How to talk about masculinity in Chinese (阳刚之气 – Yáng gāng zhī qì)2 min read

26 February 2021 2 min read


How to talk about masculinity in Chinese (阳刚之气 – Yáng gāng zhī qì)2 min read

Reading Time: 2 minutes

The word for heartthrob in Chinese is 小鲜肉 (Xiǎo xiān ròu) – ‘little fresh meat.’

It’s used to describe young (20-somethings), handsome (帅气 – Shuài qì) boys. I’ve found nowhere that translates it as such, but heartthrob is the best translation I’ve come up with so far.

Xiǎo xiān ròu came into use in China around 2014 referring to K-pop stars (韩国明星). It also seems to be used more broadly these days too.

For example…

我以前,也是个小鲜肉 – I was also a heart throb (when I was younger)

Perhaps best delivered with comic, self-deprecating irony.

Although, note to self, apparently this can also be used to describe a newcomer, or a rookie. So perhaps best to avoid wading into that cultural minefield.

There’s also some gossipy Chinese websites that claim, sooner or later, Little Fresh Meet will be assimilated into the English, or at least the Chinglish, dictionary.

Not so sure about that….

Just in case you were wondering, as I did, the girl equivalent for Little Fresh Meat is much more civilised – it is 小花 (Xiǎohuā), ‘little flower’.

I discovered these and other great new words reading into a story last week in China about the Chinese government’s anxiety about teenage boys not being manly enough. The male population apparently needs to rediscover its masculinity!

阳刚之气 (Yáng gāng zhī qì) – masculinity

So, there is now a drive to build male energy (男子气概 – Nán zǐ qì gài) in the teenage boy population in China.

The Ministry of Education published a plan with recommendations in response to a proposal by 斯泽夫 (Sī zé fū) about this issue last year. Sī is a delegate of the CPPCC, and the boss of Harbin [a very manly place, apparently] Electric Corp (哈尔滨电气集团).

The plan seeks to address concerns raised by Si of young boys being “feminised” (女性气质化 – Nǚ xìng qì zhí huà).

Needless to say, there was much colourful debate on Chinese social media with tonnes of ‘must know’ words to have a coherent discussion about this topic.

One of the big issues identified, and talked about, is the impact of parents spoiling their only children, mainly boys, resulting in them being seen as soft (不能吃苦).

There’s even a special word for this in Chinese too – another good find:

  • 娇生惯养 (Jiāo shēng guàn yǎng) – spoilt (as a result of being an only child – mostly boys)

This is a huge topic, and a really interesting one to dive into but also really challenging if you don’t have the vocab. So hopefully this handful of words can be helpful.

At the very least, the word for heartthrob in Chinese is now no longer a mystery!

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