Yuan Longping the father of rice.
Photo Credit:

Viral Week: The "Father of Hybrid Rice" dies and other trending news

Yuan Longping passes away, ultramarathon hit by tragedy, skyscraper starts shaking, child gymnast rolls into the record books—it's Viral Week

Viral Week is our weekly round-up of the weekend’s trending memes, humor, rumor, gossip, and everything else Chinese netizens are talking about.

This week, China's "Father of Hybrid Rice" passes away, 21 ultramarathon runners die in extreme weather conditions, a nondescript county suddenly becomes the "center of the universe," and a naughty cat steals fish from a police station:

China's "Father of Hybrid Rice" dies at 91

Yuan Longping, the agricultural scientist who developed the world's first commercially-viable hybrid rice, died on May 22 in Changsha, Hunan province, aged 91. First cultivated in the 1970s, Yuan's high-yield hybrid rice strains are credited with feeding 80 million additional people in China each year and fending off famine in dozens of developing countries around the world.

Extreme weather kills 21 in amateur race

The death of 21 ultramarathon runners in Gansu province, after hail and strong winds battered competitors along an 100 km stretch of rugged mountain, has become the deadliest disaster in Chinese sporting history. The failure to predict the extreme weather and to rescue stranded runners has sparked discussion on a "runaway marathon economy" as the country went from having 51 marathons in 2014 to 1,828 marathons in 2019. Critics argue infrastructure and regulations have not kept pace with this fast-growing industry.

Unknown county becomes internet sensation

The previously obscure Cao county in Heze, Shandong province, suddenly shot to internet fame and birthed countless memes last week. The attention appears to stem from a local livestreamer's effusive and humorous praise for his hometown, which he calls "my baby" in a heavy Shandong accent. Netizens sarcastically dubbed the county "the center of the universe" on social media. The head of the local government hopes to use the attention to boost tourism and economic development.

Thieving cat questioned by police

Police in Yunnan province apprehended a feline miscreant who made off with a large fish from the police station canteen. "We were concerned such behaviour would become a habit, so entered the cat for critical education," read the light-hearted police report. "Where did you get that big fish from?" the cat is questioned while hiding under a car. 

Skyscraper inexplicably starts to sway

The SEG Plaza, the world’s tallest building with a reinforced concrete structure, in Shenzhen, Guangdong province, started to shake on May 18 for unknown reasons. Office workers evacuated from the 355-meter tall building while panicked residents fled the area around it. In a preliminary investigation, experts concluded that multiple factors, including the wind, temperature, and subway lines below the building, had caused the shaking and that the core structure of the building remained safe.

Child gymnast rolls into the record books

Ten-year old Chen Zhouyang broke a Guinness World Record for the fastest time to travel 20m by a contortion roll, completing the series of forward rolls in 13.22 seconds. The record has yet to be certified, but sheers two seconds off Liu Teng's time, a 26-year old Chinese contortionist. Chen also holds the world record for most flowers picked with the mouth in a contortion backbend, attempted when she was just eight.

Seniors swing from trees to "workout"

A novel workout technique has seniors in Shenyang, Liaoning province, hanging from trees by their chins and swinging themselves around, some even lifting their entire bodies off the ground. Fifty-seven-year-old Mr. Sun, inventor of the chin-strap contraption, claims the practice can treat various spinal problems and has already secured a patent for the device. However, Dr. Jin Yongming, a spine specialist from The First Affiliated Hospital of Zhejiang University, told journalists the exercise could cause neck fractures.

Divorce denied because no one wants the kids

The Yangzhong People’s Court in Jiangsu province denied a couple’s divorce petition because both parties refused to take custody of their daughter, triggering online debate over whether the ruling is legally justified.

Local governments apologize for suspending divorce during "Lovers' Day"

The county of Pingjiang, Hunan province, and the city of Kaili, Guizhou province, have apologized for initiatives to suspend divorce registration on May 20, known as "internet lover's day" in Chinese pop culture. The two governments had separately announced this measure on the grounds that "520" is a peak period for marriage registration and there are not enough staff to handle divorces.


TWOC‘s editors are a bilingual, international team that is always on the lookout for original and human-centered stories to share with our readers. We are dedicated to accuracy, objectivity, and looking at each of China's stories through the eyes of its participants. Get in touch through our About Us page if you have a story to pitch!

Related Articles