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Top 10 words making a buzz in online literature

Updated: 2024-01-09 06:20 ( China Daily )
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China Literature Group exhibits artistic renditions of 150 of its online literature IPs in Dongguan Library on April 22 last year. [Photo provided to China Daily]

A list of the "Top 10 Buzzwords in Chinese Online Literature in 2023", co-released recently by The Paper, a digital newspaper, and the country's largest online literature content provider, China Literature Group, displays trendy ways that young people tackle the uncertainties of life.

The list was made based on an analysis of topics, industrial trends, cultural responsibilities of online literature.

According to the list, in 2023, terms such as zhongtian (farming), kaoyan (postgraduate entrance examination), wucp (including no romantic stories), zuowangdao (the way of sitting oblivion), zhishang zaixian (meaning the characters behave smartly in stories), feiyi (intangible cultural heritage), short drama, and bazong quanqiuhua (urban romance featuring overbearing CEO boyfriends gaining traction globally), became the trendiest words in online fiction.

In 2023, as many young people worked hard trying to pass postgraduate entrance and civil service examinations, the "exam rush" has driven the creation of stories like Chongshengde Wo Zhixiang Zhuanxin Xuexi (After Rebirth, I Just Want to Focus on Study) and Jijian Shengxian, Cong Difu Kaobian Kaishi (Getting Immortal, Starting From Civil Service Examination in the Netherworld).

The first novel features leading characters preparing for the postgraduate entrance examination to enter China's top universities — Peking University and Tsinghua University — and the second describes immortals trying to pass the examination to enter the official systems in the underworld.

As young people seemed to advocate the phrase "make money not love", the tag wucp ranked among the top three on the women's channel on online literature platform Qidian. Romantic relationships are no longer seen as the standard plot for single female protagonists.

In comparison, in men's channel, "sweet love stories" became the tag that has seen the biggest rise in numbers over the past five years.

The buzzwords also show that, as they face uncertainties, young people born after 1995 have tried to seek spiritual havens in online literature that can help them reduce pressure, according to the analysis.

In 2023, the first drama about farming adapted from a novel on Qidian, Tiangengji (Chronicles of Farming), quickly gained widespread online popularity.

In addition to dramas, young people, far away from fields, also became enthusiastic about farming-themed online fictions and reality shows. Through "cyber farming", they tried to get close to nature, rediscover the true essence of life and take a break from the high pressure of urban life.

Another buzzword that shows the stress-relieving trend is zuowangdao. Zuowang originally means a spiritual state of sitting oblivion.

Zuowangdao became popular due to an eccentric school of immortals featured in a popular online novel, who can improve their power by seeking more pleasure through tricking people. On livestreaming platform Bilibili, videos about zuowangdao have been played more than 60 million times. By this word, young people express their hope to look for more pleasure in life.

Buzzwords on the list also show the development trend of Chinese online literature.

The 2023 China International Online Literature Week and an online literature industry expo at the Hangzhou Baimahu International Exhibition Center in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province, on May 27 last year. [Photo provided to China Daily]

Buzzwords like zhishang zaixian and feiyi indicate that online literature is continuously improving its quality.

On Qidian's reading app, the tag qunxiang ("group portrait": multiple interesting characters) has ranked at the top.

Meanwhile, writers tend to design more complicated plots and mental activities for protagonists so that they appear zhishang zaixian (sophisticated enough).

In 2023, online literature also continued to carry forward traditional culture. Many intangible cultural heritage projects, such as Peking Opera, wood carving, papermaking techniques, and lion dances are present in online literature. Feiyi has risen to the top tag in the women's channels of China Literature Group's platforms.

Besides, terms such as short drama and bazong quanqiuhua show the popularity of online literature both at home and abroad.

According to a report by market research and consulting company iiMedia Research, the market size of China's online short dramas is estimated to be 37.39 billion yuan ($5.3 billion) in 2023, representing year-on-year growth of 268 percent. While short dramas are usually adapted from online literary works, its big market potential also promises a growing readership for online literature.

At the end of December, a report about the overseas development of Chinese online literature in 2023 launched at the 2nd Shanghai International Online Literature Week shows that China's overseas revenue from online literature exceeds 4 billion yuan.

Webnovel, an overseas portal of China Literature Group, has seen about 400,000 writers from more than 100 countries and regions write on the platform. In 2023, Webnovel launched a total of 610,000 original works by overseas writers. Urban romance, especially that featuring badao zongcai (overbearing rich boyfriends), has become one of the most popular genres among overseas readers, according to the report.

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