Indie vs Hip

By Eric Abrahamsen, published September 20, 2012, 5:12a.m.

A few weeks ago we had a lively argument/discussion on a mailing list about the proper translation of the term 文艺青年 (wényì qīngnián, literally "arts and culture youth", or "arts and letters youth") – a common term for a certain cohort of under-30 Chinese identifiable by their ability to recite Haizi poetry from memory, their starry-eyed idealism, and their ownership of a digital SLR. They've now sort of become the cultural and lexicological heirs of the "educated youth" (知情) of yore.

Li Cover

The occasion for the argument was the new issue of Zhang Yueran's magazine Newriting, the theme of which is Wenyi Qingnian. She asked about English translations for the term, simultaneously proposing and rejecting "hipster" as the obvious yet probably undesirable first choice.

During the course of the argument/discussion I believe it was Alice Xin Liu who first suggested the term "indie", and "indie youth" was the final suggestion (made despite vocal opposition) to Zhang. As is her wont, she made nary a peep to the suggestion, but it was gratifying to get a copy last night from a friend who contributed to this issue, and see that "Indie Youth" indeed passed muster.

Grab a copy to find out what the "indie youth" (not the hipsters!) of China are saying…

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