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‘Making money while lying flat’: Chinese movie star Ge You pockets US$1.1 million from hundreds of lawsuits over famous ‘tang ping’ TV character

South China Morning Post logo South China Morning Post 1/4/2023 Fran Lu
  • Renowned Chinese actor wins 542 out of 544 legal cases against companies who used his famous character in adverts without permission
  • Many online observers say his legal successes define the famous expression he is associated with 'making money while lying flat'

Renowned Chinese actor Ge You has become a major focus of online attention after it was reported that he earned 7.59 million yuan (US$ 1.1 million) in compensation from winning hundreds of lawsuits filed over his rights to the famous "tang ping" television character.

The 544 legal actions were filed against companies that used the Internet meme featuring Ge's character Ji Chunsheng in online promotions without Ge's consent, the Chinese newspaper Southern Weekly reported on March 27.

Ji is a deadbeat that occupied the protagonists' house lying in their sofa all day in the 1993 Chinese sitcom I Love My Family.

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Images of Ji lazily "lying flat" on the sofa has become a viral internet meme, and even leading to the posture receiving a nickname "Ge You tang", or Ge You-esque slouching, since 2016, when the "tang ping" culture was on the rise in China.

The TV character, Ji Chunsheng, lazing on a sofa gave birth to the © Provided by South China Morning Post The TV character, Ji Chunsheng, lazing on a sofa gave birth to the

Literally translated in English as "lying flat", "tang ping" refers to a passive attitude towards career and ambition, with the goal of being content with achieving the minimum required for survival.

It has increasingly become viewed as a dream lifestyle by young people in China due to the increasing pressures of life and work in recent years.

It was also around 2016 that Ge's meme was most widely latched onto by Chinese companies.

Companies that infringed Ge's rights by using his meme include an excavator company advertising that their products can help people "make money while lying flat", an automobile company promoting their comfortable back seats where people can "lie flat", and a Chinese traditional massage shop that tried to talk people out of "Ge You slouching" by introducing the harm it can cause.

Ge has won 542 out of the 544 cases.

Ge You has starred in numerous hit movies and in 1994 he won the best actor award at The Cannes Film Festival. Photo: AFP © Provided by South China Morning Post Ge You has starred in numerous hit movies and in 1994 he won the best actor award at The Cannes Film Festival. Photo: AFP

The losing companies were ordered to apologise to the actor and pay him from thousands to tens of thousands of yuan.

Ge's legal success has led to people online saying that he has taught people the true meaning of "making money while lying flat".

"It is common sense that you can't make profits from other people's portraits without consent. Big daddy Ge shows you what is the real 'Ge You-esque slouching'," said one person.

"In this case, Yao Ming and Jacky Cheung Hok-yau can make a huge sum of money," another commented, referring to the former NBA star and the famous Hong Kong singer, both of whom featured in popular Internet memes.

"Actually the companies paid out only a little, much less than the advertisement fee charged by a celebrity like Ge," a third pointed out.

Born in Beijing in 1957, Ge made debut in the 1980s, and became a household name in China in the 1990s.

He has starred in several classic Chinese films, including Zhang Yimou's To Live, Feng Xiaogang's The Dream Factory and Jiang Wen's Let the Bullets Fly, and won the Cannes Film Festival Award for Best Actor in 1994.

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This article originally appeared on the South China Morning Post (, the leading news media reporting on China and Asia.

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