fredag 22. oktober 2021

The World of Ding Zhen: A Tibetan herder’s viral fame helped put a remote rural county on the map

It’s a strange feeling when someone back home suddenly becomes famous. Almost immediately after Tenzing Tsondu — better known as the viral heartthrob Ding Zhen — was first “discovered” by a photographer last November, local authorities in Litang County in the southwestern province of Sichuan tried to capitalize on his popularity by releasing a short tourism video titled “The World of Tenzing.” In the year since, everyone from reporters at China Central Television to variety show bookers and social media users have showered the sweet-faced Tibetan herder with attention.

It’s the kind of fame that can change a person, and maybe even a place. Although I was born and raised in the nearby city of Kangding, I have family in Litang and used to visit the area regularly. I thought I knew Litang, but Tenzing’s sudden fame has placed a very different frame on the village from my youth. No longer is it a remote place that no one I meet has ever heard of; now, it is a fixture of online culture.