A taxonomy of Chinese blog posts

From Yuyiwang’s blog:

Commonly-observed forms of online writing

  1. The Annie Baobei (安妮宝贝体). The characteristics of this form are: clusters of short sentences, three or four to a paragraph. Lots of adverbials and adjectives in a lucid context, it’s basically one person talking to herself. Frequently appearing props: flowers, grass, plants, and children, and they’re all pretty clean, aesthetically pleasing, and lushly detailed. On average, each paragraph contains what appears to be a sentence of incisive criticism. There may be an emotional object, such as a man named Lin or Shen, but this is nothing more than mirror to reflect light back on oneself. This type of writing is typically short, as the writer lacks a breadth of knowledge or substantive details and has no concern for the people around her. Information content is low and seldom generates conversation.
  2. The Shu Yi (亦舒体). A cold, detached perspective that feigns having seen it all. “She” is written “伊”, and 吧 is written “罢了.” Here too, short sentences predominate, and they’re decisive declarative sentences. Life experience, with a slightly pedagogical attitude, but in my own experience, this form is mostly written by the naive. The intelligence of the language is just a pauper’s wedding — borrowed pageantry. I’m generally fairly well-disposed toward girls who write in the Shu Yi form. It emphasizes reason, where the Annie stresses feelings. However, nothing should be taken too far. Too much argument is like a mouthful of wax; too much emotion is like choking on words.Also: These two forms, with their short sentences and frequent paragraph changes, belong to the sprinters. Clever sentences cluster so thickly it’s fatiguing, and these end up sounding long-winded if they get too long. They usually shouldn’t exceed 1,500 characters.
  3. The Eileen (爱玲体). Similar to the Shu Yi, but there’s a little more body to the writing. Arguments are layered, and articles are usually divided into parts. Qiqi’s early criticism was a little like a relaxed version of the Eileen: leisurely and lucid without giving offense. I quite liked it. This style of writing is trenchant, rich in information, and can be extended to more than 2,000 characters.
  4. The Cartoon (卡通体). Sarcasm delivered in a childish tone. Simple, short language with few adjectives and adverbs but lots of “Yee,” “Yow,” and “Oh.” Certain individuals have found great success with this form. The greatest difficulty with baby-faced writing is the same as when a child actor attempts an image change. It’s innocent and cute when you’re twenty, but if you’re still affecting the intonation of a child when you’re thirty, people begin to suspect that you’re simply childish. So when I saw Annie Inoh’s relationship problems I felt I could relax a bit, because it felt much more natural than seeing her in a tiered dress at thirty-six.
  5. The Duras (杜拉斯体). Chaotic, stream-of-consciousness narrative where time and space crisscross. An accumulation of fragments. Done badly it’s like the ravings of a drunkard. Writers who practice this style always choose a black template for their blog. I’ve only seen a few pieces by Zhu Wenyi that did this successfully. Maze Garden, I believe.
  6. The Su Qing (苏青体). The ancestor of gossip scribes and a master of baseless nonsense. Rambling, random stuff. Typically, this takes on contemporary people and events like celebrity divorces or the arrest of some fat-cat. The greatest advantages of this form: it’s low cost and has a broad range of subject matter, it intertwines with gossip and the minutiae of everyday life, the things that excite women, it doesn’t require much preparation, and it doesn’t demand brilliant prose. But gossip has its own hierarchy: in this form, you’ve got to have had exposure to the world. Gossip from Chen Tong or Hung Huang is fun to read.
  7. The Pop Scholar (通俗学者体). Teacher Ma at Douban and Teacher Li at Tianya both fit here, with their unpretentious learning. They drop quotations as easily as if they were selling vegetables. Reading their writing is enlightening and nourishing, and it doesn’t require much effort to digest. I personally prefer Teacher Ma because her tastes incline toward Europe and America and it gives me a feeling of closeness.
  8. The Zhou Zuoren (周作人体). The type of writing this name stands for is predominantly plain, unambitious, inclined toward the Japanese, and written with an economy of words. Yet it is abundantly fascinating. A few lines are enough to capture a particular object or episode. Blogs by Zhenshu, Xiao Qiong, and Zhaozhao have a little bit of this feel.
  9. The Chinese Odyssey (大话西游体). Angry youth, angry middle-aged, Wang Shuo’s disciples, and the descendants of Joker (至尊宝). A mix of laughter and cursing, nothing is taken seriously, but it had grand designs and criticises the powerful. Men predominate in this form of writing.

I don’t get most of the references to other online writers. I did pick up a copy of Maze Garden (迷花园) by Zhu Wenying (朱文颖) on the recommendation of this piece. It’s part of a series of four books featuring new writers published by Zhuhai Publishing House in 1999 with an introduction by the ever-dependable Xie Youshun. Oddly, it doesn’t seem to be listed on Douban at the moment, although other books by Zhu turn up in a search.

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