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Zibo's barbeque

“Zibo’s Eight Big Bureaus (八大局) has topped the list of the most popular national scenic spots”: Trending hashtag on Chinese social media

The smell of flavored meat and vegetables sizzling in the streets of Zibo has not stopped since a group of college students posted videos of themselves on social media enjoying the city’s freshly grilled barbecue in February. The post went viral and has made Zibo one of China’s major tourist spot. During Labor Day, the craze for Zibo barbecue has attracted crowds of foodies, taking over the city of only 4.7 million permanent residents. In the first week of May, the hashtag #Zibo’s Eight Big Bureaus (八大局) has topped the list of the most popular national scenic spots# (淄博八大局登顶全国景区热门第一) attracted 190 million views within three days. On the same list, Shanghai’s Disneyland only ranked 29th based on Baidu Map’s data in 2023.

Zibo’s barbecue legacy: a taste born from industrial roots

As internet-famous as the city of Zibo has become, Zibo did not simply rise to fame overnight due to viral videos on social media. In fact, the origin of Zibo’s barbecue culture goes way back to the 90s when Zibo’s economy largely relied on heavy industries such as aluminum and steel factories. The industrial city gathered a non-agricultural population of over 1 million, mostly factory workers who would treat themselves to some barbecue near the local train stations to and from work, giving birth to the barbecue culture of Zibo. 

However, as more factories began to relocate elsewhere due to environmental-related policies, the population of factory workers, and popularity of Zibo barbecue, started to drop. Despite almost 20 years remaining somewhat unknown, Zibo has kept its strong attachment to barbecue ever since, making it possible for Zibo to later go viral as the city of barbecue.

Zibo barbecue craze: netizens embrace the phenomenon with open arms

Facing the sudden craze of Zibo barbecue, netizens have shown a positive attitude. “This is the result of the joint efforts of the citizens of Zibo, which is great.” A netizen from Shandong, where Zibo is situated, commented. “Facts have proven that foodies are the primary productive force of the development of the travel industry.” Another netizen from Shanghai said. While Shandong province is celebrating the success of Zibo’s barbecue, other cities are exploring their own possibilities of becoming another Zibo. However, #Can Zibo’s model be replicated# (淄博模式可以复制吗) remains an important question.

How Zibo’s barbecue culture took the internet by storm

  • College students’ viral social media posts featuring Zibo’s barbecue sparked a surge in popularity and made it a major tourist spot in China.
  • Zibo’s barbecue culture originated in the 90s when factory workers would enjoy barbecue near local train stations, but the population and popularity declined as factories relocated.
  • Despite being relatively unknown for nearly 20 years, Zibo’s attachment to barbecue remained strong, leading to its viral fame as the city of barbecue.
  • Netizens have shown a positive attitude towards Zibo’s barbecue craze, with some considering it a result of the joint efforts of the city’s citizens and the power of foodies in driving tourism development. The possibility of replicating Zibo’s success in other cities is being explored.

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