Yesterday I came across a Tianya BBS forum called Tianya Myself 天涯真我 (Roland Soong of ESWN translated it as True Self Community Forum...I'm just using the Chinglish version from the website itself). It's the place where February Girl first posted her photos, and I guess what I'm writing about here is just the latest version of that: pretty girls posting pictures of themselves and having what seem to me fairly odd conversations with what appear to be strange men. Voyeurism in Virtual China. [Update: see ESWN recent translation of a fascinating article on the new profession of "Internet Promoter"--creating and promoting Internet stars).
"Chaseaini" is the post with the longest thread at the moment. Her Tianya profile says she's a 21 year old college student in Fujian province. On Jan. 3 she posted her first photo under the title "My first time posting photos, hehe." It was a kind of Chinese Britney Spears-esque/anime schoolgirl picture.
Since then there have been almost 6500 comments (including her own) and over 124,000 page hits. It's still going strong. It reads something like this:
Beautiful! Do you have any more?
Chaseaini: I hope everyone will use civilized language, otherwise, will the BBS moderator please delete them.
MM [meimei/little sister], I'm waiting, keep going.
What a beauty!
I've been on Tianya for 5 years and this is the first time I've ever commented on a post.
Keep posting photos!
Basically, as long as you're female, after PhotoShop every one is a beauty.
Where is she? I still want to see more!
Where do you live in Xiamen? I can be there in half an hour!
She's really extraordinary!
I've been on Tianya Myself a long time, but this is the first time my heart has been moved.
You could kill a man with these photos.
After coming to Tianya, I'm not going to porn sites anymore. The girls here are much prettier!
Over the next few days Chaseaini reveals a bit more about herself: she is not studying at Xiamen University, she's into writing, she likes to write essays and poetry, she'd like to get published and wonders if anyone has any suggestions. At this point you start to wonder? Is it written by some Tianya editor to hook in male readers? It just sounds a bit too much. Then she actually starts posting some poems. Readers discuss what kind of role she would play if she went into acting. Several weeks and 6,000 comments later, Chaseaini writes:
Before when I posted my photos I was kind of naive, and just posted them for myself. Now I feel I'm posting them for my "you."
Just yesterday a new post appeared, posted by a girl called "Land of Happiness," followed by her QQ number and titled "I'm a 17 year old student. Photos inside. Please evaluate."
The first comments were very direct: "More angles. Full body. No PS. No heavy make-up."