China

Singles Day: James Bond, bragging and 'eating dirt'

People take photos of a large screen showing total gross merchandise volume, a measure of sales, exceeding 10 billion yuan at 00:12 am and 28 seconds during the 2015 Tmall 11:11 Global Shopping Festival gala in Beijing on 11 November 2015 Image copyright AFP
Image caption The televised countdown to Singles Day which stretched from Tuesday night to early Wednesday morning featured sales numbers

From jokes about eating soil to surprise cameos by James Bond and President Frank Underwood, the national shopping spree that is China's Singles Day yet again sparked a frenzy online and offline. Here are some highlights.

Celebrity cameos

For the first time, a live countdown to the start of Singles Day at midnight was shown on national TV, with Hunan TV broadcasting a lavish variety show from late Tuesday night to early on Wednesday.

Singles Day- Alibaba

80%

share of China's total online shopping market

  • 120,000 estimated orders each minute on 2015 Singles Day

  • 73% of purchases in first hour made via mobile phone

  • 12 hours time taken to beat 2014 whole-day record of $9.3bn

AFP

The show, also streamed online, was organised by Alibaba, the e-commerce giant responsible for turning Singles Day into a national shopping event.

It featured A-list Asian and Western celebrities singing, dancing, and playing games on stage.

Image copyright EPA
Image caption Alibaba chairman Jack Ma was onstage to play games during the variety show

Taiwanese singer Jolin Tsai - the Mandopop equivalent of Katy Perry - opened the show at Beijing's Water Cube, helmed by top director Feng Xiaogang. Korean superstars Rain and CNBlue made appearances.

American singer Adam Lambert also popped up, and the show culminated with a surprise guest - James Bond actor Daniel Craig.

Image copyright EPA

Craig played a lucky draw game with Alibaba chairman Jack Ma, picking 11 winners who could each buy a Cadillac for one yuan ($0.6; £0.1), according to Alibaba's news portal Alizila.

Image copyright EPA

Another surprise appearance was Kevin Spacey, in character as US President Frank Underwood from the television show House of Cards.

"Here at the White House, there are so many firewalls blocking me from shopping online that not even the president will be able to take advantage of those amazing deals," he said in a video message, in which he also hawked M&Ms, a trench coat, and his presidential desk.

"If this Singles Day is the excuse you've been waiting for to spoil yourself with a little online shopping, then I must say I'm more than a little jealous."

Image copyright Netflix

House of Cards is hugely popular in China. Even Chinese President Xi Jinping referred to the show in a speech during his recent visit to the US.

Singles Day - Logistics

7.6bn

parcels to be delivered by Alibaba in the next week

  • 1.7m delivery personnel needed by Alibaba

  • 400,000 vehicles despatched

  • 5,000 warehouses in use

  • 200 planes to carry goods

REUTERS

Bragging rights

Online, netizens have been keenly showing off their haul, with the hashtag #Double11CleanList# trending on Weibo.

Singles Day is called "shuangshiyi", or Double 11, in Chinese.

Many people used the hashtag to post pictures of their Taobao app showing they had managed to bag everything on their shopping lists, and to moan about their depleted bank accounts.

Image copyright Weibo
Image caption This user Xiaxiaxiaxiaxiaxuelelx said: "#Double11CleanList# My half-month salary... tears are flowing."

One user attracted a mixture of admiration and scepticism when she posted pictures showing she had bought so many items - more than the 99 items which the app could display - that the app crashed.

Image copyright Weibo
Image caption "#Double11CleanList# Finally got it all," said MZxxxyyy
Image copyright Weibo
Image caption But she said the app crashed when she tried to access her order list because it had too many items

"Really amazing," said one person, while others scoffed and said her screenshot must be fake.

Eating soil

Jokes also abounded on how Chinese shoppers had spent so much on shopping.

The term "eating soil" also became a trending hashtag on Weibo, a common term in China for being so poor you could only afford dirt for meals.

User Renyutuodamowang posted pictures of people chomping into rocks saying: "This is me after Double 11."

Image copyright Weibo

Other popular memes included "before and after Double 11" pictures, to show shoppers impoverished or driven to madness by their buying sprees; and references to cutting off one's arms or hands, to stop oneself from buying more items online.

Several Chinese celebrities, including actor Yan Yikuan, got in on the joke.

Image copyright Weibo
Image caption Yan posted two pictures, saying: "This is me before Singles Day..."
Image copyright Weibo
Image caption "...and this is me afterwards."

He added in the same post: "Folks, don't call me a loser, I'm actually Yang Guo (a famous Chinese fictional one-armed swordsman). Because my arm's cut off."