Celebrities Are Everywhere in China, Even in Textbooks

Megastars like Xiao Zhan are putting the “model” back in “role model,” but opponents have criticized pop culture-friendly teaching materials as frivolous.

“Data stars” — celebrities who have built up enormous followings through fan engagement, even if their bodies of work are relatively modest — dominate social media and daily discussions for millions of people in China. Now it seems they’re even starting to hog the spotlight in schools’ teaching materials.

The names of several young celebrities, including actors-singers Xiao Zhan and Wang Yibo, have started appearing on exams and in literature, English, and politics textbooks for young students, domestic outlet Red Star News reported Thursday.

The report followed posts on microblogging platform Weibo that included photos of exam questions such as, “Xiao Zhan is your favorite actor; please describe him in English according to the prompts below,” and “You’re Xiao Zhan, and Zhong Nanshan (China’s leading coronavirus expert) is your new friend; please write him a letter introducing yourself.”

One person who claimed to be seeking her teaching qualification told Red Star News that while she was preparing for the exam, she came across a practice question that referenced Xiao and his popular drama series “The Untamed.”

The phenomenon has led to heated discussion on Weibo, with many users expressing doubts about whether celebrities should be referenced in teaching materials. Xiao stans specifically were offended that, once again, their idol seemed to have been singled out and taken flack for something beyond his control.

Plenty of other celebrities get mentioned in textbooks too, they argued, so where’s the backlash against them? In 2014, Taiwanese pop star Jay Chou had one of his songs written into a literature textbook’s lesson for elementary schoolers. And last year, the massively popular internet celebrity Li Ziqi was immortalized on an exam given to students in the eastern Zhejiang province. Continue to read the full article here

– This article originally appeared on Sixth Tone.