天涯 (tian1 ya2) means the edge of the sky in Chinese. Though aesthetically ugly as ugly can be, Tianya is one of the most popular sites in China; it’s the nexus of China’s online communications, a collection of simple forums, blogs, and groups; due to uber-popularity Tianya is the best place in China’s web to find public opinion on social issues, cultural experience, and original fresh content from millions of Chinese users. Based on netizen comments, the Tianya community meets the need for personal interaction, creation and expression. In a family oriented society, Tianya is China’s dinner table, where news of the day is discussed in an open, personal fashion.
Tianya was built in March 1999. From the beginning, it received netizens’ support for its open, tolerant, user-focused features. Currently, over 20,000,000 Chinese netizens are registered users. Tianya’s rank among China’s websites is 38. Every 21061 out of a million netizens visit this site.
It’s difficult to compare Tianya to Western sites, as it’s simply a massive forum. Perhaps blogger.com or wordpress.com come close – but not really. In fact no other site in China comes close to Tianya’s wide coverage of topics, and (most importantly) very active user/community support. When browsing through Tianya’s sensationalist content, I’m reminded of Western tabloid’s; however, on Tianya, the stories tend to be real, which is all the more interesting.
Famous internet scandals revealed by Tianya users.
Tianya brings out the most heated online issues, and it usually uncovers social and entertainment scandals that attracts the entire nation’s opinionated critique.
A “noble” debate: Yeqing Yi criticized Shanghai migrant workers for walking barefoot in Shanghai; states that this humiliate Shanghai’s image. Later, heated arguments of his arrogance, Shanghai, and the definition of a “noble life” spread.
Shanxi Province; illegal brick kiln that hired thousands of underage children.
2008, Hong Kong entertainment star Edison Chen and his 8 famous girlfriends porn pics and videos were leaked on the Internet. A netizen transferred the everything to Tianya forums, and the topic was viewed 21 million times within 20 days.
During the 2008 Wenchuan earthquake, Tianya gathered China netizens together in information reporting, donation raise, civil group help etc.
Panthera tiger obviously faked photos by a Chinese country man.
In fact, here at LRB we’ve translated a few of Tianya’s articles, as do several other China blogs. Check out the posts here.
Primary Onsite Interactions.
Its basically China’s first social media site, with a distinct concentration on discussion (vs. playing games, sharing, meeting new people, etc). Main communications take place through forums, groups, blogs, etc.
Almost all interactions in Tianya are created and sustained by users. Primary focus is on social matters, running the gamut: national, cultural, political, life, crime, safety, and entertainment. It’s a free space for people to share topics and reply with whatever happens to cross their minds. This freedom of speech creates an unbelievable (for China) environment of information, and fresh perspectives.
Who uses Tianya.cn?
Most typical Tianya users are casual browsers, looking to burn some time. They tend to care about society and culture, and tend to be of a higher quality then your average BBS users; as hot Tianya topics tend to be very controversial. These users tend to express dissatisfaction with China’s traditional media, and come to Tianya for the “real story”.
Who advertises on Tianya?
As you can imagine, the community orientation of Tianya, along with its wide spread of topics and groups allow for all B2C FMCG advertising to take place.
Mop.com is similar in its scale, target market, and content with Tianya. Mop’s big difference is a focus on entertainment (while Tianya’s focus is society). While Mop does feature a great forum, it’s more specialized in one way communications (cars, fashion, beauty, etc). Tianya, on the other hand, is a great forum supported by other features. Mop’s forum is secondary to its other offerings.
Tieba.baidu.com is also similar to Tianya, but focuses more on chatting, entertainment, and interest groups, and is generally more “happy family” than Tianya. We usually see “Kobe Bryant”, “Desperate Housewives”, “Formula 1″ etc. groups, along with fans sharing information, pictures, links, and personal thoughts. The main page of Tieba is a big list of its categories; lower levels feature groups where you can create topics and comments. It’s simple and direct, compared to Tianya’s deep and informative.
Chinese netizens comment on Tieba and Tianya:
“Tieba or Tianya are actually news sources for Chinese netizens now. They check in for “unofficial” news and information, especially “unofficial” social and entertainment news.”
“That explains why big BBS communities are so hot in China’s online networks. Because in the West, traditional media is competent. Westerners’ need for news can be met; in China, because of political reasons, public’s need can’t be satisfied, thus they look for other resources.”
“Tieba is good at unofficial entertaining news; Tianya is good at unofficial social news.”
Personal experience with Tianya.cn
I’ve found Tianya to be a great way to get a feel for China’s mood, and modern culture. From Veronica, an intern at BA360, her thoughts:
“The format, color, text style..anything related to visual communication, psychology just doesn’t fit here. And I even wonder how it casts such a big influence with such a shitty interface?! Are all the users of Tianya lacking in aesthetic appreciation?? Anyway, it’s the most ugly one in all big websites.
The topics consist of too many politic issues, social phenomenon, gossips. People enjoy to make something out of nothing, trivial matter big and hot issues heated. Maybe they really have an opinion, maybe they just want to participate, maybe they are a chaos fan. They are apparently keen on constructing virtual comments building to show their anger at, rejection of, or support for a star, a law item, a civil incidence. They can push Korean popular stars out of China by these thousands of comment “stairs”; they can make a guy win a singing and dancing competition; they force media and society to care about their opinions. Especially as China being a hot topic itself, they are kept busy.
The case that Tianya being the “one and only” Chinese forum is a bit confusing to me. The reasons could be of the upsurge of Chinese Internet users; that the over stuffy reality freedom of speech; the big conflict of China’s society; the officious bystanders as Chinese people; or Tianya simply does business well in this area. Except I don’t know which reason plays the leading role.”
Comments on Tianya from Chinese netizens.
A topic was recently posted “What do you come to Tianya for?” More than 300 replies were recorded – here’s a sample:
“ For fun. I view here as a relaxing bay for my mind and mood, a room for thoughts to release.”
“To see all kinds of people”
“ Fun. To kill time. I’m bored, empty, and more fun come with more emptiness.”
“Know each other’s opinions, communicate.”
“I only log in Tianya when I work. Working and chatting…entertaining myself. Feeling a bit relaxation out of busy work…If I can entertain others while I do it to myself, that’s a big kindness…”
“To widen my knowledge.”
“I am really bored….”
“To know information, communicate.”
“Everybody says tianya is so good, but it seems to be just so-so, nothing different.”
“To realize Communism.”
“For Communist party, for people, for new republic of China. HAHA, kidding.”
“To watch all devils running wild”
“Come to see how others live their lives. To see if I can make friends with people following same views.”
“To look for the corner of the sea, can’t find it, so I can only wait at the edge of the sky. ” （天涯海角 tian1 ya2 hai3 jiao3, ‘edge of the sky; corner of the sea’ is a Chinese idiom means anywhere in the world）
“I don’t know, it’s a habit to me.”
“Know national issues.”
“To see how many combination can Chinese language have.”
“To become friends with those share same views, for not stay lonely anymore.”
“To wander around”
“See all kind of things of the world”
“Because I am bored.”
“For nothing, but fun”
“For a certain cohesive force, a communication and a unity.”
“Walk in the community with my hands holding behind”
“To learn more information and knowledge!!!”
“It was May 12nd, 2008. In order to know disaster area I registered in tianya at the first second. Tianya offers very big information. It’s a good website, a good place to go for time killing.”
“To build communist new countryside”
“I was in Mop. One days I saw that foreign matters refer to Google, national matters refer to Baidu and Sex matters refer to Tianya, so here I am.”
“I came for release. After knowing so many unfair of the society, I want to see if tianya can stand as a flag, release my emptiness, make us live for purposes and goals!”
“To satisfy my curiosity, checking in everyday! ”
“For the once legend”
“Felt tired and came here. A unintentional topic kept me stay. It’s an abysmal place that worth to follow with.”
“Get soy sauce, for world peace.”
“Tian ya he chu wu fang cao (There are chicks at every corner of the sky; tianya means corner of sky in Chinese). ”
“Protect universe peace.”
“I just don’t know why I am so obsessed to tianya. From the first day, I can’t hold it. My posts were deleted before, and I swore that I would never post, never visit tianya, but after a while, I am here again. I usually go to movie zone and pictures zone, seldom came here. Looks that I should come to places like here to learn more in the future.”
“I personally think tianya is the best among current BBS.”
“Simplicity, practical not gaudy! Inclusive, detailed content, you can have whatever you want! Relatively free speech. Hot popularity, peerless to other BBS!”
“I find I am incurable after I started logging in tianya. I log in whenever I am free, at work, at home. I don’t go to others’ that often anymore, accept for material and study. I once addicted to reading e-book on sina, now I am into tianya. Hopeless, I didn’t especially like some certain BBS before.”