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Weibo’s Online Slang: 10 Chinese ‘Tribes’ & ‘Clans’ to Know

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Online slang has been an important part of Chinese online culture ever since the first message boards were launched, and is ubiquitous and ever-changing on popular social media platforms such as Weibo or Wechat.

A major part of this online slang culture is the categorization of people into ‘tribes’ or ‘clans’ (族); classifying those (urban) young Chinese people who share certain traits.

Although many of these terms are often ironic and generalized, to a large extent, they also represent a bigger trend in China’s transforming society and digital culture.

 

1. 低头族 (Dītóuzú): “The Bowed Head Clan”

This word is comparable to the English term of ‘phubber’; which is a combination of “phone” and “snubber”, meaning people who lower their heads to look at their smartphones. There is also a word called “Thumb Tribe” (拇指族), which also refers to people whose thumbs are constantly moving on their smartphone screen.

Dītóuzú literally means ‘lower-head-clan’; they use their phone for almost everything, at every moment. They always bow their heads to look at their phone. For the dītóuzú, it seems that the smartphone fulfills their every need, including entertainment, surfing internet, updating their social media and communicating with people, ordering food, shopping, etc.

But when the smartphone addiction becomes serious, they get mental and physical problems. It makes their life hard. On Weibo, this word was especially used in 2017 when a Chinese mother was watching her phone in the swimming pool while her 4-year-old son was drowning in the pool just meters away from her.

 

2. 月光族 (Yuèguāngzú): “The Moonlight Clan”

The Yuèguāngzú is the “moonlight clan.” It is meant to categorize the groups of people who live from paycheck to paycheck. Most of them are young Chinese people, who spend all of their salary before their next payday – although they don’t have any savings in their bank account.

For some of them, their salary just covers their basic living expenses, such as rent, food, transportation and some social occasions.

But there are also those who might have a much higher income, but still live day by day, without any serious plans for their life or future. They like to spend money whenever they want, in any way they want. They also exhaust their earnings before their next salary day.

 

3. 酷抠族 (Kùkōuzú): “The Cool Carl”

Image via https://www.dir28.com/2224.html.

As nicely explained in Shenzhen Daily or by China Daily, Kùkōuzú refers to those people who live a simple life, and while faced with inflation and high housing prices, try to spend as little as possible.

“Kù” (酷) is the Chinese transliteration of the English word “cool,” “kōu” (抠) is short for kōumén (抠门) which means “stingy.” Normally those who lead a “stingy life” are not considered “cool.” In today’s China, however, where inflation and high housing prices make life difficult for the middle class, many people think that people who live a simple live can also be “cool.”

 

4. 啃老族 (Kěnlǎozú): “The Leech Tribe”

Image via 浙江在线健康网

The kěnlǎozú is a group of people who are currently not engaged in employment, education or training. Their daily life totally depends on their parents or other older generations. They are often fresh graduates.

Some graduates find it so difficult to find a job, and get so frustrated that they give up looking for a job and stay at home with their parents. Their parents then have to cover all of their expenses and feed them, treating them as if they’re still a child.

 

5. 恨嫁族 (Hènjiàzú): “The Hate-to-get-married Tribe”

Image via https://www.gq.com.tw/

If we literally translate Hènjiàzú, it would mean “hate getting married tribe.” But is this truly what’s meant with this term in present-day China?

The term Hènjià (恨嫁) is originally from Guangdong local language. It refers to young women who have huge expectations for their future marriage. They often hope to get married as soon as they reach the legal age of marriage. But it usually turns out that the reality is very different from their dreams.

Now, this term has come to indicate those girls who dream about a marriage that will change their life for the better. Instead of making a career for themselves, they are aiming to look for a husband with a high income. For them, getting married with a money-making man is a first priority.

This kind of women was criticized by education businessman Yu Minhong recently, who stated that women’s standards for men are leading to a “degeneration of the country.”

 

6. 闪婚族 (Shǎnhūnzú): “The Flash Marriage Group”

Image via http://news.sina.com.cn/c/2010-02-05/112017051843s.shtml.

The Shǎnhūnzú refers to people who have only known each other a short time and get married straight away, as quick as a lightning bolt (闪电). According to Baidu, it is a sign of the “fast food love” era.

Although a Flash Marriage can happen because of extreme infatuation, there are also other reasons for a quick marriage; some people are simply in a hurry to get rid of the pressure from their parents to get married.

 

7. 愤怒青年 (Fènnù Qīngnián): “The Angry Youth”

“Angry Youth” or “The Delinquent” is a 1973 Hong Kong movie.

Fènqīng (愤青) is an abbreviation for Fènnù Qīngnián (愤怒青年), which literally translates as the “angry young.”

It mainly refers to Chinese youth who display a high level of Chinese nationalism. This term first appeared in Hong Kong in the 1970s, referring to those young people who were not satisfied with Chinese society, and sought reform.

It has now evolved into a term used predominantly in Chinese Internet slang. Nowadays, it refers to a group of young people who have strong or sharp opinion on society and politics. Most of them are not satisfied with what is happening now and want to make changes. They like to use internet to publish their ideas and initiate online battles with people who have different opinions. They seem to care for their country and society very much, and will give their opinions on various public affairs. Their opinions will sometimes influence the public debate.

 

8. 标题党 (Biāotídǎng): “The Clickbait Club”

Biāotídǎng (标题党) translates as the “clickbait club.” It refers to sensationalist online writers who want to have more readers or followers, and therefore use exaggerated or hot words for their titles to attract more readership.

Because online readers are curious about what is going on after seeing the “attractive” title, they continue to read the text or click the link. In most cases, there is no consistency between the content and the title.

Over the past year, various Chinese state media have warned against the use of clickbait titles, labeling it as “vulgar content.”

 

9. 健盘侠 (Jiànpánxiá): “The Keyboard Warriors”

Jiànpánxiá (健盘侠) means ‘keyboard warrior’: a group of people that is very active and often aggressive within the online comment sections. They especially like to comment below the hot Weibo topics.

They are ‘big fighters’ in the cyber world when it comes to their words and opinions, but they would never actually dare to do the things they say.

In their real life, ‘keyboard warriors’ are very ordinary people and are actually afraid of many things. But when they are back online, they are like the warriors in the Gongfu world. They use words as their weapons and are ‘social justice warriors.’ They often ‘troll’ other Weiboers or social media users.

By doing so, they get a lot of online attention which satisfies their ego, as they are unsuccesful in getting the attention they need in their offline life.

 

10. 嘻哈族 (Xīhāzú): “The Hip Hop Clan”

Image via Sohu.com

The Xīhāzú refers to a subculture or group of young Chinese who are fan of hip hop and African-American culture influence lifestyle. “Xīhā” (嘻哈) is the Chinese translation for ‘hiphop.’

The term has been around for years. But especially over the past year, hip hop has seen a comeback in China with popular shows as the Rap of China becoming major hits.

By Crystal Fan, with contributions from Manya Koetse

Spotted a mistake or want to add something? Please let us know in comments below or email us.

©2018 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com

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1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Jose

    December 2, 2018 at 6:12 pm

    What an interesting article! Well, in fact as interesting as every other article published here.

    Very useful, both to know details about what’s going on in China’s society and in its internet, and to learn some (modern) Chinese.

    Thanks a lot!!

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China and Covid19

‘Hard Isolation’ is Shanghai’s New Word of the Day

In line with a new ‘hard isolation’ measure, the entrances of some Shanghai residential buildings were fenced up.

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While some Shanghai households have already endured weeks of isolation, a new word was added to their epidemic vocabulary today: ‘hard isolation’ or ‘strong quarantine’ (yìng gélí 硬隔离)

The word popped up on Chinese social media on April 23rd after some Shanghai netizens posted photos of fences being set up around their community building to keep residents from walking out.

“New word: hard isolation. Shanghai is rotten to the core,” one commenter wrote.

The word soon turned into a hashtag page where people started commenting on the issue of fences being placed around residential buildings, voicing concerns on what a fence around buildings would mean for fire safety, especially after online rumors suggested that there had been a fire at one community in Pudong on Saturday night.

An official document regarding the ‘hard isolation’ measure was also shared online on Saturday. It is dated April 23, 2022, and its source is the Pudong New Area Office for Epidemic Control.

The document states that in line with the guidelines for the city’s epidemic prevention and control, the division between areas or zones that are in certain risk categories should be ‘optimized,’ with those in the high-risk category requiring a ‘hard isolation.’ Security guards should also be on duty 24 hours a day at the entrance of the buildings.

Earlier this month, Shanghai adopted “3-level control measures” after its initial phased lockdown. It means that local areas will be classified as “locked-down,” “controlled” or “precautionary,” based on their Covid19 risk.

“Could we also put fences around the homes of Shanghai leaders?”, one person suggested, while others posted images from the Walking Dead to mock the situation.

In the hope of Shanghai soon tackling the Covid situation, not everybody disagreed with the decision to fence some buildings or communities in the Pudong area: “I don’t disagree with it, as long as there is always someone there to open the fence in case of fire,” one person stated.

Although having a fence around their building is currently not a reality for most in Shanghai, the online photos of some communities seeing their buildings being fenced up is a reason to worry for some: “It’s been 40 days, and now they start hard isolation? This actually scares me. Before we know it, it’s June.”

One Weibo user asked: “Why is it possible to implement this hard isolation now? Was this created by the same persons who also implemented the rule to separate children from parents at isolation sites?”

“I truly can’t imagine why some people thought this is a good idea,” others wrote.

For more articles on the Covid-19 topics on Chinese social media, check here.

By Manya Koetse

Get the story behind the hashtag. Subscribe to What’s on Weibo here to receive our weekly newsletter and get access to our latest articles:

Spotted a mistake or want to add something? Please let us know in comments below or email us. First-time commenters, please be patient – we will have to manually approve your comment before it appears.

©2022 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

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China and Covid19

‘Voices of April’: The Day After

“The best way to make videos go viral is by censoring them.”

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On April 23, a day after the video ‘Voices of April’ briefly took over social media before it was censored, the trending topic of the day is a hashtag related to new Covid cases reported in Shanghai.

Shanghai reported higher Covid-19 cases and deaths on Friday than the five days prior, which showed a daily decline in new cases. Shanghai reported a total of 23,370 new cases (including 20,634 asymptomatic ones), the municipal health commission said Saturday. A related hashtag by Xinhua News received over 910 million views on Weibo on Saturday (#上海新增本土确诊2736例无症状20634例#).

Although the hashtag was initiated by state media to inform about the Shanghai Covid situation, netizens started using it to criticize Shanghai’s handling of the crisis, with more commenters questioning China’s zero-Covid strategy. Similarly, other state media-initiated hashtag places also became online spaces where Weibo users vented their frustrations earlier this month.

Besides the ongoing online criticism and vocal disagreement with China’s Covid handling and policies, there are also many who express shock at the recent crackdown of any form of protest or criticism regarding the situation in Shanghai.

“‘Voices of April’ has been shutdown all over the internet, I’m simply dumbfounded,” one person said about the popular video that contained real recordings of events that happened during the city’s lockdown.

“If you still can find the video anywhere, forward it,” another person writes.

Besides Voices of April (四月之声), there have also been other videos over the past week that are meant to expose the mishandling of the Covid situation in Shanghai.

One of them is titled Farewell, Language (再见语言), another one is Shanghai Late Spring (上海晚春).

Farewell, Language (再见语言) is a 42-second sound art video by artist Yang Xiao (杨潇), who used over 600 commonly used propaganda phrases from Chinese official channels and randomly broadcasted the audio in the community where he lives.

The anti-epidemic workers just continue their work and do not seem to notice anything out of the ordinary at all. The video shows how this kind of language has been so normalized that for most, it has just become background noise in their everyday life – without even noticing nor critically assessing its meaning or logic anymore.

The Shanghai Late Spring (上海晚春) video is a compilation of video footage from the Shanghai lockdown, showing people struggling to get food, violent altercations between anti-epidemic workers and residents, people living in deplorable conditions in quarantine centers, and more (link to video).

The video uses the song Cheer Up London by Slaves, its chorus being:

You’re dead, already, dead, dead, already-ready
Dead, already, dead, dead, already-ready
Dead, already, dead, dead, already-ready
Dead, already, dead
.”

One Weibo commenter responded to the video in English, using a text from Les Misérables: “Do you hear the people sing / Singing the song of angry men / It is the music of a people / Who will not be slaves again!” The phrase “do you hear the people sing” was also used by other social media users to address the situation in Shanghai and the censorship of related topics.

“The best way to make videos go viral is by censoring them,” one commenter replied.

Read our previous article about ‘Voices of April’ here.

For more articles on the Covid-19 topics on Chinese social media, check here.

By Manya Koetse, with contributions by Miranda Barnes

Get the story behind the hashtag. Subscribe to What’s on Weibo here to receive our weekly newsletter and get access to our latest articles:

Spotted a mistake or want to add something? Please let us know in comments below or email us. First-time commenters, please be patient – we will have to manually approve your comment before it appears.

©2022 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

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