Papi Jiang: PRC internet sensation

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Tom Mazanec wrote in to call Papi醬 (jiàng means "thick sauce; jam-like or paste-like food") to my attention.  Tom explains:

She's a big internet phenomenon in mainland China who's now in the news (BBC report, Shanghaiist post) because many of her videos were blocked from Youku and Weixin for too much swearing. A few cynics I talked to thought the whole thing might be a publicity stunt, but it seems to be real.

What I thought would interest you and Language Log readers were two of her video series: one where she imitates a Taiwanese person speaking Northeastern-style Mandarin (videos 1, 2, 3) and another where she imitates a haughty Shanghai native speaking in a mix of Shanghainese, English, Japanese, and Mandarin (videos 1, 2, 3, 4).

Although these videos are caricatures, I do recognize the kind of Shanghainese woman she's approximating here from eavesdropping on conversations in Jing'an-area coffee shops.

Incidentally, one of the investors who last month gave her some 12 million RMB was the show Logical Thinking (逻辑思维), which you featured in a previous Language Log post.

Papi Jiang's graduate training at China's Central Academy of Drama, where she also earned her undergraduate degree, is evident in her video performances.  Her pyrotechnic histrionics and verbal dexterity stamp her as a virtuoso comedic thespian.  What makes her all the more attractive is that, when she's not acting, she looks like an almost innocent, impish ingenue.

Papi Jiang is hugely talented, highly creative, and saucily vulgar.  She has also now been severely disciplined by the Chinese Communist Party.

"Are There New Limits for Artists in China?" (Adam Minter, Bloomber Views, 4/24/16)

"China's Foul-Mouthed Web Superstar Papi Jiang Rapped by Censors" (Ed Flanagan and Julia Zhou, NBC News, 4/23/16)


  1. David Moser said,

    April 25, 2016 @ 12:20 pm

    Papi Jiang is one of China's most talented and truly funny young comedic performers. Her ear for subtle language differences in demographic groups, classes and sub-cultures is extraordinary, and her humor is a genuine reflection of modern Chinese urban life. Unlike most Party-monitored media humor forms, Papi Jiang has forged something genuine, brash, and honest. Some people find her frenetic style annoying, but almost all successful stand-up comedians and edgy comedic actors are subject to similar love-'em-or-hate-'em reactions. Thus it's a real shame that the Party has begun to squelch her humor. Ever wonder why China's soft power is so lame? As soon as any interesting content springs up, they chop it down. Interestingly Papi Jiang's "apology" almost sounds like an intentional parody: “I am a person who is not only open but willing to accept criticism. Only by accepting criticism and promptly correcting my mistakes and insufficiencies can I move in a better direction. I will also be more careful of my words and image, resolutely responding to requests for corrections in internet clips, and broadcast positive energy for everyone," Again, her unerring ear found exactly the right tone of exaggerated obsequious self-flagellation and political pandering.

  2. Jason said,

    April 25, 2016 @ 2:45 pm

    The videos are no longer available.

  3. kktkkr said,

    April 25, 2016 @ 3:07 pm

    醬 is coincidentally also a Chinese slang rendition of the Japanese honorific -chan, although Wikipedia states that it's her last name. So that character in her name might not actually be a reference to sauce.

  4. Victor Mair said,

    April 25, 2016 @ 5:54 pm

    Her real name is said to be Jiang Yilei. Does anybody know how to write that in characters?

  5. Eidolon said,

    April 25, 2016 @ 6:57 pm

    I believe it is 姜逸磊.

  6. Victor Mair said,

    April 25, 2016 @ 7:11 pm



    So "sauce" is not her surname.

  7. Michael Watts said,

    April 26, 2016 @ 6:22 am

    My primary association with 酱 is 酱油, soy sauce, which couldn't be described as "thick" in any sense. Is it conceived of as the oil pressed from a thicker paste or some such?

  8. liuyao said,

    April 26, 2016 @ 7:17 am

    It's surely an odd (meaningless) name, not easy to say for a Chinese, which suggests that it wasn't particularly chosen to popularize in the first place. The choice of the homophone to her surname may have to do with 酱 being used as a cute contraction (informal, may come from Taiwan) for zhèyàng 这样.

  9. Michael Watts said,

    April 26, 2016 @ 7:25 am

    What's difficult to say about Papi酱? Pa, pi, and jiang are all chinese syllables?

  10. liuyao said,

    April 26, 2016 @ 8:02 am

    True. I was reading pi in fourth tone, and another fourth tone after that makes it a little 拗口. To ammend: it is a little awkward to say for ME.

    I was just thinking the other day that when an English word or acronym has entered Chinese (should I say Mandarin), we'd automatically attach a tone for each syllable. For example, DNA is dì ēn ēi, and CT is sēi tì.

  11. Keith said,

    April 26, 2016 @ 10:37 am

    Calling Jiang "sauce" instantly made me think of a thick, sweet Korean sauce called jjajang, written 짜장 in hangul and 炸醬 in hanja. The second sinogram, 醬, in that name is the traditional form of 酱.

  12. Fluxor said,

    April 26, 2016 @ 2:26 pm


    Try this link

  13. Tom said,

    April 26, 2016 @ 2:55 pm

    Sorry for the broken links! I was really hoping people would talk about the mix of languages in the videos. Here is one of her Shanghainese-English-Japanese videos:
    And here is one of her Taiwanese-doing-Northeastern-Mandarin videos:

  14. Victor Mair said,

    April 26, 2016 @ 7:48 pm

    All seven of the Papi Jiang YouTube links worked for me — even here in Taiwan — when Tom first sent them. Now they're all broken, but that's not Tom's fault. Within the last week, the Chinese government has done its best to remove all traces of Papi Jiang's virtuosity from the internet. See here for her YouTube site, which used to have a very rich selection of her amazing performances:

    See what it is reduced to now.

  15. liuyao said,

    April 26, 2016 @ 10:00 pm

    Weird that I still can see a lot of her videos on her weibo account, which presumably is where she publishes them. Why would the Chinese authority go out of the way to delete her videos reposted on YouTube? Could it be a purely copyright action that now she got huge VC funds?

  16. Victor Mair said,

    April 27, 2016 @ 8:37 am

    If anyone has access to Weibo or other accounts that supposedly still carry Papi Jiang's videos, I'm sure that Language Log readers would be grateful for links to the relevant videos that may still be posted there. Many news accounts report that most of her videos have been taken down at the "request" of the government.

  17. K. Chang said,

    May 5, 2016 @ 11:31 am

    Weibo's still active.

    Most recent videos contains a lot of BLEEP parts. That may be how she's getting past the censors.

    Oh, and someone did a remix of her video into a song. It may be a gentler intro to her style of humor. :D

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