Q: When is an Emoji a Cultural Offence? A: When Banned by WeChat

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Q: When is an Emoji a Cultural Offence? A: When Banned by WeChat

Emojis of 16 cultural relics officially launched by the Gansu Museum have gone viral online, part of a campaign to “make cultural relics alive”. The emojis are designed to be dynamic and accompanied by buzzwords on the Internet.

As a physical witness of human history and civilisation, many cultural relics themselves are interesting enough to be turned into emojis. For example, the ceramics people lamp, from the national cultural relics of the Eastern Han Dynasty, is widely spread because of its exaggerated and interesting facial expression. In fact, this is a common theme with such emojis that is their “raison d’etre”; they are either in a funny shape or present weird facial emotions.

Li Yanqiang, Director of the Gansu Museum Network Centre, pointed out that the emojis do not need to be downloaded separately like software, and are not limited to a particular audience. The emojis can be used in daily life, and spread quickly. According to Li, Gansu Museum will also launch more emojis in the future, in addition to other creative products, by which more people may come to appreciate the museum and its collections.

With the Emoji invading our daily life and many trying every means to create new ones, even Chinese poets and scholars are far from sacred. Literary giants such as Lu Xun, poets including Du Fu and Li Bai, and even the mighty Confucius are no exceptions. Exponents have argued on the Sohu web portal that the appreciation of such emojis themselves demands a relatively advanced level of knowledge.

But it can be walking a dangerous path. A lot of educators are against the appearance of such “emojis of the ancients”, pointing out it could mislead children, make them misunderstand traditional culture to the extent they cannot even tell the difference between entertainment and education, commented a Joshua Yu on question-and-answer website Zhihu.

Some have gone so far as to incur the wrath of the censors. An elderly lady who appears in the documentary “22”, which talks about the suffering of comfort women during World War II, was made into a series of emojis. Put onto the Tencent network, they were deleted very quickly, while the company responsible for the designs was handed a 2-month shutdown.

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Kristen Wang
A Nanjing local, Kristen studied Media and Public relations in Newcastle University (UK), has researched social media and online publishing and previously worked for different new media platforms. She is passionate about discovering new stories and helping expats involved in this city. 南京人Kristen毕业于纽卡斯尔大学,媒体与公共关系硕士学位。她的研究专注于社交媒体和网络发行,在不同的新媒体平台工作。她喜欢发现新鲜事,也希望帮助在南京的外国人融入这里的生活。