Date of Graduation

Spring 5-2020

Document Type

Project/Capstone

Degree Name

Master of Arts in Asia Pacific Studies (MAPS)

College/School

College of Arts and Sciences

Department/Program

Asia Pacific Studies

First Advisor

Genevieve Leung

Second Advisor

Evelyn Ho

Abstract

Each society has a unique way of understanding death and coping with mourning. The increasing online mourners in China gradually generated a collective reference to the Weibo account that belongs to the dead, the “Western Wall.” This project searches for answers to two questions: 1) What characterizes Chinese online memorial practice? And how do these practices compare with those in the Western countries? 2) What aspects of Chinese culture and social conditions can explain Chinese online memorial practices? By combining corpus analysis with thematic analysis on 1,606 comments left on the last tweet of two accounts of deceased Weibo users, this paper found that Chinese online mourners present uniqueness in their commenting behaviors. Not only do they tend to repetitively leave comments, but mourners also use language in a way that wishes for bilateral communication through a broad range of topics. This paper argues that online memorial practice in China represents a social culture where certain topics are considered sensitive and therefore not suitable for discussion in the public. Additionally, the parasocial relationship between the deceased and the bereaved indicates the emotional connection people require in their lives. By leaving comments to the deceased on Weibo, online mourners collectively create a virtual “Western Wall” where they actively communicate to the dead in a way as if they were alive in a digital heaven.

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