Chinese know-it-alls

Posted in Culture Clash, Personal Anecdotes at 1:44 pm by Benjamin Ross

Disclaimer: Throughout my life, I’ve always tried to take stereotypes and prejudices for what they are—generalizations. Although many stereotypes are in fact accurate, for any generalization there are always one thousand exceptions who break the rule. Whether it’s the tall Japanese guy, the athletic Jew, the black guy who listens to the Dave Matthews band or my friend Micah who is 6 feet tall, red-headed, Jewish, from Iowa, and speaks fluent Chinese, there are always those people who don’t fit the pre-conceptualized mold. One generalization about China however, and this is echoing the consensus of most foreigners I have come into contact with both men and women, is that Chinese women are liked a lot more than Chinese men. Is it so coincidental how frequently you see the foreign guy/Chinese girl couple, but so rarely you see the Chinese guy/foreign girl couple? What is it that attracts foreign guys to Chinese girls so much? And why is there so little love for Chinese men? This topic could easily spur countless blog entries, but today I want to focus on one particular trait I have found about Chinese men which I find particularly perturbing. That is, they are know-it-alls.

I personally have no problem (and am probably guilty myself) of people who like to flaunt their knowledge, that is when they know what they are talking about. The problem with Chinese men is that whenever a conversation comes to politics, culture, or anything remotely cerebral, they feel the need to exert some form of intellectual superiority over the others, especially if there are women (who are presumably intellectually inferior) around, and even more so if a foreigner is around.

As a self-professed China history/culture nerd, dinner table conversations I am at often turn to China-related topics, as I probe people for information about their hometowns, local culture, language, food, etc. When these topics come up, undoubtedly there is one alpha male at the table who will answer my question (as well as several questions I didn’t ask) as if he is giving a lecture. When I first arrived in China, I took in all the information I could get, since it was, so to speak, straight from the dragon’s mouth. More and more, however, I began to realize that what was coming out of people’s mouths was no more fact than it was a mere attempt to reaffirm their knowledge of the homeland to the others, who in turn were either less knowledgeable than the speaker or were merely kind enough to prevent him from losing face by contradicting his bovine scatology.

This happened the other night when I was out to dinner with a former colleague’s family. My colleague’s uncle had lived in Beijing for many years and had returned to Fuzhou for the Spring Festival. He was explaining to me how people in Beijing speak much more standard Mandarin than people in Fuzhou (this is true). I told him I agreed, but that I often had trouble understanding the cab drivers in Beijing when they spoke. This is because although most educated people in Beijing speak virtually perfect CCTV Mandarin, the lower educated stratum speak what is known as Beijing hua, which might be equivalent to a strong New Jersey accent spoken by a first generation American. What projects from their mouths sounds like Mandarin, but spoken as if the speaker is holding water in his mouth as he speaks. The result is that arbitrary “R” sounds get added to most words, even if they aren’t supposed to be there. To any native Chinese speaker, understanding Beijing hua is no problem (this is completely different from Fuzhou hua, which is only understood by people whose hometowns are less than 2 hours away from Fuzhou), but for a foreigner, especially one who learned Chinese in the South, it can be quite taxing.

I was explaining my difficulties understanding Beijing cab drivers (who generally have low education levels) to my colleague’s uncle, and his explanation was that Beijing cab drivers were actually not Beijing natives. Rather, they were migrant workers from nearby provinces such as Hebei and Henan, and thus their Mandarin was less standard. This explanation would have made a lot of sense, had it not been for the fact that last year I spent six weeks in Beijing conducting research on migrant workers. Every time I rode a cab, I asked the driver where he was from. Every single time (I road cabs at least twice a day), the driver was from Beijing. I had even asked several drivers why unlike other cities in China, nearly all the cabbies in Beijing were actually from Beijing. Several drivers had told that there was a regulation in Beijing, whereby all cab drivers within Beijing city limits must be residents of Beijing. Therefore, it was impossible for anybody from another city to drive a cab in Beijing.

Clearly, I had been bullshitted directly to my face, by somebody who did not know what they were talking about, and had assumed, by default, the white guy didn’t either. The most difficult part of this is that because I am a foreigner, and I am of the lower generation, and I am a guest, rebutting any of this “information” would have caused loss of face and embarrassment to the other party. Thus, I would have been the asshole. When this happens you are forced to sit, listen, nod your head, and pretend you are completely ignorant, as somebody else, who in all likelihood is more ignorant than you, ejaculates their “knowledge” all over the dinner table.

Xinjiang women muslim birka Kashgar Uighur
Do these women really look Jewish?

The most ridiculous case of Chinese macho know-it-all-ness came two summers ago when I was having dinner at Melody’s uncle’s house. I had just returned from a trip to Xinjiang , a vast region in Northwest China which is home to the Uighurs, a Turkic minority group, distant from the Han Chinese in both physical appearance and culture.

Upon hearing of my trip out West, and knowing full-well that I was Jewish, Melody’s uncle began a historical diatribe which began like this.

“Ben, did you know that the Jews have a long history in China?”

“Yeah, when I was in Shanghai, I visited the old synagogues there,” I replied. The Shanghai Jewish community of World War II is the best known of several historical Jewish communities in China. Displaying your own knowledge by answering questions is okay in this situation, so long as you don’t contradict the alpha male, and you give him some room to one-up your insight.

“That is not what I was referring to,” he replied. “The area you just visited also has rich Chinese Jewish History.”

“How so?” This was uncharted territory for me, and if there were in fact Jews in Xinjiang, I had been completely ignorant of it. I was skeptical, but willing to listen.

“You see, the Uighurs in Xinjiang were a group of Jews who many years ago traveled across the desert and made their home in China, where they still practice Judaism today.”

I sat in awe for a moment. Maybe it’s just me, but the fact that while in Xinjiang I visited several different mosques where the holy books were written in Arabic, and the women wore birkas, and they called their god Allah, and they greeted me with A’ salaam aleikum, had me thinking that maybe…just maybe these guys weren’t Jewish. This of course not mentioning the various books and internet resources I had consulted in both English and Chinese which clearly identified the Uighurs as devout followers of ISLAM!

I was offended. It’s one thing to be bullshitted to my face about matters purely pertaining to Chinese history, but to be bullshitted on a matter concerning my own people, especially in a situation where rebuttal was not an option, left me frustrated and angry.

Sensing her uncle’s ignorance and knowing what my natural response would be, Melody tapped me on the leg, and told me to just smile, and act interested. Any other response could threaten her uncle’s claim to intellectual superiority at his dinner table and would be an construed as an unwelcome assault on our host.

This kind of situation is especially frustrating when you have been devoting your time and energy to actively studying the history and culture of China, and you have to listen to somebody else’s ignorant assumptions, and nod in agreement as they lecture you, simply because they are Chinese and/or part of the older generation. The feeling is as if because you are a foreigner you simply cannot understand concepts even as surface as what language people are speaking, or what religion they practice. I should add that this “know-it-all gene” only seems to profess itself only after the particular subject has pro-created. Like most other traits which bother me about Chinese men, this one is virtually non-existent with men who have yet to marry and have children.

Why are Chinese men so eager to assert their intellectual dominance? Why do they continue to spew information even if it is completely inaccurate? And why do they think foreigners are so ignorant that the bullshit will fly right over their heads, not to mention those of the other Chinese people at the table? The floor is open to suggestions. Further disclaimer: I want to reaffirm that not all Chinese men are as such. I write this article however, to bring attention to a trait that I often notice among Chinese married men, but rarely among Chinese women, young men, or westerners.


  1. James China said,

    March 3, 2007 at 5:53 pm

    Disclaimer: 我主张人人平等,男女平等,所以以下这几段没有诬蔑女性的意思。
    当然这个话题的确是个大话题,一下子也说不清楚,就让我再说说由上面这个话题引出的下面这个话题,就是引起中国美女比较不爱中国男人的原因之一的中国男人特性“Chinese know-it-alls”。的确这种人在中国大有人在,就象你在“HAA-LOW!!!”里面讲到的那些鲁莽、自以为是的年轻人一样,这些人不但让你这个老外讨厌,而且也不被我们这些同胞喜欢的。对于那些“know-it-alls”,我觉得他们就是“天上知一半,地下全知道”的“半仙”(“半仙”的字面意思是一半的神仙,他原是指给人看相算命的人标榜自己算命很准,知道天机,而自称自己是“半仙”,再加上他的姓氏,就成了“李半仙”,“林半仙”,“黄半仙”等等,但我觉得这个称谓颇具讽刺,就引用到这里来了。)对于这些“半仙”,对他们的态度,似乎也只能是置之不理了。
    首先,会成为这种人,有他个人的内部因素在起作用,他的性格如果比较爱炫耀,那他就有一定的可能性发展成这种人。其实这种不弄清事实就急于炫耀自己的错误,很多人应该都或多或少发生过,只是频率不同而已。比如我清楚的记得我初中毕业时,一个我对她颇有好感的女同学找我写同学录,要我给他留言,而我并不想写那种很普通的什么“身体健康,学习进步”之类的话,于是我就想到了一次我的大学堂哥有一个相框,上面有一句英文“Good Luck”,我堂哥说那是祝你好运的意思,然后我就想把这个写上去。但是,其实那时我们同学大家英文都很差,Luck这个单词还没学过,而我又把luck记忆成了lunch,在要写之前,为了确认一下,我还特意查了字典,发现lunch这个是午餐的意思,但我想,good lunch字面意思是“好的午餐”,可能引申为“好运”的意思,于是就大大的在留言本上写下了good lunch,在她拿回留言本时,我还特意斜眼留意了一下她看我留言的反映,心里还在想着她应该会问我一下这个英文是什么意思,我已经做好了上她一课的准备。但是什么都没发生,她只是很平常地看了一眼,就把留言本合上了,就像是上面写着“身体健康,学习进步”一样。当时我还为这个女同学没能够欣赏我而耿耿于怀,可是,后来当我自己知道了good lunch除了“好的午餐”意思之外,能引申的意思还是“好的午餐”,这时,我真是万分庆幸当时那个女同学也和我一样无知,否则我肯定是丢光了面子。这是我的一个小例子,而这种例子真是太多了,再比如你上次到我家来吃晚饭,我妹妹也弄出了同样的一个笑话,她平时是一个比较传统朴实的女孩子,有刚认识的客人来我们家,她比较腼腆,经常是躲起来,很少出来和人打招呼。所以,那天晚上你一进我们家门,她就跑出来向你说了声“Nice to meet you too”我当即大跌眼镜,之前真不知道她还会说英文,因为她学习一直都很差。但同时又忍俊不止,人家Ben又没跟你说“Nice to meet you”,你怎么冒出个“Nice to meet you too”。可能她当时发音也很不准,而且气氛也稍有几分尴尬,你没听清她说什么,但反正知道是问好的意思,你也就微笑地点了点头,并没有什么不良反映,但我却把这个当成了她的笑柄,时不时提起。
    中国所谓五千年灿烂文化,垃圾多得不得了,“忠”和“孝”是其中的重要部分。“忠”即是对统治阶级的绝对效忠,服从他们的管理。“孝”是对长辈的尊敬和服从。这样,几千年来的传统已经极大的束缚了中国人的人性自由发展,让中国人形成了盲从权威,埋头苦干的特质。中国并没有真正自我实践,追求真理的传统,而中国几千年的农业社会,经济落后,老百姓也只有关心温饱问题,也没有太多经济条件去追求真理,因此这样就大大产生这些“know-it-alls”的听众土壤。因为别人比较愚昧无知,“know-it-alls”便可以信口开河,而且他们越是说的夸张离奇,好像别人就越尊敬他。作家鲁迅笔下的孔乙己和阿Q,写在清末民国时代,但确是形象的刻画了这些人的面孔,极大的讽刺了中国人。而又是这些培养了那么多“know-it-alls”的普通百姓又天真的相信了共产主义。共产主义本来就是个太过理想化的东西,甚至可以说是个大谎话,名正言顺地说着谎话,老百姓还信得顶礼膜拜。看看中国搞的一些大笑话,文化大革命,是多么的荒唐。以前还经常鼓吹聪明智慧的中国人民把伟大的祖国建设得多么繁荣昌盛,台湾人民生活在水深火热之中,美国人民生活在水深火热之中。以前老师还教我们说,美国的宇航员上到太空,能看到地球上的唯一建筑就是是万里长城,而且这个话题还在老百姓心中广为流传,就是全民大自慰。后来前几年中国宇航员杨利伟在上了太空,顺利返回地面后接受了媒体的采访,有记者好奇地问:“你在太空中看到了万里长城了吗?”杨利伟不假思索地回答:“没有。” 我想那会不会是杨利伟的视力比美国宇航员差吧,老师可是教过我们的,而且援引中华网的报导,http://news.china.com/zh_cn/focus/sz5/gundong/11013922/20031020/11557105.html在由人民教育出版社小学语文室编著的、六年制小学教科书四年级第七册《语文》第20课,题目为《长城砖》的散文中,有以下文字:“一位宇航员神采飞扬地说,‘我在宇宙飞船上,从天外观察我们的星球,用肉眼辨认出两个工程:一个是荷兰的围海大堤,另一个就是中国的万里长城!’”散文的作者为刘厚明。教科书上都写了的,怎么杨利伟会看不到。
    唉,一下写了这么多,不知道是不是新的一个“Chinese know-it-alls”诞生了。

  2. matt United States said,

    March 5, 2007 at 12:23 am


  3. matt United States said,

    March 5, 2007 at 12:26 am

    oops, I was trying to post an image of Harry G. Frankfurt’s book, “On Bullshit.” You can read more about it here: http://www.slate.com/id/2114268/

    Ben, maybe you should do a Chinese translation of the book…

  4. Benjamin Ross China said,

    March 5, 2007 at 2:54 am

    Translated from James’s Chinese

    Disclaimer: In my opinion, everybody is equal, men and women are equal, so what I have written below is not intended to be against women.
    In your article you said, you often see foreign guys with Chinese girls, but you don’t often see Chinese guys with Western girls. We have a saying, “A first class beautiful girl marries an American(or European) soldier, a second class beautiful girl marries a sovereign soldier (Japanese), a third class beautiful girl marries a fake soldier (a foreign born Chinese), a fourth class beautiful girl marries a national soldier (Taiwanese or Hong Kong) and a fifth class beautiful girl marries a common soldier (Chinese mainland)

    This phenomena isn’t really found in other parts of the world, just in the Chinese mainland. The Chinese mainland has well developed areas such as the east coast as well as rather underdeveloped places such as the West, and many women from the West marry men from the East, but very few women from the East marry men from the West.

    Now look at the world outside of China. According to a newspaper from Hong Kong, there are many men in the Chinese mainland, in their forties and fifties, who still can’t find brides. Therefore the “bride market” is flourishing. The result is that many poor brides from Vietnam are now coming to China to marry. This should count as Chinese men marrying foreigners.

    Therefore, I think this reveals that most of the world is centered around men. At very least I can say, China is definitely male-centered. Women are treated as a commodity, and their looks are what is capitalized on. The prettier they are, the higher their price, just as the richer a man is, the more he can afford to spend on a woman. Of course, women are not really commodities who are simply chosen by men without any of their own input. They also can affect this decision. Additionally I should add, the relationship between men and women is not just a simple business relationship. There are many other factors such as personality, beliefs, and way of life.

    This subject definitely is a major issue, and is not easy to explain clearly in short form, so let me start from the top and go to the bottom of this issue. One reason Chinese women might not like Chinese men, might come from the fact that Chinese women don’t really like Chinese men that there really are “Chinese know-it-alls” in China, just like the guys you mentioned who yell “HAA-LOW!!!” at you. These kind of people are not only hated by foreigners, but are also disliked by us Chinese people. I think these kind of people think they are a banxian. The literal meaning of Banxian is somebody who is half god. In the past, some people would help tell other peoples fortunes and explain natures mysteries. If people could show these abilities, then they would be called a banxian. So Mr. Li could become Li Banxian, Mr. Lin could become Lin Banxian, Mr. Huang could become Huang Banxian, etc. However, I think this title is a joke. All you can do is just ignore this kind of people and their attitudes.

    You already mentioned their motives in young blog. No matter how ignorant they are, they want others to think they know a lot, but sometimes they don’t have all their facts together, and they deceive others. As these people’s fellow Chinese brethren, I often wonder why there are so many of these people in China. There are several factors which can cause somebody to turn into this kind of person. If somebody is one who particularly likes to brag, their personality definitely can turn into one. Actually, this kind of person doesn’t realize the fact that they have this problem. A lot of other people will figure out, and they will just disagree with the person, and that’s it. For example, I clearly remember when I graduated middle school, a female student whom I was interested in, asked me to write a message in her yearbook. She wanted me to leave a message, but I didn’t want to write one of those usual messages such as “I wish you good health” or “I hope you do well in school.” And then I remembered my cousin who was in college had a picture frame with an English phrase on top: “Good Luck.” My cousin had told me what it meant and I wanted to write these words to the girl. However, at that time me and my classmates’ English was pretty bad. We hadn’t even learned the word “luck” yet. I had remembered the word as “lunch.” Just to be sure, I checked the dictionary before I wrote the message, and found out what “lunch” really meant. However, I thought that “good lunch” was just a literal meaning, and that this phrase really did mean “good luck,” so I wrote “good lunch” in big letters in her book. As she took the book back, I looked at her and in my mind was hoping she would ask me what these English words meant. It was like I had taught her something, but why had there been no response. She just acted normal and closed her book, as if I had just written “I wish you good luck” or “I hope you do well in school” or something like that. At that time I thought the girl didn’t appreciate me enough. But later, when I figured out that “good lunch” doesn’t have any special meaning other than “good lunch.” I want to emphasized that at that point, I was just as ignorant as the girl. This is just a small example. But even this example is too much. For another example, that time you came to my house to have dinner, and my sister made a joke. Usually she’s a rather simple and traditional girl, and when we have guests in our house, she’s usually pretty shy, and doesn’t come out to greet people. But that night, as soon as you came through the door of my house she ran up to you and said “Nice to meet you too.” I was so surprised. I didn’t think she could speak any English, because she always did so poorly in school. But I couldn’t help from laughing because you hadn’t said “Nice to meet you” to her yet. Also, her pronunciation wasn’t that great, and the words sounded a little awkward. You couldn’t really understand what she said, but you figured it was a greeting, so you smiled and nodded. There definitely were no bad feelings, but I remember this and bring it up with her sometimes.

    These examples above indicate that these so-called “know-it-alls” really exist. In their hearts they really want to flaunt themselves, especially towards people whom they regard as important or whom they are interested in, such as me and that girl I was interested in in middle school, and my sister when she made a foreign friend for the first time in her life. Both of these situations made us want to present out best qualities, and give the other person a deep impression. As for married Chinese men, if they know a lot of information, this is can be their strong point, and they must show this to the people of the younger generation. If you don’t listen, sometimes they will add a sentence “I have crossed more bridges than you have walked roads.” Compared with foreigners, Chinese people are all much more knowledgeable about all things China-related, and this is definitely their strong point. They want to display this, and they want you to listen. Because you’re a foreigner, and especially because you’re a young foreigner, you often get this kind of treatment when you meet older Chinese people.

    But another important problem is, if what they say is true, then that is ok, but if they sometimes make things up, it is because you are an outsider to the society, and they can make up things about ideas and culture (I’m a little unsure on the translation of this sentence, if anybody can help, please comment). China has 5000 years of history, 垃圾多得不得了(any help on this phrase?) Loyalty and filial piety are an important part of Chinese culture, and the ruling class has always honored these and obeyed these traditions. Filial piety means honoring and obeying the older generation. For several thousand years, traditions have bound Chinese people and their free development, and this has made them blindly follow authority, and immerged them in difficulty.
    China has followed these traditions for thousands of years and our agriculture and economy have both fallen behind. Regular people are only concerned with having food and clothing, and without good economic conditions, people don’t think about what is true and what isn’t, and these conditions have given rise to the “know-it-alls.” Because other people are ignorant, “know-it-alls” have more chances to run their mouths, and the more they exaggerate and embellish, the more others will respect them. The writer Wu Xun, wrote about this at the end of the Qing Dynasty, and mocked Chinese people 作家鲁迅笔下的孔乙己和阿 Q,写在清末民国时代,但确是形象的刻画了这些人的面孔,极大的讽刺了中国人。而又是这些培养了那么多“know-it-alls”的普通百姓又天真的相 信了共产主义 (I am a little unsure of this sentence, and don’t want to mistranslate it, for fear of putting words in James mouth which were not intended.)
    Communism is supposed to be idealistic, but this indeed is a big lie and many people worshiped it to the extreme. Look at Chinese history, for example the Cultural Revolution. There were many lies. In the past many Chinese people emphasized that the advice of the wise and elders had made the country prosperous, and that people in Taiwan and the United States lived lives full of suffering. My teacher taught me that when an American astronaut went into outer space and looked down at the earth, the only architecture he could see was the Great Wall. Although this topic is in the hearts of regular Chinese people, it’s really just a way to console ourselves. In later years Chinese astronaut Yang Liwei went into outer space. When he returned and was doing an interview for the media, there was a journalist who curiously asked him “When you were in outer space, did you see the Great Wall?” Yang Liwei pondered (not faking) and answered “nope.” I thought about this…our teacher had taught us the Great Wall could be seen from outer space. Was Yang Liwei’s view different from that of the American astronauts?

    According to the website http: //news.china.com/zh_cn/focus/sz5/gundong/11013922/20031020/11557105.html in a Chinese textbook there is an article that says “an astronaut said “I am in outer space and looking down and I can see two engineered things: One is the levees in Holland and the other is China’s Great Wall. The author of the essay was Liu Houming. Every textbook has this essay. How could Yang liwei have not seen the Wall?

    To sum up, country, system, culture, 我们也没办法准确的讨论出什么来,再回到具体事例吧 (again I need some translation help) You mentioned Melody’s uncle says the Uighur people are Jews, and you want comment on this a bit. Xinjiang is far from us, and regular people are comparably poor, not interested in Xinjiang, and don’t have the time to go to Xinjiang and see for themselves. You could say they could find reading material about Xinjiang, but reading material also says that astronauts can see the Great Wall from outer space. I could also bring up what you wrote about traveling in Mongolia. I have also found unilateralism in textbooks.
    In the past I learned in class that Mongolia is 绿油油 一望无际的大草原 曾经还让人十分向往 (help!), but I didn’t have any money to go see for myself.
    When I saw your pictures with the blue sky and clean air I wanted to go there. Uh-oh, I have written so much. Maybe a new Chinese know-it-all has just been born.

    Translator’s note: I am not a native Chinese speaker nor am I a professional translator, so it is quite possible (make that “probable”) that there are parts of the translation where some of the deeper meaning may have gotten lost. There is also the possibility that in certain places I have botched the translation altogether. If you notice any discrepancies with the translation, please leave a comment below, so that I can make the appropriate changes. 谢谢您的合作,

  5. Josh China said,

    March 6, 2007 at 5:30 pm

    Sounds like the uncle just made a mistake. Accidentally mistaking one Abrahamic religion for another isn’t so hard to do, is it? Obviously, I wasn’t there, but the situation as described doesn’t rise to a level I’d consider “bullshitting”.

    By the way, do you know about the SPHAs? Jews were once considered not only athletic, but naturally superior in basketball.

    Nice site.

  6. Benjamin Ross China said,

    March 6, 2007 at 7:44 pm

    I see where you are coming from, but I would still disagree with you on your first point. I would equate confusing Jews and Muslims along the lines of confusing the Chinese and Japanese. While there are certainly major differences between these two “ethnic groups” you could make the argument that they both look similar physically, use similar writing systems, eat rice, and have a considerable amount of followers of Buddhism. While I think an honest mistake is possible, you aren’t going to get very far with Chinese people if you accidentally mistake them for Japanese. Also, this wasn’t the first time I have caught my girlfriend’s uncle giving me questionable information…this I probably should have mentioned in the article.

    As for the SPHA’s, I have never heard of them. Care to elaborate? I know that a few years ago there was a red-headed Yeshiva basketball star who was one of the top high school prospects in the country, but refused to play on Saturday. (Anybody know what became of that guy?). But other than him and Sandy Koufax, I didn’t think we had much going for us in the field of athletics.

  7. James China said,

    March 7, 2007 at 7:36 pm

    1.(这个现象其实不用把范围放到全世界那么大,就在中国大陆自己就是一个小世界,This phenomena isn’t really found in other parts of the world, just in the Chinese mainland.)
    2.(就让我再说说由上面这个话题引出的下面这个话题,so let me start from the top and go to the bottom of this issue. )我的意思是:就让我再说说下面这个话题,下面这个话题是由上面这个话题引出的。
    3.(自欺欺人 they decevie others)是成语,意思是:用自己都无法置信的话和手法来欺骗别人,同时又欺骗自己。deceive oneself as well as others.
    4.(If somebody is one who particularly likes to brag, their personality definitely can turn into one.)definitely应该要改成probably的意思。
    5.(其实这种不弄清事实就急于炫耀自己的错误,很多人应该都或多或少发生过,只是频率不同而已。Actually, this kind of person doesn’t realize the fact that they have this problem. A lot of other people will figure out, and they will just disagree with the person, and that’s it.)这句话意思是:其实,不弄清事实就急于炫耀自己,这种错误,很多人都会犯这种错误,只是有的人犯错误的次数多,有的人犯错误的次数少。
    6.(She wanted me to leave a message, but I didn’t want to write one of those usual messages such as “I wish you good health” or “I hope you do well in school.”)这一句我觉得应该强调一下write in Chinese,虽然原文没有“用中文写”,但加了write in Chinese,意思比较清楚。
    7.(我已经做好了上她一课的准备。但是什么都没发生,她只是很平常地看了一眼,It was like I had taught her something, but why had there been no response. She just acted normal and closed her book,)这句意思是:我已经做好准备,要教她Goog Lunch的意思。但是,什么都没发生,她只是很平常地看了一眼。
    8.(这时,我真是万分庆幸当时那个女同学也和我一样无知,否则我肯定是丢光了面子。I want to emphasized that at that point, I was just as ignorant as the girl. )这句意思是:这时,我非常庆幸felicitate,当时那个女同学也和我一样,十分无知,否则我肯定是很没面子。
    9.(但反正知道是问好的意思,你也就微笑地点了点头,并没有什么不良反映,but you figured it was a greeting, so you smiled and nodded. There definitely were no bad feelings,)这句意思是:但你知道这是问好的意思,你也就微笑地点了点头,你并没有什么感到奇怪。
    10.(但是往往他们又总是会胡说,这个,我想主要是因为外在的社会体制,思想文化所决定的。but if they sometimes make things up, it is because you are an outsider to the society, and they can make up things about ideas and culture .)这句意思是:但是,经常情况是,他们总是会乱说,造成他们这种行为的原因,我想主要是社会体制,思想文化,这两个原因是外部的原因,不是内部的原因,也就是说,不是他们自己愿意乱说,而是有其它的原因。
    11.(中国所谓五千年灿烂文化,垃圾多得不得了,)这句意思是:中国so-called 5000年很优秀的文化,其实不好的东西很多。垃圾比喻不好的东西。
    12.(“忠”即是对统治阶级的绝对效忠,服从他们的管理。and the ruling class has always honored these and obeyed these traditions. )这句意思是:“忠”means regular people must绝对效忠统治阶级,regular people must服从统治阶级的管理。
    13.(中国并没有真正自我实践,追求真理的传统,而中国几千年的农业社会,经济落后,China has followed these traditions for thousands of years and our agriculture and economy have both fallen behind.)这句意思是:中国并没有这个传统:自我实践,追求真理。而中国几千年都是农业社会,农业社会相对于工业社会,经济落后。
    15.(以前还经常鼓吹聪明智慧的中国人民把伟大的祖国建设得多么繁荣昌盛,In the past many Chinese people emphasized that the advice of the wise and elders had made the country prosperous, )这句意思是:以前,中国人经常说自己聪明智慧,把伟大的祖国建设得多么繁荣昌盛。
    16.(不假思索地回答pondered (not faking) and answered)不假思索,是成语,意思是:没有经过思考,很自然地就说出来。
    18.(说Melody的伯伯把维吾尔族说成是犹太人,还有一点我要补充一下。You mentioned Melody’s uncle says the Uighur people are Jews, and you want comment on this a bit.)意思是:You mentioned Melody’s uncle says the Uighur people are Jews, 他会犯这种错误的原因,除了上面说的原因以外,我还有一点要补充一下。

  8. Xiao Zhu China said,

    March 17, 2007 at 8:57 pm

    This is a nice post and I can appreciate what you are saying. I particularly dislike the finger waving and yelling that Chinese alpha males tend to do when they are making a point.

  9. Pandapassport China said,

    March 18, 2007 at 7:59 am

    Yeah, that finger wagging takes the cake. That’s insane.

    I find that this kind of know-it-all attitude is often accompanied by fake italian black leather man-purses, tucked under the speaker’s arm.

  10. The Humanaught China said,

    March 18, 2007 at 12:13 pm

    I’d say that alpha males are the same in every country. I can’t count the number of times I’ve sat through bullshit sessions of some wannabe-know-it-all back home.

    That said, Chinese Confucius culture certainly does promote it. Sigh.

    Nice blog by the way, looking forward to reading more.

  11. LONNIE B HODGE China said,

    March 19, 2007 at 12:11 am

    One of my colleagues, from America, was told after several answers to questions from a Chinese woman, who obviously had the “right” answes in advance, that he should really study more about his country….


    Nice post…


  12. Danielle Germany said,

    March 21, 2007 at 3:16 am

    Ben????? Was it YOU who translated all those complecated Chinese words and phrases????? I was like ???!!!!!!!!! I always thought that your girlfriend or other friends helped you. So i was totally wrong?? That IS wayyyyyy so incredible!!! It is like a miracle! How did you make it? I mean, how could you master such a “subtle” language in so short time???

  13. Jeremy China said,

    May 7, 2007 at 6:58 pm

    i never notice that there is such kinda alpha male phenomenon here in china. but anyway, fabulous work,ben.

  14. GangstaCHN China said,

    May 16, 2007 at 10:10 pm

    Hi Ben,

    I just love reading your entries and I got to know your blog through China Law Blog.

    As a Chinese, I agree with James that it’s because of some historial reasons that make a lot of men know-it-alls. Particulary the hierrachy of old dynasties(which is almost non-existent in the US) and the inherent belief from the Confucious to respect authorities and bandits(or prend-to-bes).

    I’m sure I’ll post more replies. I like the sense of satirical humor in your writing.

  15. 匿名 United States said,

    May 18, 2007 at 2:11 am




    还不是偏见,没有面子而已。 鄙视你! 哈哈

  16. Shanghai Roundeye China said,

    May 28, 2007 at 9:42 pm

    I just started reading this blog after a shanghaiist.com made a link to here and I find myself going through all the back entries because it is so good. Ben, I read your stuff and laugh because I see it all the time in Shanghai, but you write it so well. Anyways, we have a guy at work who does the stock and loves nothing more than to go around and tell the younger workers what they are doing wrong with thier lives. My Chinese boss just says, “Lee is just Old Style guy.”

    The alpha male situation is at its best when there is a car or bike accident and several gawkers gather to smoke, point, and give unsolicited advice to the people involved. As my roomate is fond of saying, “Everyone in this country is an expert.”

  17. Therese Hong Kong said,

    May 31, 2007 at 10:25 am

    匿名: It’s difficult for him to say, as he’s not a woman. (But I agree with you. Married men and unmarried men are two different topics.)

    Disclaimer: I am female, mixed, raised in the US and Europe.

    I can say that I tend to enjoy Chinese men to a point. Most of my friends in China are male. This is mainly because a) I lived most of my time in Shanghai, where women enjoy the special power of being utterly annoying and frou-frou girly (I exaggerate, of course, but dia and zuo are beloved by the average Shanghainese woman), and b) I get along with men better in general.

    When dating, however, the main problem is finding a man who a) will not cheat on his girlfriend, and b) will not overly compare his girlfriend to other women and try to “suggest” little changes to make her “better” — especially physically. It is true, cheating is very common elsewhere as well. However, I think that there is a tendancy here for men to cheat more easily and openly than where I was raised. And of course the man would like to help his girlfriend be better, because he wants her to be as wonderful and beautiful as possible, but perhaps the men I and my other foreign-born friends have known or dated have been too strong approaching said subject.

    Other things are minor — general habits are different (grooming, etc.), styles, etc. — and can be ignored. The only thing that I cannot overcome is men who smoke, which is far too common in China (and now in HK) for me to ignore.

    That being said, I know many foreign-born women (of various races, mixed and non) who have dated Chinese men and have enjoyed it. Two of my former classmates, an American Midwestern woman, and a Korean woman, are both in quite long relationships with their respective boyfriends, both Chinese and both from the Northeast and are very happy.

  18. Li Jingwei Australia said,

    May 31, 2007 at 2:55 pm

    The first part is nice. Yes, when i am surrounding with questions about “culture” and stuff especially concerned with “4th June”, “culture revolution” i may seemed too “lecturor” to foreigners. I did my own rearch based on these confusing issues but still i got the different conclusion with foreigners who “seemed” to know better about China than i am.

    I think what had you been through can be answered in this way. —–Foreigners think Chinese are naive and Chinese think foreigners navie.

    Chinese are not all “know-it-alls”, foerigners prefer conclusions based on research, well, how many samples fall in your research range has made you this conclusion.

  19. Li Jingwei Australia said,

    May 31, 2007 at 3:04 pm

    Oh, shite, its so automatic to get one’s position .


  20. danjo China said,

    June 5, 2007 at 9:39 pm

    I live in Gansu province, and I haven’t noticed the “know-it-all” phenomenon, though I assume and have been told numerous times that there are big differences between people in this part of China compared to the East and South. I have however definitely noticed that Chinese males turn foreigners off much more often than Chinese females. I have met a number of nice guys that I am friends with but most males I run into seem most interested in drinking, smoking, and playing loud finger games. Cultural or intellectual conversations are hard to come by, though this is due in no small part to my limited language skills. Chinese girls on the other hand are much more pleasant to be around, and it doesn’t have much to do with romantic interest, which in a traditional town is complicated and close to impossible to pursue unless you have marriage in mind. I do however know one exception to the usual dating scenario – a female foreign teacher I know is quite interested in Chinese men and has been quite, shall we say, successful with them.

    I’m reminded of an incident when I was at a Tibetan temple in Qinghai – a man behind us on our tour bus asked his companion if the prayer flags were in English or Tibetan. Tibetan (which was covering the flags) does not in the slightest resemble English. The lack of knowledge within China of China’s minorites is sometimes disappointing, especially with the frequent references to the 56 minorities and their “colorful” cultures. I would say thinking that the Uyghur are Jewish (they are by no means obscure and even before coming I had known they were Muslim) is on par with an American thinking Native Americans are Buddhists, and that would sound pretty ridiculous. I’m positive there are plenty of cultured, well-read Chinese men, but I wish I could meet more of them.

  21. Jet So China said,

    June 12, 2007 at 3:09 pm


    This is a very enjoyable & enlightening blog! However, I have a few comments on your friend’s “know-it-all” uncle:

    (1) He commented that most Beijing taxi drivers were migrant workers from Henan and Hebei. Your discreet observations and inquries informed you that (a) the cabbie claimed s/he was from Beijing and (b) several of them quoted a local regulation whereby all cab drivers within Beijing city limits must be residents of Beijing. To be fair, I could reasonably pose that (a) the cabbies were lying to cover their identities (albeit their lack of Beijing Hua and inability to locate places outside of the popular tourist spots could prove the case!) and (b) local regulations could always made “flexible” for entrepenerial locals – for instance, the actual owner of the taxi licenses is a Beijingren but s/he rents her/his cabs to migrant workers in need. As the late Chairman once said, “Fish can’t live in pure water …”

    (2) The famous sinologist, Perry Link, also encountered the same mental obstacles and ingrained pride with his male Chinese counterparts during a Princeton conference. His book, “Evening Chats in Beijing”, describes his casual & friendly meetings with several mainland Chinese scholars and scientists. When he was challenged on an interpretation of a certain arachaic Yuan dynasty poem by a typical alpha male who had a doctorate in the Hard Sciences, Dr. Link merrily quoted back with relative ease and posed another obscure poem question of his. That’s when alpha males suddenly bit their lips, turned beet red, grumbled something unintelligible and hurried off somewhere else leaving him to think — WTF? Sometimes, I’m amazed why must we Chinese should readily know about EVERYTHING under the sun about our history, culture, language, etc.?

  22. Don Allison United States said,

    July 30, 2007 at 2:58 am

    Pure self-aggrandizement again, Ben. The only thing I took from this thread was “how much smarter” you were than your Chinese hosts. One can only hope that your will mature in time. However, your arrogance surfaces too easily and often. I’m afraid once a braggart with insecurities always…you get the drift. Sigh.

  23. Branden New Zealand said,

    September 29, 2007 at 11:38 am

    hi man, i just randomly found your blog here, your writings r funny, i like it.

    well, ppl of the old generation didn’t have much education thx to MooseDung, so spare them if they affended you.

    But sometimes, their ignorance causes serious troubles. like u kno in china, ppl in the food industry like branding their food with nationalities to creat some kind of exoticness, eg ‘french’, ‘italian’ ‘kosher’ etc., there was once, a dude branded his pork “islamic pork清真猪肉” and freaked out all the Hui-ppl, and those muslims were like trying to jihad, and that forced the police to shoot them.

    btw, im a chinese living in NZ.

  24. Liv Australia said,

    October 30, 2007 at 7:14 pm


    Chinese women are prefered over Chinese men because:
    1. they cook
    2. they clean
    3 they (or their parents) look after the children.
    4. they’re pretty.

    however they:
    1. prowl for men when they’re single, but then once they have you they become wicked and control all the money etc. (which is probably ok, since Chinese men like to whore with their money)

    Chinese men:
    1.Like to go whoring for fun.
    2. Are dishonest
    3.smoke, gamble.

    I hardly exhausted this list, and of course these are all generalisations. However I’ve lived in China and have decided that Chinese women are way above Chinese men for these reasons.

  25. Joe United States said,

    November 24, 2007 at 1:53 pm

    In the old days in Japan, people used to say, don’t pick that orange, it’s still blue! Of course, they mean green, but blue meant green back then. So maybe Jew meant Muslim in China back then too…but I agree, problem is if you catch a Westerner bullshitting, he will laugh or say, u got me, but an Eastern person will fight till the death to defend what he made up ten seconds ago!

  26. ispewbull China said,

    August 16, 2008 at 2:52 pm

    I think it is just gossiping of another form where a sharing of some unknown/unconfirmed knowledge serves as a foundation for male bonding

    as for Chinese/Foreigner pairs, it has to do with social status
    given the choice, most women (chinese or not) naturally chooses the foreigner even if all else are equal, simply because male europeans are perceived to be of a higher status than chinese males

    and given that most people are not equal, with foreigners generally making more money, have foreign citizenship and so on and it is simple why chinese women flocks to foreign men

  27. James R China said,

    August 21, 2008 at 1:25 am

    Ben, are you thinking of Tamir Goodman, aka the “Jewish Jordan”? I remember he went to Towson and played a season or two there in the early 00s, but never heard much about him other than how much potential he supposedly had coming out of high school. That, and the fact that he was orthodox and didn’t play on the Sabbath.

  28. Benjamin Ross China said,

    August 21, 2008 at 12:08 pm

    @James R.

    Yeah, that’s the guy. I just wiklpediaed him and it turns out he didn’t really live up to the hype. Looks like he played college ball at Towson State and then professional in Israel for a while, but never made it close to the NBA.

  29. Chinamatt United States said,

    October 7, 2009 at 9:24 am

    Well, he was right about the history of Jews in China via the Silk Road–just not about Judaism among the Uyghurs. The only Chinese-Jewish community that I’ve heard of is in Kaifeng. Israel has recognized their heritage and has made an effort to educate some of the people in Hebrew and offer immigrant visas.

    About the Chinese men-foreign women relationship…I did know a few in China, but I also didn’t meet too many foreign women who came to China without a husband/boyfriend.

    And for the record, we speak English just fine here in Jersey.

  30. Eva Czech Republic said,

    November 20, 2012 at 6:35 am

    I actually live under the impression that there indeed are many non-Beijing taxi drivers in Beijing. That’s why they put 儿话 everywhere – because they want to sound Beijing-like. It would then be probable that they would say they’re from Beijing upon being asked by you. It’s true I’ve never heard of the regulation you mention but unless you have it from some official sources I would be skeptical.

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