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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. Avatar

    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 Brands & Marketing

About Lipstick King’s Comeback and His ‘Mysterious’ Disappearance

After Li Jiaqi’s return to livestreaming, the ‘tank cake incident’ has become the elephant in the room on social media.

Manya Koetse

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Earlier this week, the return of China’s famous livestreamer Li Jiaqi, also known as the ‘Lipstick King’, became a hot topic on Chinese social media where his three-month ‘disappearance’ from the social commerce scene triggered online discussions.

He is known as Austin Li, Lipstick King, or Lipstick Brother, but most of all he is known as one of China’s most successful e-commerce livestreaming hosts.

After being offline for over 100 days, Li Jiaqi (李佳琦) finally came back and did a livestreaming session on September 20th, attracting over 60 million viewers and selling over $17 million in products.

The 30-year-old beauty influencer, a former L’Oreal beauty consultant, rose to fame in 2017 after he became a successful livestreamer focusing on lipstick and other beauty products.

Li broke several records during his live streaming career. In 2018, he broke the Guinness World Record for “the most lipstick applications in 30 seconds.” He once sold 15000 lipsticks in 5 minutes, and also managed to apply 380 different lipsticks in another seven-hour live stream session. Li made international headlines in 2021 when he sold $1.9 billion in goods during a 12-hour-long promotion livestream for Alibaba’s shopping festival.

But during a Taobao livestream on June 3rd of this year, something peculiar happened. After Li Jiaqi and his co-host introduced an interestingly shaped chocolate cake – which seemed to resemble a tank, – a male assistant in the back mentioned something about the sound of shooting coming from a tank (“坦克突突”).

Although Li Jiaqi and the others laughed about the comment, Li also seemed a bit unsure and the woman next to him then said: “Stay tuned for 23:00 to see if Li Jiaqi and I will still be in this position.”

The session then suddenly stopped, and at 23:38 that night Li wrote on Weibo that the channel was experiencing some “technical problems.”

But those “technical problems” lasted, and Li did not come back. His June 3rd post about the technical problems would be the last one on his Weibo account for the months to come.

The ‘cake tank incident’ (坦克蛋糕事件) occurred on the night before June 4, the 33rd anniversary of the violent crackdown of the Tiananmen student demonstrations. The iconic image of the so-called ‘tank man‘ blocking the tanks at Tiananmen has become world famous and is censored on China’s internet. The control of information flows is especially strict before and on June 4, making Li’s ‘tank cake incident’ all the more controversial.

But no official media nor the official Li Jiaqi accounts acknowledged the tank cake incident, and his absence remained unexplained. Meanwhile, there was a silent acknowledgment among netizens that the reason Li was not coming online anymore was related to the ‘tank cake incident.’

During Li’s long hiatus, fans flocked to his Weibo page where they left thousands of messages.

“I’m afraid people have been plotting against you,” many commenters wrote, suggesting that the cake was deliberately introduced by someone else during the livestream as a way to commemorate June 4.

Many fans also expressed their appreciation of Li, saying how watching his streams helped them cope with depression or cheered them up during hard times. “What would we do without you?” some wrote. Even after 80 days without Li Jiaqi’s livestreams, people still commented: “I am waiting for you every day.”

On September 21st, Li Jiaqi finally – and somewhat quietly – returned and some people said they were moved to see their lipstick hero return to the livestream scene.

Although many were overjoyed with Li’s return, it also triggered more conversations on why he had disappeared and what happened to him during the 3+ months of absence. “He talked about a sensitive topic,” one commenter said when a Weibo user asked about Li’s disappearance.

One self-media accountpublished a video titled “Li Jiaqi has returned.” The voiceover repeatedly asks why Li would have disappeared and even speculates about what might have caused it, without once mentioning the tank cake.

“This cracks me up,” one commenter wrote: “On the outside we all know what’s going on, on the inside there’s no information whatsoever.”

“It’s tacit mutual understanding,” some wrote. “It’s the elephant in the room,” others said.

Some people, however, did not care about discussing Li’s disappearance at all anymore and just expressed joy about seeing him again: “It’s like seeing a good friend after being apart for a long time.”

By Manya Koetse 

Elements in the featured image by @karishea and @kaffeebart.

 

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Backgrounder

More Than Just a Visit: Explaining the Chinese ‘Cuànfǎng’

‘Cuànfǎng’ became a popular word on Chinese social media and in official Chinese discourse this year. But what is it?

Jin Luo

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Since Pelosi’s stopover in Taiwan, the word ‘cuànfǎng’ has been all over Chinese social media to refer to this controversial visit. But ‘cuànfǎng’ is more than just ‘visiting’ alone. Jin Luo explains.

It was a sleepless night for many Chinese people when U.S. House Speaker Pelosi flew to Taiwan on August 2nd of 2022. A new Chinese word created in recent years, cuànfǎng (窜访) appeared in the official statement that was issued by the Chinese Foreign Ministry at 11 pm that night, and subsequently it appeared all over social media.

Meanwhile, a pop song released more than 30 years ago titled “Tonight, Are You Coming or Not” (“今夜你会不会来”) suddenly became a Weibo hot topic before it was taken offline. What is this word lost in translation, and why did people suddenly get nostalgic over an old romantic song?

 
Cuànfǎng: A ‘Sneaky Visit’
 

Here is the original wording in Chinese and the official translation to English from the statement of the Chinese Foreign Ministry on the evening on 2 August:

In disregard of China’s strong opposition and diplomatic discontent, Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi visited China’s Taiwan region” (“美国国会众议长佩洛西不顾中方强烈反对和严正交涉,窜访中国台湾地区.”) The word ‘visited’ in Chinese that is used here is “cuànfǎng” 窜访.

While the English verb “visit” is a neutral word by itself, the Chinese “cuànfǎng” 窜访 has much stronger connotations. According to the Wiktionary, the word is a derogatory, officialese way to say “to visit.” But it is not an easy word to translate, as there is no direct equivalent in English, and both the literal and implied meaning of the word need to be understood.

Cuànfǎng is actually a compound word: cuàn 窜 refers to fleeing, escaping, hiding, or running away; fǎng 访 refers to inquiring, seeking, or visiting.

Cuan as a compound character (Sohu).

To make matters more complicated, cuàn by itself is also a compound character. It is written as ‘竄’ in traditional Chinese: the top radical ‘穴’ means ‘hole,’ and the lower part is the character ‘鼠’ which means ‘mouse.’ The character, having the shape of a mouse hiding in a hole, therefore has the meaning of ‘hiding’ and ‘escaping.’

The origins of the character ‘cuan’ explained, image via Sohu.com.

The mouse or rat is an animal that is more often associated with negative things in Chinese culture. They are often considered sneaky, dirty, running around everywhere, and able to reproduce quickly. With mice so often carrying a negative association, cuàn ‘窜’ also refers to a kind of hiding and escaping that is negative or objectionable.

The second character fǎng 访 is a neutral word that simply means “to visit.”

At the New York Times, Chris Buckley captured the underlying meaning of this word in writing: “The Chinese word used in the official statements for ‘visit’ — cuanfang — connotes a sneaky or illicit encounter, not an aboveboard meeting.”

 
The Evolution of Cuànfǎng
 

Although it is a relatively new word, cuànfǎng already existed before the Pelosi incident and was not created in light of this controversial visit.

Since the word’s first appearance, translators have had some difficulties in properly translating the term into different languages.

Research papers in translation studies and international relations in China suggested that cuànfǎng is a “new derogatory term invented in recent years, specifically for the purpose of maintaining national security and unity, and condemning and exposing the national separatists” and “demonstrated the big wisdom of Chinese diplomatic discourse users; vividly described the image of the separatists, that they go on the run sneakily, just like thieves and mice” (source, in Chinese).

Other sources interpret it as “the unjust, improper visit conducted in order to reach hidden political agenda, to agitate and peddle the separatist ideas,” and:

1. You went somewhere where you were not supposed to go;
2. The visit was not accepted or welcomed by the (Chinese) government;
3. The purpose is to shake justice and create conflicts
” (source, in Chinese).

Cuàn was mainly meant to add an emotional aspect to the term and shows the contempt of the person who uses it.

Image via Wainao.

The word was first prominently used in Chinese official discourse when the Foreign Ministry in 2006 referred to the Dalai Lama’s visit to Israel. Since cuàn has the meaning of fleeing, it is especially suitable when referring to political dissidents who went into exile overseas.

Since then, it has been used again for further visits of the Dalai Lama to other countries (US 2014, Mongolia 2017), as well as for Rebiya Kadeer, Lee Teng-hui, Shinzo Abe, Joshua Wong, and others.

Although it is clear that the term is not only applied to Chinese dissidents, it is generally applied to those who conducted visits that were perceived to be hostile towards China, with Nancy Pelosi’s Taiwan visit serving as a clear example.

Since the Dalai Lama has been living outside of China and conducted numerous visits to other countries, cuànfǎng was previously mostly used in this context until Pelosi’s visit, which ended up being good for more than 80% of the search results of cuànfǎng on the Chinese Foreign Ministry website.

If cuànfǎng is a word with such strong emotional connotations, why was it simply translated as “visit” in official English-language documents? Some say it is because of the mere difficulty to translate this word, while others say it is the routine sanitization of English translations by the Foreign Ministry.

David Gitter, president of the Center for Advanced China Research based in Washington D.C., said that the external goal of Beijing can be different from the internal goal towards the nationalist domestic audiences, and that “more accurate yet counterproductive translations … [often] breach normal diplomatic language.”

At this point, it remains up for debate whether this is a linguistic constraint or a political choice.

 
Tonight, Are You Coming or Not?
 

While the term cuànfǎng has been widely used in official discourse, it has also become a popular online word. Chinese netizens seemed to be as passionate as the Chinese Foreign Ministry – and perhaps even more so –  in condemning Pelosi’s Taiwan visit and demanding radical countermeasures.

Chinese netizens were watching the entire event unfold with mixed feelings – on the one hand, there was a strong sense of patriotism and anger, on the other hand, the massive attention to the event also turned it into something that was almost as exciting as a celebrity drama.

On that specific evening of Pelosi’s nearing arrival in Taipei, Chinese netizens were doing two things: watching real-time tracking of Pelosi’s flight, and listening to a classic pop song released in 1991 titled “Tonight, Are You Coming or Not” (今夜你会不会来) (video). Back in the previous century, Hong Kong singer Leon Lai expressed the emotions of someone waiting for his lover to arrive in this melodic song, singing:

“你是否愿意为我停留

Would you be willing to stay for me

今夜你来告诉我

Tonight, you tell me

你是否愿意陪我走过我的梦

Are you willing to accompany me through my dream?

我的所有

My everything

(Chorus)

今夜你会不会来

Tonight, are you coming or not?

你的爱还在不在

Is your love still there or not?

如果你的心已经离开

If your heart has left already

我宁愿没有未来

I would rather not have a future

今夜你会不会来

Tonight, are you coming or not?

你的爱还在不在

Is your love still there or not?

别让我所有的等待

Don’t let all my wait

变成一片空白

Go all in vain

 

In the middle of the uncertainty about whether Pelosi would come to Taiwan or not, this song served as entertainment for netizens and became a “collective carnival” of people jokingly applying the song to Pelosi, turning her into a ‘mysterious lover’ that might or might not show up. (Later, some were unable to play the song anymore, although it remains unclear if this was due to geographic restrictions or because the song was actually taken offline by censors.)

“Taiwan has been preparing for your cuànfǎng ‘sneaky visit’, are you coming or not tonight?” some netizens wrote, combining the title song with the cuànfǎng term. In doing so, Pelosi became both a ‘sneaky mouse’ and ‘mysterious lover’, both a target of condemnation and subject of fun and banter.

All jokes and cuànfǎng references aside, Pelosi did end up realizing that visit, and its aftermath, including a second Taiwan visit by a U.S. congressional delegation, has had a substantial impact on U.S.-China relations that were already strained before the move.

Will there be more cuànfǎng to Taiwan? It’s likely not an issue of if, but when. For next time, at least we’ve got cuànfǎng covered.

 

By Jin Luo 

Featured image by Alexa from Pixabay

 

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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