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Tragedy visits Yi Zhongtian

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The meme source
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Jin Feng's seal

Professor Yi Zhongtian of Xiamen University shot to fame through his appearances on CCTV's Lecture Room program. His lectures on stories from the Han Dynasty and Three Kingdoms period led to a series of best-selling books, as well as all of the controversies that come with reinterpreting history for the masses.

Yi was also the unwitting catalyst of one of the biggest online memes of 2009. In episode 15 of his first stint on Lecture Room, he uttered the line "Tragedy!" (悲剧啊!) while staring straight into the camera. Yi's wide-eyed expression caught the attention of forum commenters, who made a screenshot of that moment (top left) into a popular signature image at the bottom of their posts.

The meme gained additional traction through a parody of an Eileen Chang quote, "Life is like a luxurious dress crawling with fleas": "Life is like a coffee table, all covered in cups." "Tragedy" (悲剧) is a homophone for "cup" (杯具).

Now Jin Feng, a Shanghai-based artist, has brought the meme full circle. The Chongqing Evening News reports that Jin recently traveled to Xiamen to present Yi with a large seal based on the Lecture Room still.

The side of the seal reads "Cups!" ("杯具啊!"). The inscription on the bottom is taken from another of Yi's aphorisms: "One must be feeble-minded to be a leader."

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The full stamp and its inscription
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