China has already found its own Gangnam style courtesy of the “Chopstick Brothers,” a pop duo comparable to South Korea’s Psy. Next up is a giant all-girl group, following in the footsteps of Japan’s AKB48.
The Chinese pop girl group 56 Flowers, made up of 56 young women aged 16 to 23, made its debut last Sunday in Beijing, during the filming of a gala national broadcast to be shown on CCTV. The name “56 Flowers” comes from a patriotic song about the “56 nations, 56 flowers, 56 brothers and sisters are one family,” which refers to the 56 ethnic groups in China.
In their debut, 56 Flowers, clad in white blouses and short skirts, sang and danced to a song called “The China dream is the most beautiful” in front of a giant screen displaying the yellow stars and red background of the Chinese flag.
56 nations, 56 flowers
Sons and daughters of the Chinese nation, love the five-star red flag most,
We are always the most bright-colored red.
Unlike its K-pop and J-pop girl groups, 56 Flowers will not aim to blindly appeal to an audience by acting cute or sexy, the director of the girl group told Chinese media (link in Chinese); instead, they aim to promote China’s “positive energy” and national culture.
The group members, who are academy-educated singers and dancers, are better trained and have more well-rounded qualities than South Korean or Japanese girl group members, the director said. Some also play the zither, lute, or dulcimer.
The ambitious group has already dubbed itself as “the world’s No.1 idol girl group” and “the only representative” of Chinese women and the 56 ethnicities in China.
The group’s official website says the girl group plans to apply to the Guinness World Records as the world’s largest pop group, a title now held by Japan’s AKB48. (They may have miscalculated, as despite the name, AKB48 has more than 48 members.)
Although there is no official evidence, 56 Flowers might just be another example of China’s soft power exports. According to small print on the website, 56 Flowers is owned by an organization called 56 Flowers Wengongtuan, or art troupe. Such troupes are usually affiliated with the People’s Liberation Army in China. But the links to information about the owners are all broken so it is hard to say for sure.
Whatever the origin, 56 Flowers is taking their act overseas. The group says it will hold a “One Belt, One Road” global tour (does the name sound familiar?) in Hong Kong, Los Angeles, Moscow, and surprisingly, in Pyongyang.
China’s online critics were quick to judge 56 Flowers’ patriotic act—one blogger asked (link in Chinese) “Am I in North Korea, or another Cultural Revolution?”