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Chinese Authorities Fight to Prevent Men from Exposing their Bellies Posted by on Aug 19, 2019 in Uncategorized

Image via Pixabay

China tries to eradicate the Beijing Bikini custom.

With the arrival of summer (夏季xià jì), as temperatures rise along with the humidity, people in China find ways to deal with the heat. Ways that not all authorities in China approve. Jinan city, for example, the capital of Shandong province, believe the scorching summer days (炎炎夏日yán yán xià rì) provoke uncivilized behavior (不文明行为bù wén míng xíng wéi). The city that was a historical center of Buddhist culture wishes to maintain its image (维护城市形象wéi hù chéng shì xíng xiàng). In July, Jinan city issued a notice ordering the citizens to avoid littering, loudness, line-jumping, smoking in non-smoking places, spitting, and walking bare feet or shirtless.

Men walking shirtless (赤膊chì bó) during summertime is a worldwide common view, but men walking with a rolled-up shirt and belly exposed, is a specific Chinese phenomenon. On hot days, middle-aged men across the country roll their shirts up above their bellies to cool down. The phenomenon received the humorous English name Beijing bikini, though this custom spread all around the country. In Chinese it’s called 膀爷 (bǎng yé). is a short for 光膀子 (guāng bǎng zi, to be stripped to the waist), and 爷 means grandfather, dad, uncle. Together it can be translated to exposed grandfather.

Jinan authorities are not the first to condemn this habit. Tianjin city, one of the nine national central cities of China, issued regulations earlier this year for uncivilized behavior, such as: taking other’s seats on public transportation, screaming in public, cutting in line, and being shirtless in public (在公共场所赤膊的, zài gōng gòng chǎng suǒ chì bó de). Citizens disobeying these rules in Tianjin can face a fine up to 200 RMB.

Beijing Bikini has been classified for years as an uncivilized behavior. In 2011, Handan city, Hebei province, gave its citizens a vivid lesson. On a hot August day, traffic policemen distributed shirts with the sentence 争做文明使者 (zhēng zuò wén míng shǐ zhě, striving to be a civilized messenger) on it. Two thousands shirts were prepared to be given free of charge, in an attempt to make people understand that everyone should be involved in building a civilized city (让市民们明白,人人都参与,才能建设文明城市, ràng shì mín men míng bái, rén rén dōu cān yù, cái néng jiàn shè wén míng chéng shì).

Image via Pixabay

Different cities, such as Shenyang and Beijing, used the same strategy over the years. Going out to the streets to distribute civilized shirts (文明衫wén míng shān) is a good way to educate people without arousing their rage. The Beijing Youth Daily, though, used a more gauche method. In 2002, the newspaper ran candid pictures of shirtless men every day, hoping for compliance in an effort to embarrass the men.

The popular cartoon 新大头儿子和小头爸爸 (Xīn dà tóu er zi hé xiǎo tóu bà ba) devoted an episode to the Beijing Bikini phenomenon. The animated series tells the story of an ordinary Chinese family of three: father, mother and their son. It portrays day life issues and conflicts of a contemporary modern family without skipping the cultural aspects of each character and its status in the family. In their episode 尴尬的小“膀爷” (gān gà de xiǎo “bǎng yé”, embarrassed little exposed grandfather), for example, the son was the one to walk shirtless outside under the scorching sun. His father exhorts him: 快把衣服穿上 (kuài bǎ yī fú chuān shàng, put on your clothes), but the kid insists: 天气太热了! (tiān qì tài rè le!, the weather is too hot). You are a child now, so it doesn’t matter, answers his father, but we don’t want this to become a habit, it’s an uncivilized habit. Watch the full episode:

The animated kid learns eventually the lack of manners and comfort when walking naked from the waist up. But most Chinese elders that are sweltering during the summer refuse to get rid of this habit. As one of the interviewees in the next video says: 我这岁数大了什么也不怕了凉快儿就好 (wǒ zhè suì shu dà le shén me yě bù pà le liáng kuai er jiù hǎo, I’m too old, nothing scares me anymore, as long as I’m cooled I’m fine). As the Chinese saying goes: 暑热无君子 (shǔ rè wú jūn zǐ, there is no gentleman in a hot weather).


Text vocabulary

夏季 xià jì = summer, summertime

炎炎 yán yán = scorching, sweltering

行为 xíng wéi = behavior

城市 chéng shì = city

形象 xíng xiàng = image

赤膊 chì bó = bare to the waist

在公共场所 zài gōng gòng chǎng suǒ = in public

文明 wén míng = civilized

市民 shì mín = city residents

衫 shān = shirt

穿 chuān = to wear

天气 tiān qì = weather

凉快 liáng kuai = cool

君子 jūn zǐ= gentleman



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