How Peppa and China’s ‘Little Miss Piggys’ Are Redefining Cool

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In honor of the Year of the Pig, a look back at how these pudgy farm animals became avatars of urban Chinese life.

A woman sends a “Peppa Pig” Gif in Shanghai, Feb. 2, 2019. Ding Yining/Sixth Tone

China’s first viral sensation of 2019 was the trailer for “Peppa Celebrates Chinese New Year” — a feature-length “Peppa Pig” movie. In it, an old Chinese farmer wants to find a “Peppa” to give his beloved, city-dwelling grandson, but first he must answer a key question: “What’s a Peppa?” In the end, he creates his own steampunk, scrap metal version of the character based on a neighbor’s description. Real-life audiences fell head over heels with this makeshift Peppa Pig in part because of the perfect timing of the ad’s release: 2019 just so happens to be the Year of the Pig.

The pig is the 12th and last sign in the Chinese zodiac cycle. Round, chubby, and doltish as they may look, to Chinese, pigs have long been symbols of fortune, prosperity, and agrarian society more broadly. But society has changed rapidly over the past few decades, and today, Chinese millennials have begun appropriating pig imagery for their own purposes — turning pigs into icons of modern urban culture in the process.

On the most basic level, pigs have played a crucial role in rural Chinese culture for thousands of years. For Han Chinese, no Lunar New Year feast is complete without pork. As the holiday approaches, villages around the country celebrate by “killing a New Year’s pig,” the meat of which is then cooked and shared among residents. Urban Chinese buy pork to marinate, or their rural relatives might send them sausages that they then hang from the eaves in advance of the big day. Read the full article here.

 

– This article originally appeared on Sixth Tone.

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