Li Yong vs. Shaanxi

Flamboyant star insults 30 million people on national TV.

During an episode of the game show Lucky 52 that aired on 12 January, host Li Yong made the following comment during a question about Shaanxi Opera (秦腔):

The old saying has it right, "In the 800-mile Guanzhong Basin the dust flies, and 30 million lazy men sing Shaanxi Opera" (八百里秦川尘土飞扬,三千万懒汉高唱秦腔).

Viewers from Shaanxi were not amused, and filled online forums with passionate defenses of Shaanxi's climate and work ethic as well as calls for Li Yong's dismissal. This is not the first time that Li has drawn flack for bad jokes - presenting at a TV awards ceremony in November, he brought out a few old-wives-tales to tease pregnant actress Jiang Qingqing and her husband about whether their child would be a boy or a girl; it didn't go over too well. And he's also been criticized for being overly harsh in his scathing comments to contestants on the talent show Dream China.

Through yesterday evening, Li maintained silence on the matter, but last night he posted the following apology on his blog (in translation):

Belated Apology!!!

It's been a long time since I've written on this blog; let me first wish a Happy New Year to all my online friends!!!

I've chosen the blog as my window because it can completely express what it is that I want to express. This way is a little more direct, a little more real, and there isn't any so-called "taking things out of context."

Under normal circumstances, I do not go online, so I know very little of the Internet world. On Monday, 15 January, a close friend informed me that something I had said on the program had kickd up a heated discussion online, and at the same time I got a series of calls from people in the media inquiring about the affair. Out of caution I made no immediate response, because Lucky 52 is taped program and the recording time was probably sometime at the end of last year. I could only give an answer after thinking back and getting detailed appreciation of what the circumstances were like at the taping.

The way things went was like this: at the taping, the program had reached the middle stage, and as a contestant was about to become a Lucky Challenger, he encountered a four-answer multiple-choice question that concerned the local opera of Shaanxi Province. As the contestant was thinking, the atmosphere in the studio was pretty tense. To reduce pressure on the contestant and to raise the spirits of the studio audience, I cracked a joke for the studio audience while the contestant was thinking.

I remembered that in the audience there was a young man from Shaanxi, so I recalled a line I once heard and used it to joke with him. Thinking about it now, it was truly inappropriate to crack that joke. There was not enough thought. Although it roused up the live atmosphere, I never expected it to cause such consequences among the audience.

As a host who has worked for many years, I am of course aware of what the audience means to me, so at this point in time, for me to make some kind of on-the-spot elaboration or improvised maneuver in explanation is ineffective, and cannot express the discomfort I feel at this moment. The only thing I can do now is to express to those people in the audience who were hurt by my words my deep, deep apology.

Li Yong

17 January 2007 1:11 am

Incidentally, that particular Lucky 52 episode was an "ethnic-themed" program, with the three contestants all members of national minorities.

Links and Sources
There are currently 5 Comments for Li Yong vs. Shaanxi.

Comments on Li Yong vs. Shaanxi

I've never thought of him as a funny person, anyway.Don't know how he became a star presenter of CCTV. Yeah, he's not good enough even by CCTV's standard, in my opinion.

Not sure about the comment though. The saying just goes like that, light-hearted mostly. Noone's gonna think all Shanxi men are lazy just because of this, surely? These people just need to take it easy, really.

I do have a question about the translation of the name of the province 陕西。Why is it spelt Shaanxi with double 'a' in most western media(BBC included)? Shouldn't it be Shanxi? Thought people at speak perfect Chinese. Care to elaborate?

Gale: Shaanxi is the standard spelling in China's English-language media as well (Xinhua, China Daily). If you want to insult someone from Shaanxi (陕西), you don't want to anger all those folks from Shanxi (山西), too.

Mark at Pinyin.Info explains the doubled vowel here

I was told that Li Yong got onto TV because of his unusual and foreign-looking appearance.

Personally he freaks me out.

Thank you very much, Joel. Now it all makes sense!!

coming from the sophisticated autonomous region of xinjiang must give li a superiority complex. and how did li get so famous? his wife is producer of lucky 52. coincidence or not.

China Media Timeline
Major media events over the last three decades
Danwei Model Workers
The latest recommended blogs and new media
From 2008
Front Page of the Day
A different newspaper every weekday
From the Vault
Classic Danwei posts
+ Culture and corporate propaganda in Soho Xiaobao (2007.11): Mid-2007 issues of Soho Xiaobao (SOHO小报), illustrating the complicated identity of in-house magazines run by real estate companies.
+ Internet executives complain about excessive Net censorship (2010.03): Internet executives complain about excessive Net censorship at an officially sanctioned meeting in Shenzhen.
+ Crowd-sourced cheating on the 2010 gaokao (2010.06): A student in Sichuan seeks help with the ancient Chinese section of this year's college entrance exam -- while the test is going on!
Danwei Archives