kaifeng

Social-media matchmaking live show in Central China becomes a national sensation, boosting tourism

Screenshot of the official account of Kaifeng Wang Po on the Douyin short video platform.

Screenshot of the official account of “Kaifeng Wang Po” on the Douyin short video platform.

Culture and tourism is gaining in popularity across various social media platforms in China. Kaifeng, an ancient city in Central China’s Henan Province has become another trending tourist destination in the country thanks to social media. 

Recently, a blind date event called “Wang Po matchmaking” held in the scenic spot at Kaifeng Wansui Mountain Martial Arts City has gone viral on social media platforms, boosting local tourism in the city.

“Wang Po”, or “Granny Wang”, is a classic character in one of the four great classical novels of Chinese literature, “Water Margin”. This special cultural performance allows tourists from all over the country to immerse themselves in the local folk culture of the Song Dynasty (960-1279).

The “Wang Po” in Kaifeng City, is popular among the younger generation due to her eloquence and performance skills. The matchmaking event also offers an opportunity for young people to experience genuine blind dates as well as entertainment, analysts said.

Starting from March 15, the official account of “Kaifeng Wang Po” on the Douyin short video platform racked up 3.14 million followers in 13 days, and by Sunday, the followers hit 5.155 million, thepaper.cn reported.

Similar to the previous popularity of Zibo barbecue in East China’s Shandong Province, Harbin ice and snow tour in Northeast China’s Heilongjiang Province, and Tianshui spicy hot pot in Northwest China’s Gansu Province, the viral trend of “Wang Po matchmaking” in Kaifeng has garnering increasing public attention. 

Data from multiple online travel platforms show that the popularity of Tianshui and Kaifeng will continue during the Qingming Festival. Searches for Kaifeng on Tongcheng Travel grew by more than 94 percent on a weekly basis, and bookings for hotels in the city during the week rose 44 percent week-on-week, and there was a significant increase in train ticket bookings to Kaifeng.

Recognizing the trend, local cultural and tourism authorities aim to harness the power of the internet to transform online engagement into actual tourist visits. 

According to the local media outlets, local authorities held a meeting focusing on promoting tourism, culture and cuisine, and to attract more tourists to Kaifeng.

Meanwhile, the number of tourists in Tianshui has kept growing due to a famous local spicy hot pot going viral. According to the Department of Culture and Tourism of Gansu Province, on Sunday, the number of visitors in Tianshui City reached its peak, receiving a total of 289,000 tourists; and, Tianshui received 252,300 tourists on Saturday, achieving a total tourism revenue of 146 million yuan ($20.2 million), with the tickets for local scenic area around the Maijishan Grottoes was sold out at noon that same day.

The total views of Tianshui spicy hot pot-related topics have exceeded 202.1 billion on social media, as of Sunday afternoon, according to local tourism bureau.

As the Qingming Festival is approaching, Kaifeng city is expected to witness a new wave of tourism boom, Wang Peng, an associate research fellow at the Beijing Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times on Monday.

China’s culture and tourism has experienced a strong recovery and vigorous development since 2023, thanks to live-streaming and short-video promotions, Wang said.

In 2023, domestic tourist trips in China reached 4.891 billion, a year-on-year increase of 93.3 percent. The total expenditure of domestic tourists amounted to 49.1 trillion yuan, reflecting a year-on-year growth of 140.3 percent, data from the National Bureau of Statistics showed.