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Beijing Scene, Volume 5, Issue 20, August 6 - 12

yimao quren 以貌取人
Judging a Book by its Cover

The Comrade reviews the Chinese 老一套 laoyitao (same old rhetoric) that every aspiring 中国通 zhongguotong (China expert) must know in order to keep up their end of a conversation.

The word stereotype, like the word 'doggie-style, is difficult to translate accurately in Chinese. A stereotype is an assumption about an individual's behavior or personality based on his or her nationality or skin color. For example, when you 想当然 xiangdangran (assume) that someone is an alcoholic just because they are Irish, you are guilty of stereotyping.

Luckily we are in China, where there's no such thing as stereotypes. There are only norms-truths and non-truths. But foreigners insist that there is a difference between 'facts and 'stereotypes. All this trifling has caused much unnecessary confusion and doubt.

"Foreigners are less civilized than Chinese people." Fact or stereotype?
"All " 犹太人 youtairen (Jews) are smart." Fact or stereotype?
"Foreigners are all hairy." Fact or stereotype?
The fact is, it doesn't matter. One comrade's fact is another's stereotype, and vice versa. Rather than trying to distinguish 'facts from 'stereotypes, the Comrade will instead review the Chinese 老一套 laoyitao (same old rhetoric) that every aspiring 中国通 zhongguotong (China expert) must know in order to keep up their end of a conversation with Chinese people. The following statements are held to be self-evident in China. Whether they are true or not is irrelevant!

For example, 混血儿 hunxuer (people of mixed blood) and 左撇子 zuopiezi (lefties) are 聪明 congming (smart), like Jews. If you think you might be a 混血儿 hunxuer but aren't sure how smart you are, there are a few 条件 tiaojian (conditions) that have to be met before the 聪明 congming label can be stuck on your forehead: in China, a person of 'mixed blood refers to the child of two parents of different skin color. The child of a German-French mixed marriage or the child of a Korean-Japanese mixed marriage is not as smart as, say, the child of black and white parents.

And while left-handed people are supposed to be smart, no self-respecting Chinese parent would ever allow their child to grow up using his or her left hand to 写字 xiezi (write) or 使筷子 shi kuaizi (use chopsticks). Forcing the child to use its right hand is for the child's own good - to spare him or her from the inconvenient fate of bumping elbows with right-handed diners at the dinner table.

Here are some standard Chinese stereotypes regarding foreigners of various nationalities:
Americans 美国人 meiguo ren
All Americans own a 枪 qiang (gun) and would use it in so much as a dispute over a parking space. Americans are all fat, drive Cadillacs, eat nothing but McDonald's and KFC and 交配 jiaopei (copulate) all the time. American women are wild and hard to please in bed. Americans are not 谦虚 qianxu (modest). On the other hand, they are conceited and smug about their wealth and power.

Canadians 加拿大人 jianada ren
Despite the fact that Canada itself is nothing more than America's running dog, Canadian people are among the least bad of all foreign devils. That's because 大山 Da Shan, the docile, nerdish Chinese-speaking Canadian, has won the hearts of Chinese TV viewers through his yearly asinine spectacle in which he speaks Chinese, behaves himself well and never says anything bad about China or Chinese people.

Japanese 日本人 riben ren
Japanese people are all short. That's why they are also referred to as 小日本人 xiao ribenren. What they lack in height they make up for in wealth. Their wealth is in part due to being a running dog of the US, in part due to the fact that Japanese people are all 工作狂 gongzuokuang (workaholics). Japanese people are 下流 xialiu (perverted) - they bathe in unisex public showers and purchase 交具 jiaoju (sex toys) and 黄色录像 huangse luxiang (pornographic videos) from vending machines. But Japanese women are 顺从 shuncong (subservient to) men and make the best wives.

Hong Kong 香港人 xianggang ren
Hong Kong people are short, but not as short as Japanese people. Occupation by the British has made them rich, but they still shout when they speak and their 国语 guoyu (Mandarin) is unintelligible. Due to the sad fact that Hong Kong women are 泼辣 pola (disheveled and tattered), Hong Kong businessmen leave their wives and families behind and go on frequent business trips to 大陆 dalu (Mainland China), where they keep mistresses.

Taiwanese 台湾人 taiwan ren
The 本地人 bendi ren (natives) of Taiwan, known as 高山人 gaoshanren are 乡下人xiangxiaren (villagers), hence the affectionate nickname 台巴子 'aibazi which means 'Taiwanese bumpkins. Other Taiwanese are descended from the 国民党 guomindang (Kuo Min Tang, or Nationalist Party), the running dogs of the American imperialists who fled to Taiwan in 1949, taking enough priceless 国宝 guobao (national treasures) and 金钱 jinqian (money) with them to ensure their wealth right up to the present day.

Europeans 欧洲人ouzhou ren
According to Chinese stereotypes about Europeans, 法国人 faguo ren (French) are 浪漫 langman (romantic) and drink wine constantly.

意大利人 yidali ren (Italians) are 热情 reqing (affectionate) and eat nothing but pizza and spaghetti (which, by the way, was a Chinese invention).

德国人 deguo ren (Germans) are 认真 renzhen (serious; diligent) and drink beer with breakfast. As a matter of fact, German people's homes all have taps that run with beer.

Russians 俄国人 eguo ren
Since 苏联 sulian (the Soviet Union) has not been doing so well these past few decades economically speaking, there are relatively few Chinese stereotypes about Russian people. The topic of Russian people simply isn't discussed as frequently as topics dealing with other, wealthier nations. Russians spend their days and nights merrily guzzling 伏特加酒 futejiajiu (vodka). They are 野蛮 yeman (uncivilized; savage), and Russian women are 高大 gaoda (big and tall) and masculine.

And finally, 中国人 zhongguoren (Chinese people)
There are certain stereotypes about Chinese people too. For example, foreigners think that Chinese people all know 武术 wushu (martial arts). Another stereotype about Chinese people shared by foreigners and Chinese alike is that Chinese men have small 生殖器 shengzhiqi (reproductive organs) and that Chinese girls are 保守 baoshou (conservative).

Finally, remember that China is a country where more than a billion people share about 100 surnames and the same 5,000-year-old culture, so the whole concept of 'stereotypes is rather immaterial. So the next time you think you're come across a stereotype in China, just ignore it like you ignore daily shouts of 'helloor by the migrant workers currently digging up your street.


Previous stories

Losing Weight

Money is everything

The Comrade's final exam

Wining and dinning out

Pekinese in beijing

Using Your Electric Brain

Traditional Holidays

Little Emporer Syndrome

Henpecked Husbands

To Own Real Estate is Glorious


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