If you're not too good to mingle with the locals, perhaps some day
you'll get to see the inside of a Chinese person's home. And if you've
seen one, you've seen them all. Almost every Chinese home is similarly
装修 zhuangxiu (decorated) and contains the same items and furniture.
This is due to the homogeneousness of Chinese people. Another 因素 yinsu
(factor) is the Stalinist uniformity of products sold in state-run stores
all over China. Actually, the homogeneousness of Chinese people is 本身
benshen (in itself) responsible for the uniformity of Chinese products.
It's an 恶性循环 exing xunhuan (vicious cycle). There are certain everyday
items that you'll find in the home of every Chinese 老百姓 laobaixing
(common person). Many of the items mentioned here come in only one brand,
model, shape, color and size. The State holds the patent on them and
sells them to Chinese 消费者 xiaofeizhe (consumers) in all corners of
the country. Other items come in different colors or sizes, but after
a while they all start to look alike, too.
厕所 cesuo (Toilets)
Nicer-sounding names for the bathroom are 洗手间 xishoujian (lit. wash
hands room) and 浴室 yushi (shower room). Tip: the proper way to announce
that you're going to the bathroom is to say 我去方便一下 wo qu fangbian
yixia (I'm going to convenience myself). For Chinese 农民 nongmin (peasants),
going to the bathroom and fertilizing the soil are one and the same
action. Cities are a different story. While most urban Chinese families
share communal bathrooms, many still have to use the public pay toilet
down the block, or simply relieve themselves in the middle of the street.
Out of the entire population of China, relatively few people enjoy the
luxury of their own bathroom in their own apartment. But any Chinese
person who does have a bathroom also has certain requisite items in
it. For example, there's always a soggy mop and plenty of damp and colorful
hand towels hanging up to dry in Chinese people's bathrooms. But somehow
they never seem to dry. And if they do dry, they always dry up hard,
crumpled and scratchy. Look and you'll find a bar of 肥皂 feizao, which
looks like brown 'saddle' soap. It's probably used to wash clothes as
well as people. You'll also find a stack of gray, recycled toilet paper
that doubles as 砂纸 shazhi (sandpaper). Tip: throw it in the garbage
can after use, not the toilet. Bathrooms that have a 浴缸 yugang (bathtub)
usually also have a small fan to cool you off while you take a scalding
hot shower. If there's no shower, there are certainly a 洗脚盆 xijiaopen
(washbasin for the feet), 洗脸盆 xiianpen (washbasin for the face) and
a washbasin for the 屁股 pigu (behind).
客厅 keting (Living Room)
Since most Chinese homes don誸 have a separate dining room, Chinese
families eat in the living room. There they keep a folding square dinner
table that doubles as a 麻将 majiang (mahjong) table. An arm's length
away is a 桌布 zhuobu (table cloth) and 麻将 majiang set. And there
are always extra stools stacked up in the corner for when company shows
up. Expect psychedelic looking 窗帘 chuanglian (curtains) that successfully
keep out the sun, and a weird-colored sofa (pink perhaps?), or one with
outrageous designs and patterns. There'll be a 电视机 dianshiji (TV),
收音机 shouyinji (radio) and a 缝纫机 fengrenji (sewing machine). The
冰箱 bingxiang (lit. 'ice box'; refrigerator) goes in the living room
because there's scarcely room for it in the kitchen. The 五斗厨 wudouchu
is one piece of furniture that no Chinese living room can be without.
Similar to a 展柜 zhangui (display-case), it contains a mirror, drawers,
sliding doors, and compartments and spaces to display various items,
such as booze bottles, framed photographs, and some random 玩具 wanju
(toys). Finally, look for the 3-D picture of a boat with the caption
一路顺风 yilu shunfeng (bon voyage) or a huge glossy wall calendar with
a picture of a Chinese 姑娘 guniang (young girl) or a sports car.
厨房 chufang (Kitchen)
Like bathrooms, kitchens are communal in most of China. But thanks to
the Reform and Opening Up policy, many Chinese families have their very
own kitchen right in their home. With the exception of forks, you'll
find all the basic 餐具 canju (utensils) in a Chinese family's kitchen,
including 筷子 kuaizi (chopsticks), 刀 dao (knives), 勺 shao (spoons),
茶杯 chabei (tea cups) and a bunch of greasy 炒菜锅 chaocaiguo (woks).
There'll also be a wooden 切菜板 qiecaiban (cutting board), several
热水瓶 reshuiping (thermoses), a 水壶 shuihu (kettle) and a 砂锅 shaguo
(clay-pot). All of these items go in the 吊厨 diaochu (overhead cabinets).
Other mandatory kitchen items include a 洗菜盆 xicaipen (washbasin for
vegetables) and lots of 抹布 mabu (rags). For cooking, there are abundant
supplies of the four universal Chinese culinary staples: 油盐酱醋 you
yan jiang cu (oil, salt, soy sauce and vinegar). There's also plenty
of 味精 weijing (MSG), which helps to kill the putrid flavor of rotten
卧室 woshi (Bedroom)
In China, the purpose of a 床 chuang (bed) is as much for sleeping as
it is for storing junk. In most cases, junk is stored under the bed.
Some beds are hollow, offering a great space in which to 藏东西 cang
dongxi (stash stuff). Chinese people adorn their beds with multi-colored
sheets with frilly fringes. The 枕头 zhentou (pillows) are filled with
a million tiny pebbles, and the 枕头套 zhentoutao (pillowcases) are
frilly and fringy like the sheets. On either side of the bed are two
床头柜 chuangtougui (night tables). Chinese bedrooms 离不开 libukai
(can't do without) a 大厨 dachu (closet). The closet is used to store
衣服 yifu (clothes) and 毛毯 maotan (wool blankets). These blankets
are also standard issue in every dormitory, hotel, budget hotel room
and hospital room in China. The Comrade wants every 老外 laowai to visit
a Chinese family's home at least once while you're in China. When you
do, you can walk around their apartment pointing at each of the items
and sounding off its Chinese name. Your hosts will be so impressed they'll
laugh with delight.