Chinese food blogger comes out in suicide note on Bilibili

Society & Culture

The popular content creator's sexual identity, however, was blurred out in some reports in Chinese media, leading to outrage among his followers and those in China's LGBTQ community.

This article contains mentions of suicide. If you or anyone you know is having thoughts of suicide or self-harm, there are people who want to help: In the U.S., the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline can be reached at 800-273-8255. In China, the Beijing Suicide Research and Prevention Center can be reached at at 800-810-1117 or 010-8295-1332. Also, there is a list of suicide and emergency helplines around the world with links to more detailed hotlines.

Fans of Yīshíjì 一食纪 — a popular cooking channel with more than 560,000 subscribers on Chinese video streaming platform Bilibili — received a shock on Thursday morning when the content creator behind the account, whose real identity has yet to be disclosed, posted a video that included a suicide note.

In the note, the food blogger comes out as gay and says he feels liberated for not having to hide it anymore. The news got picked up by Chinese mainstream media, but in their reporting, there is no mention of the coming-out message — an omission that has left the blogger’s followers and LGBTQ activists furious.

“I’m gay and it feels great to come out of the closet,” reads the blogger’s note, which runs throughout the entire video (in Chinese) against the backdrop of his home kitchen. “Even if I’m straight, I wouldn’t get married and have children. My life and society has put me through so many misfortunes that I don’t want to bring another life to the world to have that experience.”

The pre-scheduled video, titled “Thank you and Goodbye,” then reveals that upon its publication, the blogger will have already taken his life. “Please don’t be sad. I’m just a passerby in your life,” the note reads. “I wish all of you a good rest of your life.”

Quickly after the video went up, worried fans begged for the blogger to “hang in there” while alerting the platform. About an hour later, Bilibili published an update in the comments section, saying that it was trying to get in touch with the content creator and had already notified the police.

For followers of Yishiji, the suicide note came as a shock. The blogger, who uploaded his first video to Bilibili in 2019 and amassed a following through videos of him cooking and eating by himself at home, never showed his face, revealed his identity, or discussed his personal life. His content was strictly about “documenting solo meals,” as noted in Yishiji’s official description. The channel received an average of roughly 50,000 views per video.

As of Friday, the blogger’s final video, titled “Thank You, Goodbye,” had racked up more than 1.6 million views and nearly 20,000 comments on Bilibili. (Those numbers currently stand at 3.3 million views and 45,000 comments.) As the news spread across social media, there was an outpouring of grief and love for the content creator.

In his note, the blogger mentions that he had to move out of his family home in 2016, a decision that many commentators speculated was a result of family rejection due to his sexuality. The blogger also describes a profound feeling of loneliness, which struck a special chord with many from China’s LGBTQ community. “I can totally relate as a gay man. I don’t like socializing and I hate societal norms. I like cooking for myself but sometimes it’s also hard for me to find reasons to stay alive,” a Bilibili user wrote (in Chinese).

In China, same-sex relations remain mostly taboo, and the LGBTQ community still faces prejudice and discrimination in everyday life. In TV and films, depictions of same-sex relationships are strictly banned and gay representation is basically nonexistent. Under Beijing’s campaign against “effeminate men” last year, social media sites such as Douyin (i.e., TikTok) deleted a bunch of accounts owned by gender-bending influencers.

Many observers pointed out that the Yishiji blogger’s gay identity was left out in Chinese media’s coverage of the incident. In some cases, news organizations edited his last video and blurred out the part of his goodbye message that mentions his sexuality:

This has sparked outrage on social media, with many calling the media coverage “unethical” and “disrespectful.”

“He exchanged his life for a fleeting moment of showing his true self, but the mainstream media wiped out who he really was using only a block of pixelation,” a Weibo user wrote in a post (in Chinese), which so far has received nearly 270,000 likes.