I caught wind of these “multicultural” Haibao images on the blog of James Fallows, and couldn’t help but feel they’re a bit… well… ummm… insensitive. I would like to think that I am one of the least politically correct people out there, and I groan even approaching the topic. Perhaps it’s just that in my time in China I’ve spent the collective sum of days trying to re-align misinformed Chinese about the big country outside their borders called “Foreign” (where we all speak English). Meh… whatever.
The Gumby-like Haibao, for anyone fortunate enough not to be inundated with the campiest of campy mascots, is the official symbol of the Shanghai World Expo 2010 and is an animutation of the character 人, with a name that could be taken to mean the Treasure of Shanghai (海宝) and is explained on the Expo 2010 Shanghai site as thus:
Created from the Chinese character “人” which means people, the mascot embodies the character of Chinese culture and echoes with the designing concept of the emblem of World Expo Shanghai. Using the Chinese character as the mascot of an international event is an innovation.
Hair: the hair of the mascot is like the wave of the sea, which represents its open character and stated the character of its birth place Shanghai.
Face: its cartoon expression shows its confidence and friendly character.
Eye: big, round eyes show his anticipation of the city.
Blue: the color shows its latitude and imagination, which represents the rising and potential China.
Body: its round body represents a well-off life, which is also lovely and cute.
Fist: he thumbs up to show the appreciation and warm welcome to the friends from all over the world.
Big feet: he stands steadily on the big feet and embraces the world with big arms, which shows China have the ability and faith to host a successful Expo.
The structure of Chinese character 人, in which two strokes support each other, manifests the concept that a good life should be created by all the people. The world should be supported by “people,” and people should have harmonious relationships with nature and society, so that the life in cities would be better.
The mascot will surly [sic] become the lucky symbol and cultural remark of Shanghai Expo.
But Shanghai is by no means the only city to have hosted an expo and created a goofy mascot to help market it.
It may have been the first to create a music video for it though. Warning: watching the following has been known to cause brain cell loss in high-functioning humans.