic celebrities/idols 流量明星/流量偶像 are those with a large following online who drive traffic and generate astonishing metrics, but often without notable works or widely recognized professional achievements. With negative connotation.
Related resources: this article talking about the rise of data fandom.
Fan Support 应援
Transliterated from the Japanese word for support.
A broad term that covers all kinds of fan behaviours including both tangible and virtual contributions or involvement: purchasing albums and merch, attending concerts and events, creating fan art, making financial investments in the celebrity’s career e.g. putting up physical ads for them (yes this is achievable) and assist in the celebrity’s digital image-making by bringing them traffic, censoring criticism and promoting their popularity.
Super Topics 超话
Short for 超级话题, which directly translates to super topics(hashtags). a discussion forum-like sub-feature on Weibo. Functions differently than a normal hashtag (话题) as the latter is topic-focused, and 超话 is more interest-focused.
It is also more enclosed, as there’s an unspoken rule that if you’re not part of whatever the 超话 is about, you shouldn’t be posting in it.
A key discursive space for fandom of all kinds.
All 超话 are publically visible and accessible until very recently. In the past year or so, Weibo introduced a series of new features such as private super topics and posting restrictions based on your experience points (“prove you’re a real fan first by being active”).
Hot Topics 热搜
The equivalent of Twitter trends for Weibo. Newspaper headlines but in the digital era.
There’s more to it though: hot topics these days come in various degrees of hotness. Weibo recently started to rank all hot topics on a scale of “hot”
(热), “boiling” (沸) to “explosive” (爆) based on how often it’s searched.
爆 is now another way of saying something made it. The big break. All TV dramas, movies, reality shows and so on aim for explosive commercial success. Entertainers go on interviews wishing their work can 大爆 (a big explosion occurring).
Another recent change is how Weibo took out entertainment (文娱) and “important news” (要闻, also known as what CCP wants you to see) hot topics from the general hot topics section (see picture below). If I remember correctly, the separation came after public complaints about how entertainment gossips dominate the hot topics list and news of actual importance can’t be easily found. Perhaps people never meant for it to happen, but the “important news” section is created alongside, where all of the topics are created by official news outlets accounts (CCTV etc.)
Hot topics are what fans aim for their idols. Deliberate 应援 tactics are used to make sure their idol scores a hot topic or two every once in a while for maximum visibility, namely mass reposting and engagement with the topic.
Before official releases of their idols’ works, fans would prep a catchy but appropriate topic name for it to trend easier and attract onlookers. They are all pretty much marketing/PR strategists at this point.
Public discussions elicited by a specific search term on Weibo. It’s everything that comes up when you enter the keyword, like how you walk into a plaza with a particular name but the chit-chat around you is from strangers.
You’ll be present with others in a public space, and together everyone is loosely bound by a shared need for information or interaction. But somehow, plaza is also where the boundary between public and private is blurred. Most posts are posted by users without a keen acknowledgement or recognition that this is public public and will be read by many others. They are meant for the self, more than for external viewing.
The reason why this term is highly relevant is because of a new phenomenon called 洗广场, which literally means “wash the plaza”.
If the celebrity is associated with a scandal, their fans would sometimes flood the searchable space with positive posts of their past hot pics, charity donations and latest music etc. to outnumber bad press and distract the audience if they do search for the scandal.
A recent example is how a K-pop group member is rumouredly in a relationship. At the top of the plaza feeds for “xxx(name of star) dating” is a post that goes like:
“5 reasons to like xxx
xxx is dating his career and his fans”
Carefully drafted to cover both keywords, but avoided mentioning the actual dating controversy.
Propaganda tactics (fandom version).
Side note: the Twitter equivalent of this is called “clearing the searches”.
Red, Burnt, Out of Season, Topping Traffic 红、糊、过气、顶流
When a celebrity is red, they are popular. I often wonder if this has to do with the political connotation of red.
When a celebrity is overcooked/burnt, they flopped.
When a celebrity is out of season, they are old news and a has-been.
And lastly, 顶流 is short for 顶级流量, top traffic idols.
Antis and Anti-ing Antis 黑子、反黑
As opposed to red for popular, antis of a celebrity in Chinese literally translate to the “black ones”. Probably related to the saying “blackening of one’s name”.
Fans organize collective efforts to counteract the antis through mass reporting, plaza washing (see above) and comment controlling (see below). A post will be made by a lead fan in the super topic, with a link to the anti’s content and instructions on how to mitigate the threat. Others will act as directed.
Not exclusive to Chinese entertainment, counteracting antis is common in K-Pop fandoms on sites like Twitter.
Supporting Fan Club 后援会
As stated. The official fan club for a celebrity and organizer of fan activities.
Used to be entirely grassroots, loosely structured and passion-driven, fan clubs are now much more complicated.
They can be highly professional and multifunctional, in charge of crowdfunding (below), monitoring the Super Topic, or any kind of 应援 as the commander-in-chief.
They can be hierarchical, with carefully mapped-out power structures and leadership conflicts. At the same time, they are becoming authoritative among the “commoner” fans as they can mobilize and manage fan behaviours.
They can be directly affiliated with the celebrity or the managing company when they used to be completely separated. Sometimes SFC members can directly contact the managers, staff members or the celebrity themselves for clarifications, and updates on the celebrity’s work plans or schedules. Other times, the company can even place staff to participate in SFC meetings and oversee their operation.
In a way, if celebrities are gods, SFC is the Church that hosts events of worship, communicates and interprets the teachings, and collects resources to fulfil God’s will.
By association, SFC members are often also Lead Fans, 大粉, meaning fans with seniority, a significant following and considerable influence within the fandom. They are like priests where they can guide the common “believers” through 应援, encourage them with a semi-official tone and all the while maintain more personal contact with the lay folks. A lot of 大粉 are there to boost morale, keep order within the fandom during unexpected events and act as a spiritual core as well as a communal focal point of the fandom.
大粉 don’t have to be within the SFC and sometimes they outrightly refuse to be a part of it. SFC of some fandoms are considered “bureaucratic”, irresponsible and unresponsive, so fans would boycott the “officials” to gravitate around other more respectable 大粉, sort of like the elders in a tribe.
Marketing Accounts 营销号
Professionally trained entertainment influencers on a payroll. In simpler words: rogue paps online. Work like mercenaries where celebrities can pay a service fee for an X number of marketing accounts to big up their content. They can also be paid to degrade rivals and shut up about certain scoops. Celebrities can also test-run new projects by intentionally releasing rumours through marketing accounts and monitoring how people would receive them. MA or YXH (an acronym based on the Chinese) are known to be public opinion swayers, attention seekers and sensationalists.
Synonym: water-army (水军) i.e. fake bots that are paid to voice an opinion.
Where fans, often the SFC, raise money for the celebrity.
This paper could be useful.
To learn more about crowdfunding in the Xuanxiu context, read issue 02!
Comments Controlling 控评
The act where fans spam the comments section of Weibo posts.
There are different types of 控评 for different occasions: damage control during publicity crises; clarifications to debunk misinformation about the celebrity i.e. dating rumours; promotions for the celebrity’s work; competing with other rivalling celebrities (including bandmates) or just general good press tours, doing positive image-making in content released and hopefully attracting new fans.
Fans have mastered the art of using emojis, special characters and fonts to attract attention and, perhaps, rebrand 控评 as something “fun” instead of intrusive.
控评 templates like the one shown above are regularly updated within the fandom. They are normally posted by 大粉 in Super Topics for fans to freely access and paste into the comments section when needed. They are drafted with the intention of highlighting the most notable achievements in a concise manner.
A very specific way of 应援 where fans, through means like streaming, help the celebrity’s work to achieve a high rank in a chart. It is an activity where fans act as free digital labourers out of appreciation.
Literally: chart beating.
A derivative of 打榜 is 打投, where 投 refers to 投票 (voting). A term for both chart-topping and mass-voting as means to achieve higher rankings, drive traffic and amount to the celebrity’s success.
Direct translation: drafting. A specific type of survival reality show where potential idol trainees compete to successfully debut (出道).
Interestingly, xuanxiu used to be a word that exclusively refers to drafting in the emperor’s palace, where the king selects his concubines from a group of suitable women “presented” to him from all over the country.
China ran its first Xuanxiu in 2018, Produce 101 (创造101), based on the Korean original.
There are two major “schools” of xuanxiu in China, categorized by the two hosting companies. Tencent is behind the Produce series, and that is known as the Penguin school (鹅系). Tencent is often called the Penguin because it is the founder of QQ, China’s first instant messaging app with a Penguin logo. iQIYI, Tencent’s rivalling entertainment mongrel runs another series called Youth with You (青春有你), Produce’s competing product. That is known as the Kiwi school (桃系) because iQIYI’s logo is a Kiwi fruit.
Both series have girl groups as well as boy groups editions, and they alternate each year. They were recurring annually before xuanxiu got shut down in 2021.
Fans of this specific type of show call themselves xiu-fen (秀粉), fen meaning fans.
Mum/Sister/Girlfriend/Wife Fans 妈粉，姐姐粉，女友粉，老婆粉
As stated. Different identifications of (female) fans based on their mindset towards a specific celebrity. One can be many of them at once and it’s all fluid. It’s gendered because most fans of celebrities are women, but male fans adopt the same set of lingo.
Mum fans prioritize the health and safety of the celebrity. Either cares too much about their career goals or none at all. Sees the celebrity dotingly; defensive when the celebrity is criticized but not necessarily combative or savvy with technology so they won’t participate in fan wars.
Sister fans resemble mum fans in terms of the doting gaze, but less in terms of extent. Sometimes cares about their career development. Would not see the celebrity in a sexual context, but more as a sibling that they care deeply about and take pride in their achievements.
Girlfriend and wife fans tend to see the celebrity as someone they are sexually attracted to. Can be very vocal about the celebrity’s sex appeal. Tend to be combative and even possessive; will react to the celebrity’s love life more so than the mum or sister fans. Could be younger than mum/sister fans.
Career Fans 事业粉
Career fans occupy a tricky middle ground, lying somewhere in between mum fans and the celebrity’s manager. Intense focus on their professional progress. Would assertively push the celebrity to self-promote more, star in more films and shows, release more music, talk more and fight for more screen time in reality programmes. Constantly protesting to the agency about their mistreatment of the celebrity and sometimes would even try and act as staff by networking with directors/producers on behalf of the celebrity, in hopes of getting more exposure.
Dreamgirls fantasize about being in a real relationship with a celebrity, often in the romantic or sexual sense. Can use very explicit language to describe the details of such an imaginary relationship. Twitter equivalent: “delulus” (derogatory, short for “delusionals”) or the “y/n” girls (y/n stands for “your name” and is an umbrella term for fan content that’s produced for readers to freely substitute themselves into the scenarios, most likely developing a love interest with your favourite celebrity).
Anecdote time: the term 梦女 first started to circulate in “the Second Dimension” (二次元), also known as the anime lovers’ circles. They can only dream about a relationship with their favourite anime character because their lovers aren’t real, hence the term makes perfect sense. This was later appropriated by xiufen and other fangirls amidst rage from the second dimension. As distant as idols, actors and singers seem, they are still real people and are not entirely out of reach, they argued angrily. Third Dimension-ers are looting something of cultural significance within their discursive space and marginalizing them yet again.
This is precisely why I’ve started this page: language is fundamental to a fan and a fandom’s formation of identity. Jargons are gatekeeping tools to establish a sense of community within which each and every member’s self is affirmed.
Shippers vs. (Toxic) Solo Stans CP粉、唯粉 (毒唯)
I’ve grouped these two together because of their perpetual warring status that is pervasive across all fandoms everywhere. In spite of country, language and culture, shippers and solos are always taking digs at each other.
Shippers are fans who want to see two (or more) people in a relationSHIP of some sort, often in the romantic or sexual sense (CP stands for couple/coupling).
Solo stans are as stated - they love one celebrity and one only. Do not want to see them associated with another person in any way. Can be combative and behave in a disturbingly culty way, and it is at this point they become toxic solo stans (毒唯).
Every fandom contains both and again, fans can occupy multiple identities at the same time and act from different positions according to the varying contexts.
The most famous shipper vs. solo war is probably the reason behind Archive of Our Own’s demise in China that I’ve written about here.
(Fun fact: 唯粉 translated literally is actually “only” + “fans”. Make of that what you will. )
Derived from the Korean word for “private life” (Saesang).
Private life fans are those who, for the lack of a better word, invade the lives of celebrities like stalkers. Intensely interested in the celebrity’s offscreen personality and lifestyle.
Most rampant in the idol industry as, in my opinion, idols are packaged to be sold to the consumer in an eerily intimate and sexually charged way, much more than actors or singers in the traditional entertainment world. You can look up horrific stories told by some of the biggest K-Pop idols of their stalkers (Super Junior and SHINee are good examples).
The mentality behind it is incredibly intricate. It is woven with a Dreamgirl-like fantasy of “I am dating my idol and I have the right to get close to them”. Some PLF are recognizable figures - Lead Fans - in the fandom, wanting to attract fame and respect amongst their peers by getting exclusive scoop on the celebrity. Others are in it for the money - they would resell private information regarding the celebrity to other fans willing to purchase it, like some kind of black market. All of them are, although to different extents, somewhat fuelled by a misconception that “I am a consumer of the idol; I pay for his success; therefore I have the right to know everything about him”.
Meanwhile, they are also easily weaponized by outsiders to represent the entirety of the fandom. An unbridgeable severance is initiated by the non-stalker fans to avoid misrepresentation (therefore lead fans who are also PLF tend to keep it a secret to avoid condemnation, only circulating the information with a close group of confidantes). People make the well-founded point that private life fans are not fans per se. They lack the basic decency to treat the celebrity as another human being.
Danmei, Dan-gai 耽美、耽改
Danmei=slash/boy-love(BL)/yaoi. Male homoeroticism.
Dan-gai are male homoerotic TV series adapted from male homoerotic fiction (danmei fictions). Responsible for Xiao Zhan, Wang Yibo, Gong Jun and Zhang Zhehan’s success.
Original Danmei 原耽
Danmei texts with original characters and storylines. For a differentiation of yuandan and other danmei, see Issue 10 here.
Selling Rottenness 卖腐 (麦麸)
Performing queer intimacy as marketing stunts. Mostly reserved for male-male pairings. A very loose English equivalent would be queer-baiting, but I’m drawing a connection with care here because the nuances are very different. 卖腐 in Chinese, as denoted by the word “selling” is almost entirely a business terminology, focusing on the act of making a profit out of a performance.
For an explanation of rottenness, see here.
As rottenness is a general reference to gays, the lesbian equivalent of such a term is 姬, a homonym of the character 基 which is short for 基佬, gay men, derived from the Cantonese pronunciation of gay. 姬 is an archaic term for beautiful women, female performers or the king’s concubines.