River Crabbed: The Justice of Lord Baozi

In late December, President Xi Jinping had lunch at a Beijing chain restaurant that serves up baozi (包子) steamed dumplings—a popular and inexpensive fare found throughout China—alongside a dining room full of surprised fellow patrons. While Xi’s unannounced visit did much to drum up publicity for the Qing-feng Steamed Dumpling chain and prompted netizen attempts to find political symbolism in the dishes he ordered, it also inspired petitioners to gather by the Beijing restaurant to air a range of grievances. Petitioners elsewhere in China assembled in front of a government building to fly a banner reading “Chairman Xi, I want to eat baozi” [zh].

China’s official system requires petitioners to report to a local Office of Letters and Calls. If they fail to find reparation locally, they are then directed to higher level offices. With the official system congested and scandal-ridden, many with complaints seek more effective venues for redress. While some have hoped that the foreign media might help or have even turned to the White House’s online petition form, a more popular option is to head directly to the capital. As Qing-feng Steamed Dumpling Shop’s publicity was heating up, petitioners in Beijing seized the chance for exposure, and netizens took note:

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梁鸿兴: Is this a Qing-feng Steamed Dumpling Shop or the Kaifeng Court? Baozi [steamed dumplings] are taking on the role of Lord Bao.

这是庆丰店还是开封府啊?包子要变包公的节奏。

Bao Zheng (包拯), also known as Lord Bao (包公) was a Song Dynasty official who served in the Song capital of Kaifeng. Famous for pushing reforms to better answer the grievances of the people, he has long been a symbol of justice in Chinese culture. His surname Bao (包) is the same character used in the Chinese word for “steamed dumplings” (包子).

吴伟bjV: Qing-feng Steamed Dumpling Shop got hot for a few days and has already turned into the Office of Letters and Calls. Boss Xi and his spin doctors didn’t anticipate this, did they? Quick, what’s the next move?

庆丰包子铺刚火没两天,就快成信访局了。这种情况,大概习大和他的政治化妆师们没有想到吧? 赶快想招吧。

吉四六V: I was surprised by news that Qingfeng Steamed Dumpling Shop has turned into an attraction for petitioners… Baozi has been upgraded to Lord Bao. After all, Bao Zheng became Lord Bao when he got old. Let’s sing together: “There is a Lord Baozi in Qing-feng.”

惊闻庆丰包子铺升级为新上访胜地。。。。包子直接升级为包公。本来么,包黑子老了就叫包公。大家一起唱:庆丰有個包青天。。。。

吉四六’s call to singalong is a reference to the theme song from a popular television drama [zh] based on Bao Zheng (“开封有个包青天” “There is a Lord Bao in Kaifeng”).

Translations by Mengyu Dong.

All of the above censored weibo were selected by CDT Chinese editors from FreeWeibo.

crabWhen something disappears from the Internet in China, netizens joke that it has been “river-crabbed,” a play on the euphemism “harmonized.” River Crabbed (河蟹档案) is a collection of blog post titles, weibo, and other materials censored from their original sources on Chinese websites, either found by CDT or brought to our attention by outside projects.