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The origin of “后浪,” the newest inspirational buzzword for Chinese youths

“A nation’s most beautiful scenery is its youth. Kind, brave, selfless, fearless…Surge ahead, rear waves!” Chinese actor He Bing declared in the viral video “Rear Waves,” which was released by video-sharing platform Bilibili for China’s Youth Day on May 4.

The inspirational speech struck a chord with the so-called “post-80s” and “post-90s” generations of Chinese, who once got a bad rap from their elders for being rebellious and spoiled. Impressive footage featuring youths skydiving and winning e-sports championships also appealed to millennials’ self-image as an individualistic and dynamic group that will shape the future of China.

The buzzword popularized by the video, 后浪 (hòulàng, rear waves), stems from an ancient Chinese saying, “As the rear waves of the Yangtze River drive on the waves in front, so the new replaces the old.”

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Riding the Wave (Paywalled) is a story from our issue, “High Steaks.” To read the entire issue, become a subscriber and receive the full magazine. Alternatively, you can purchase the digital version from the App Store.

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Yang Tingting is a Chinese editor at The World of Chinese. Interested in telling Chinese stories, she writes mainly about culture, language, and society.

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