January 12, 2010

Bi ying ying Phases Out Plagiarism In China, Pt. 1

Early 2009, every registered user at Chinese internet literature website jjwxc.com received a perplexing message from the site administrator. After explaining the newly revised rules on plagiarism, the letter concluded with a tirade:
  New Rules Regarding Plagiarism (Latest revision, February 2009)
  信件内容 抄袭处理制度(09年2月修订)


  ps: Due to the many recent cases of plagiarism, we hereby gravely remind every writer: any description that you search and found on-line, be it about events, people, or landscape and directly inserted into your own writing, is considered plagiarism!

  Beware when you use Baidu that anything in your search results will likewise show up when readers double-check your writings. In this latest revision, we have increased the penalties for plagiarism. Any novel deemed to have copied will be added a public shame list for all to see! In addition, the points you have [jjwxc.com has a point system that automatically generate the ranking lists] will be deducted by 30%, and the guilty novel will have its own points deducted by 60%. Cherish your reputation and guard your writing career against wrong paths.

  A lackluster sentence with misspellings that appeared in the essay of an elementary student [here, the administrator wrote junior high instead, probably because it is less embarrassing] and subsequently copied by more than 10 novels is an utter disgrace to our website!

  发信时间 2009-02-04 11:34:43

Nosy Netizens intrigued by the very last part of the letter began searching and soon found the sentence it alluded to. Amusingly, this time a third-grade elementary student led the copying avalanche. He had stolen the original sentence from an anthology of exemplary essays:
Pink peach flowers, white pear flowers, and the flamboyant, tender Begonias...all smiled (Chinese: 笑盈盈, Pinyin: xiao ying ying) and bloomed.
--Yueli Chen
When this proud student uploaded his essay to the web, one typo was made, and xiao ying ying (笑盈盈) became bi ying ying (笔盈盈). Though similar in appearance, bi ying ying is not a valid Chinese word. Because the mediocre sentence appears to hold unfathomable attraction for so-called internet writers, the exact sentence with the same typo was discovered in at least 10 other net novels.

This came to be known in China as the "bi ying ying" incident, following closely on the footsteps of Weiwei Zhang (a.k.a vivibear) scandal, a Chinese romance novelist famous for copy-and-pasting because all of her novels are best described as collages of stuff by other people. The word bi ying ying is used nowadays to mean "unthinkingly copy," whereas plagiarism involves at least some modification of the copied material.

The bi ying ying incident has exposed one phenomenon: an alarming number of Chinese writers resort to bi ying ying to pen their novels, and the new generation of confident plagiarists does not deign to paraphrase, or remove tell-tale typos. Even more shockingly, the CEO of one Chinese publishing company estimated that more than 80% of net writers have plagiarized.

What then, one might ask, are the Chinese publishers and authorities doing to curb copying? This post takes a look at the reasons behind bi ying ying and its future in China.

Related Post(s)
Bi ying ying Phases Out Plagiarism In China, Pt. 2
Bi ying ying Phases Out Plagiarism In China, Pt. 3

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