If I were not Alexander the Great, I would like to be Shen Wei
April 8, 2019 6:47 PM   Subscribe

Shen quickly became an antihero for those tired of trying to climb social and economic ladders in a country obsessed with youth, novelty, education, fame, wealth and good looks. But Shen’s virtual fame became all too real in mid-March. One video showed a road sign pinpointing Shen’s location, and visitors soon started flooding into the otherwise unremarkable neighborhood in Shanghai’s suburban Pudong district. (SLWAPO)

“I blame no one, but I hate the Internet,” Shen told Chinese newspapers on March 22, at the height of his fame. “The Internet has brought me nothing but trouble.”
posted by Ndwright (9 comments total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
It's interesting to see the story ends up here. The WAPO article doesn't have too many quotes from Shen, which is too bad. He's very cogent and self-aware.

About his chosen work of collecting garbage, he says: (my rough translation)
'I have been collecting garbage since childhood, and I never considered that to be shameful. For years, my hope has been to contribute towards garbage reduction. Sorting garbage solves this problem at the source, we should require that of the garbage producers. Our country is promoting garbage sorting, but a person like me who collects and sorts garbage life-long is sneered at.'
'I don't want to be cut off from the world. I want people to understand me and garbage sorting, something our country encourages.'
'My creed has been that people shouldn't waste things without qualms.'

Several years ago a disheveled street person became an internet sensation in China. He was nicknamed 'Xili Ge' -- 'sharp brother' for his rugged good looks. Things didn't go very well for him. I echo the thoughts of many who hope that Shen would be able to weather his sudden fame better.
posted by em at 7:36 PM on April 8, 2019 [13 favorites]

How shall we fuck off, O Lord?
posted by flabdablet at 9:19 PM on April 8, 2019 [14 favorites]

I think there's a particular Chinese cultural soft spot for dishevelled old men who possess special abilities. See Beggar's Sect (丐帮) and Ji Gong (濟公).
posted by destrius at 11:13 PM on April 8, 2019 [1 favorite]

People becoming fascinated with a one-word named vagrant who sifts through garbage while occasionally saying profound truths. We've found Dril.
posted by codacorolla at 11:16 PM on April 8, 2019

Does anyone know if there are any videos of him speaking which have English subtitles, by any chance? I'm curious about what he actually says (or said).
posted by clockzero at 11:37 PM on April 8, 2019

My first thought is to be worried that the government has taken him somewhere to reeducate him. Is that a reasonable worry at all, or am I just being paranoid?
posted by clawsoon at 3:43 AM on April 9, 2019 [2 favorites]

Is that a reasonable worry at all, or am I just being paranoid?

He seems to be neither the wrong kind of ethnic minority/religion nor someone who is railing against the party in general or certain powerful politicians in specific.

So far as the article indicates, he's chastising lazy people for not being dutiful and disrespecting those who pick up the slack (garbage sorting). Unless he says "Winnie the Pooh" on video, the government probably doesn't care.
posted by tclark at 6:52 AM on April 9, 2019 [3 favorites]

"Xili Ge"

What did you mean by things not going well for him? I don't disbelieve you, but I didn't see that part just now looking him up. Homeless, ends up inspiring fashion, has a movie being made about him, but not seeing the aftermath of the individual or anything.
posted by GoblinHoney at 7:57 AM on April 9, 2019

GoblinHoney, there are a number of accounts about how Xili Ge is doing. Most say that he was reunited with his family after he got famous, but some say that after that, he still suffered from mental instabilities and left for the road again. (There's some mention that the stress in appearing in commercials and promotional events put more strain on him.)
posted by em at 12:18 PM on April 9, 2019

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