‘Buddhist style’: Young Chinese people’s latest answer to social pressure
 
Buddhist monk sits in meditation at Shaolin Monestary in Henan province. “Foxi,” or “being Buddhist,” became a viral meme among Chinese millennials since December, who use it to refer to one who refuses to succumb to societal pressures. Photo: Visual China
 
Following “chicken-soup” optimism and “poisonous chicken-soup” realism, China’s millennials have embraced a new catchphrase to untangle themselves from the pressures of life, dim career prospects and complex interpersonal relationships. 
 
Called “Buddhist style”, or “fo xi” in Chinese, it entails more of an easygoing approach to life and chilling out rather than reading sutras or opting out to become a monk. 
 
Characteristics of “Buddhist style” mindset include contending with current living status; seeking more inner peace than worldly success; allegiance to the art of being neutral; never overdoing anything other than what is required at work … 
 
The buzzword went viral in China after an article titled “The First Group of Post-’90s are Already Becoming Monks” was circulated on WeChat in December, describing the lifestyle of China’s post 90s generation in terms of the “Buddhist style” mindset:
 
A “Buddhist style” passenger walks to his or her DiDi taxi (China’s equivalent of Uber), instead of letting the taxi driver come over to him or her.
 
A “Buddhist style” online shopper buys things he or she likes, but does not return even if he or she does not like them. 
 
A “Buddhist style” employee goes to work peacefully and leaves quietly.
 
A “Buddhist style” lover lets his or her partner make decisions while (s)he just follows.
 
Beyond that, the term can also be used to describe other behavior like eating the same food every day and not being too serious about almost everything. 
 
“It’s fine to have something, but not a big deal if not. There is no need to fight for something. Winning and losing does not matter, either”, the article said while elaborating on the “Buddhist style” mindset. 
 
Some experts said the phenomenon is part a self-mocking subculture as a result of increasing challenges and pressures brought by a rapidly developing society to the young generation. 
 
“Buddhist style” is the latest in a string of subcultures gaining popularity in China, following labels like “greasy middle-aged man” and “sang” culture. 
 
Compared to the “Buddhist style” values, Chinese authorities are more worried about a prevalent “sang” culture in which young people, mostly born in the late 1980s and 1990s, become disillusioned and demotivated about their life and career. 
 
“Sang” is the pronunciation of a Chinese character meaning “funeral” which describes death and being dispirited. 
 
 
Customers take pictures of cups of tea named in the fashion of the Sang subculture at the Sung Tea shop in Beijing, August 24, 2017. Photo: Reuters
 
Unlike “sang” culture which China’s state-run newspaper People’s Daily called “pessimistic and hopeless” approach to life, “Buddhist-like” mindsets embrace pessimism, while gently suggest keeping forward.
 
Attitudes advocated by “Buddhist style” life are different from those in “chicken soup” essays which are motivational and have dominated China’s social media for a long time, or rooted in the “poisonous chicken soup” philosophy, which is a backlash against pure optimism with dark humor.
 
“I think ‘Buddhist style’ is a kind of negative backlash. The housing price in the city of Xiamen where I live is dauntingly high. Even if I worked desperately throughout my life, I would not be able to own a house here. When one could not even get a place to stay, the only way for him is to lower his requirement. And if one could not afford to buy even a bathroom after he had tried his best, whose fault it is?” one user said on Zhihu, China’s equivalent of Quora, with over 8,000 likes.
 
“It’s (‘Buddhist style’) a reasonable choice in a solidifying society. It’s like a donkey pulling a stone mill. As long as the donkey is not too lazy, it would not be killed, but if it were doing too much, it would not benefit from the additional output. No matter how hard the donkey works, it is a donkey who pulls the mill anyway,” another said. 
 
Buddhist-like lifestyle is somewhat in violation of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s call for young generation to be “ambitious and reliable”, in particular in the realization of the “Chinese Dream”.
 
In response to the phenomenon, People’s Daily ran an editorial recently, showing understanding and attributing the popularity of the term to the “pain point” of modern society - tiredness, but also warned of the danger of indifference to everything. 
 
“There has to be something to pursue. If one blindly follows the flow, he will finally lose himself”, said the newspaper, adding that there should be something to adhere to, while leading a Buddhist-style life.
 
Youth.cn, the official website under the Communist Youth League, which criticized the lack of ambition reflected in this mindset, wrote in an article that "only when the youth have ambitions and are responsible can a nation have prospects." 
 
Some Chinese media also warned that such a philosophy of being OK to virtually everything could indicate the arrival of a society with little desire, the danger of which has already been felt in neighboring Japan. 
 
“The situation of lack of desire in Japan was more of a result of young people’s pursuit of more and better spiritual life following years of pure pursuit of material wealth, while Chinese young people are having little desire as they gradually came to accept reality after realizing it is unrealistic to rise from nothing,” an editorial published by Tencent wrote. However, the article added, once young people have no more desire, it would be harmful to the society, especially economically. 
 
“The key to change the situation of lack of desire is to create more opportunities for young people. Fortunately, China is still in the process of urbanization, and many young people are still flooding into big cities to pursue their dreams. Therefore, the cities should be nice to such young people, otherwise they would even lose interest in playing mobile games,” Qianjiang Evening News, official newspaper of Zhejiang province, wrote in an editorial.

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