Stylized Buddhist 'devotees' latest preys of digital media exploitation
Douyin announced on September 23 its decision to crack down on fraudulent marketing behavior involving foyuan, with many accounts suspended or canceled.
Foyuan is a fairly new term, with fo literally referring to "Buddha," while yuan is a formal term for a beautiful woman. Thus foyuan are fancy women who have become online celebrities by displaying images or videos featuring them in "devotional" activity, often within the precincts of a temple.
With some imagination, such scenes of piety are exploited to falsify public personas that become ideal objects for digital marketing.
In one video, several women, each sporting an impressive hairstyle, sit neatly on mattresses, apparently in meditation, their oversized halo-like outlines projected onto the background.
In another clip, a woman "devotee" is in the midst of copying Buddhist scriptures, and the physical movement involved in wielding the brush shows her natural endowments to advantage.
Another young woman walks in the temple, holding an antiquated umbrella, a period piece fit for a TV drama featuring imperial court infighting.
Other scenarios show these women savoring tea, or burning incense.
In all these mock pious scenarios, the object of enshrinement has transferred from the Buddha to these smartly clad actresses, their flowing tresses, fancy dress, or seductive figures.
In this age when data algorithms are the overriding measure of business success, nothing is too sacred to be exploited by unscrupulous marketing.
The seeming devotees are not only devoid of real religious sentiments, but also are lacking any basic respect for etiquette and dress code in a temple. According to state regulations, any commercial activities conducted in the name of religion are strictly prohibited.
These heavily scripted and edited scenes clearly suggest how readily these women prostrate before the altar of Mammon.
Thanks to the latest cleanup efforts, when you enter "fo yuan" in Douyin's search engine, the results are an injunction: "Be your true self, earn lasting affection of the people. Say no to fake public persona and unscrupulous marketing."