U.S. Markets closed

The Story Behind ‘Duang,’ a Meaningless Word That Went Super-Viral in China

Alyssa Bereznak
National Correspondent, Technology
Yahoo Tech

Too many duangs (Via Foreign Policy Magazine)

While millions of families have been torn apart over the dress that went viral last week, China has been busy perpetuating its own inexplicably popular meme.

A completely made-up Chinese character known as “duang” has appeared more than 8.4 million times on the country’s Twitter equivalent, Weibo, according to a fascinating report in Foreign Policy Magazine. It appeared online for the first time on Feb. 24 and has since generated hundreds of thousands of hashtags and conversations.

Pronounced “dwong,” the term appears to have originated with Jackie Chan, a favorite in both American and Chinese action flicks. Chan is the longtime spokesman of Bawang shampoo, a product that, according to its English site, “Effectively reduces hair fall and help hair grow.” (You can buy it for $28 on Amazon, if you so please. Hurry before the eBay bidding war begins).

Chan on Bawang’s “Anti-hair Fall Shampoo” box (Via Bawang.com)

Chan has appeared in many TV ads for the product over the years. But the one that spawned duang was actually a fake advertisement that patched together previous footage and audio of the actor plugging the shampoo. The oddly edited video opens with a loop of Chan shaking his head from side to side, bouncing his shiny hair. He then proceeds to discuss the product, explaining he was at first skeptical, but after he tried it — and this is according to a rough YouTube translation of his Chinese — his hair was “very bright, very dark, very soft. Plus, a month after that stunt, it’s just DUANG.” He waves his hands to the side, presumably as a way of illustrating the full body of his mane.

According to the Telegraph, the video first appeared on streaming site Youku and quickly spread from there as Internet obsessives collectively pondered the meaning of duang. Because there was no existing Chinese character for the buzzword, someone quickly created one by combining the two characters that make up Chan’s Chinese name.

Chan eventually caught on, tweeting, “So ‘duang’ today!” on Tuesday morning, with a link to a BBC article about the phenomenon.

In conclusion, memes are alive and well in the Eastern Hemisphere. Here’s to hoping this isn’t just a genius viral marketing campaign hatched by some 19-year-old Bawang shampoo social media guru. That would not be duang. 

Follow Alyssa Bereznak on Twitter or email her.