Hans Juergen-Bucher (Media Studies, University of Trier) has a provocative 2004 paper titled Is There a Chinese Internet? which reports the results of user studies he conducted in Germany with Chinese Internet users. One of his most interesting points is about what he calls an “aesthetics of abundance” that shapes Chinese website design and interface.
In Chinese culture we can find two different kinds of aesthetical systems: the “aesthetics of abundance” and the “aesthetics of emptiness” (see Pohl 2004). Websites in China are usually designed along the principles of the “aesthetics of abundance” which refers to the Chinese popular culture and what can be seen in New Years pictures, calendars or paintings on dishes. The “aesthetics of emptiness” is part of the Chinese high culture and heavily influence by Zen and Chan Buddhism. The principles of this kind of aesthetics did not influence web design up to now in a significant way. The attractiveness of the “aesthetics of abundance” not only relies on its integration into popular culture but also on its symbolic meanings: strong and rich colour, density, and opulent presentation symbolize happiness and wealth.
Well, I just came across a delightfully abundant Chinese web experience, while exploring a city-level forum on the nationally popular Xici BBS. Xici’s Chongqing forum (a megacity in China’s most populous province, Sichuan) today has a photo thread dedicated to a recently married friend, showing off the friend’s wedding photos. The photos aside, what’s so busy about the whole thing is that you have photos, text, and multiple user icons (some that move), scrolling transparently against the colorful background image of an idyllic rural scene. Very…sweet.