What’s Changed at Beijing’s ‘Wanghong Tree?’

By Alistair Baker-Brian, December 6, 2021

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Even some of the most unassuming locations can become internet celebrity or wanghong hotspots. That appears to be the case with a tree located on Dongzhimen Nei Dajie which has come to be known on the internet as ‘Dongzhimen wanghong tree’ (东直门网红树). 

Why did the tree go viral online in the first place? 

The vertical line separating the red and white parts of the background to the tree almost perfectly bisects the tree length-ways. The background is part of the construction site for the extension of the Capital Airport Express subway line.


Image via @不性纪的晓岚/Weibo

I suppose there’s no profound meaning; it’s just satisfying to look at. 

Or, should that be ‘was’ satisfying? It would seem that some recent changes have been made to the background to make it slightly less attractive, perhaps in the hope of avoiding large crowds in front of the spot. 


The Dongzhimen tree following changes to the background. Image via Alistair Baker-Brian/That's

This could be out of concern for the safety of those taking photographs. As early as November 30, Beijing Evening reported that a lot of people were standing on the adjacent zebra crossing to snap the perfect shot as traffic passed by. 

As of press time, the hashtag ‘Dongzhimen internet celebrity tree has been placed under strict control’ has around 2.18 million views on Weibo. That came after people noticed there were some changes to the background. 

The bottom left part of the background which was red has been covered white. Meanwhile, the wall has been plastered with a number of arbitrarily placed government information posters.  

A couple of the posters are from the Dongzhimen CDC. One encourages people to get their COVID-19 vaccine shots stating that we need to “collectively build a Great Wall of immunity.” Meanwhile, another uses cartoon characters from the popular Chinese novel Journey to the West to inform people about COVID-19 control. 

Moreover, two traffic wardens were on-duty at the site on December 6. One of them told That’s that it was his job to make sure photographers did not stand on the zebra crossing. Taking photos from the sidewalk was not problem. 

He added that the posters and the partial covering of the background had nothing to do with the internet celebrities. The posters he said, were just “information.” Coincidence?

Regardless of the intention of those making the changes, it seems that many people still want to get a snap of the Dongzhimen internet celebrity tree. 

If you plan on doing so, just remember to pay attention to safety and don’t become another ‘death-by-selfie’ statistic.  

[Cover image via @做自己的女神SHOW/Weibo]

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