‘Humblebrag’ named as Versailles-style word, goes viral on Chinese social media platform

▲Undated file photo shows furniture for auction which was used in the Presidential Suite of Waldorf Astoria New York in New York City, the United States. The historic luxury hotel Waldorf Astoria New York is auctioning thousands of pieces of old furnishings via Kaminski Auctions for philanthropic purpose, said a recent release by Waldorf Astoria New York. (Xinhua)

A competition of imitating Versailles-style words was launched on Sina Weibo on Tuesday. Chinese netizens took it as an amusement and jokingly make up their very own humblebrag words.

Similar to the term “humblebrag,” originally coined to mock celebrities on Twitter who complain and brag at the same time, “Versailles Literature” is being used by Chinese netizens on social media platforms to describe literary content which pretends to inadvertently show off one’s privileged life. The term which comes from the Rose of Versailles, a Japanese manga about aristocratic life at the palace of Versailles in France in the late 18th century, social media celebrity Milk Ball (screen name) told the Global Times.

Milk Ball once posted a widely discussed video titled “Versailles Literature Open Class” on Sina Weibo, which summarized the characteristics of Versailles-style words: through reverse expression with simple tone to express the feeling of superiority. 

“My husband bought me a Chanel bag, it was really ugly, I was very angry…” reads one such cryptic, boastful statement—one of many which increasingly appear on social networking platforms in China.

The contents of humblegrag used to show off fortune and romance has been featured in other Chinese fictions such as Guo Jingming’s Tiny Times.

Gu Li, one of main female characters in the story, is a daughter of a very rich family who said she would throw up when she leaves the city to go to a remote area. Juxtaposing fortune and the discrimination of poverty, the plotline made readers laugh and feel uncomfortable, especially for those who live in the story’s remote areas.

Some Chinese TV and film works also contain “humblebrag” reflected in plots in which the lives of ordinary people are rare, while the rich and wealthy become the mainstream, the Paper reported.

Whether in urban dramas or in youth romantic dramas, lead characters are usually from rich families or have a high-income job that can afford their luxury life.

The extravagant lifestyles in these dramas and films, and easy success of lead characters, also provide targets and examples for audiences who are in the middle class.

These unrealistic characters are similar to the humblebrag words posted by the Sina Weibo user “Mengqiqi,” who has created an enviable character setting for herself: rich, high-status, having access to high-end places randomly, and also receiving her husband’s extreme love, giving audiences an illusion that such ‘perfection’ can be found in real life. 

Some were envious of Mengqiqi’s description, but other netizens thought it was funny and hypocritical, imitating her sentence pattern to make parodies.

In the past, people directly paraded their wealth in real interactions. Now, after the new media came into the public eye, more people show off in a roundabout way for comparative psychological advantage, believing that it is smarter and more acceptable, Shi Gang, an expert in psychology at the China Agricultural University, told the Global Times.

“At present, many people have a deep inner vanity that cannot be put on the table. Especially in the prevailing internet economy, some people imagine a wide ‘audience’ and rely on others’ watching and promoting them to shape their own identity,” Shi said.

Netizens have set up a Versailles Literature study group on major Chinese media review platform Douban, which currently has more than 34,000 members.

“Every time I read these words, I had mixed feelings, as if I was a poor student. But I have to face a good student who said ‘my grades were terrible as I didn’t make much effort’,” Zhang Yuan, a member of the Versailles Literature study group told the Global Times. “In the group, we discussed and imitated them. I think the biggest significance of this group is to present these meaningless brags and life troubles in a humorous way.”

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