• The most viral stories out of China in the year of the Sheep (Source: Instagram and Weibo) (Weibo)
As Lunar New Year celebrations kick off, here are the trends, controversies and WTF moments that made headlines in the year of the Sheep aka 2015.
Genevieve Dwyer

5 Feb 2016 - 2:49 PM  UPDATED 5 Feb 2016 - 2:50 PM

The estimated number of social network users in the People’s Republic of China is over 650 million according to the China Internet Network Information Center's (CNNIC) 35th China Internet Development Statistics Report.

This figure equates to double the population of the USA, which is pretty impressive considering the infamous ‘Great Firewall of China’ which severely restricts user access to popular Western platforms such as Twitter, Facebook and Google.

Nonetheless, locally built platforms such as Weibo are thriving and are often home to just as many ridiculous trends as Facebook and Twitter. Here are some of the stories that went most viral throughout the past year.  

1. When a meme ruined this model’s life

Taiwanese Model Heidi Yeh became an internet meme because of this photo and a fake story that circulated with it on Weibo saying that a man had sued his wife for misrepresenting her looks because their children were too ugly.

The original ad was for a Taiwanese cosmetic surgery clinic and came with the caption, “the only thing you’ll ever have to worry about is how to explain it to the kids.”

In a tearful TV interview in 2015, Yeh said it she regretted ever booking the job and that it caused work to dry up for her completely.

More info:
Model says Internet meme ruined her life
Heidi Yeh says that the meme that went viral has ruined her life.

2. When these students dressed up as famous paintings

A group of school students in Hangzhou, China imitated iconic paintings from history for a school competition and the results became something of an online sensation on Weibo.

3. When China took over Grindr

The phenomenally successful gay hook up app is set to be the next big social media sensation in China after the majority share was snapped up by Chinese gaming company Beijing Kunlun Tech. Social media’s about to get a whole lot raunchier in China!

4. When people shared new and unique ways to ride escalators

While the trend may seem bizarre or hilarious, the reason behind it is actually rather heartbreaking. It became a viral trend on Weibo only out of safety concerns as people shared tips on how to avoid touching the ground after a horrific freak accident caught on video, in which a woman fell through the top of an escalator to her death, pushing her child out of harm’s way on the way down.

WARNING: The video below contains graphic images which may distress some users.

5. When people started doing the ‘belly button challenge’

Using the hashtag #bellybuttonchallenge Teenagers challenged themselves to see if they could touch their belly button….by first reaching their hand around behind their back.  Apparently it was meant to be proof of a tiny waist and presumably crazy flexibility, although the mascot for the movement was this guy, who apparently kicked the whole trend off:

He later admitted to faking it with the help of a friend.   


6. When this glass walkway cracked and everyone freaked out

Tourists reportedly shrieked in terror when a glass panel on China's 68 metre long Brave Man Bridge, along the side of Yuntai Mountain, cracked, while they were standing on it. Photos of the incident shared to Weibo, were widely shared by horrifying

7. When Sina Weibo expanded its character limit

Twitter have announced that they plan on extending beyond 140 characters, but the Chinese microblogging site beat them to it early this year.

8. When this Sina Weibo user freaked out over breastfeeding

Beijing Subway Breastfeeding (#北京地铁哺乳#) became a trending topic on the microblogging site Sina Weibo after one user posted a picture of another woman breastfeeding her baby on the Beijing subway captioned “this is the Beijing subway, not the bus in your village”. She also wrote that the mother needed to “pay attention to her manners in public place” and also wrote that she shouldn’t “expose her sex organ”.

The post quickly went viral, causing a heated debate over the rights of women to breastfeed in public, accumulating over 70,000 comments and 80 million views.

9. When #legosforweiwei went viral                             

When Danish toy company Lego famously denied Chinese dissident artist Ai Weiwei’s request for a bulk order of their plastic building blocks for his art installation at the National Gallery of Victoria last year, the #legosforweiwei started trending, calling for people to donate their blocks instead.

The outcry led Lego to reverse their policy on the use of their products for political works.  

10. When people started doing the underboob pen challenge

The ability to grip a ben under your boobs became a highly valued skill last month, for some reason. Not to be left out of the Weibo trend, the boys got involved too.

11. When this woman made a bar of soap out of her own fat

Weibo user Xiaoxiao channelled her inner Fight Club, sharing pictured of herself reportedly before and after getting liposuction, and then of a bar of soap she claims to have made out of the resulting fat. In an act of revenge, she reportedly then sent the bar of soap to her ex-boyfriend for picking on her for her weight.

12. When your fave male movie stars became vintage cheongsam ladies

Anyone who’s ever been to China probably has one of these iconic 1930s advertising posters of glamorous women in cheongsams hanging in their house – they probably don’t feature the faces of Benedict Cumberbatch and Tom Hiddleston. That came courtesy of Weibo user qonghongzaolegebai who’s Photoshop shenanigans went viral last year.

13. When everyone started making these teeny tiny snowmen

Snowfall is rare in China and while it wasn’t thick on the ground after snowfall in January, there was just enough to make little mini snowmen, which is exactly what people did, sharing their pictures to Weibo.

14. When people started squishing their babies faces

The trend actually came out of Japan, but was none the less mimicked around China and the world after going viral. Named for a common Japanese side dish and apparently devoid of meaning, the #RiceBallBaby trend was nonetheless adorable – and very popular

15. When everyone started putting coins on their collarbones

The People’s Daily Online reported on the trend in June last year, which saw Weibo users competing with one another to see who could balance the most coins on their collarbones. Amassing over 34 million views, there was no apparent scientific reasoning behind the trend, but it’s a skill that could perhaps come in handy in the event you lost your wallet.