Beijing Scene, Volume 5, Issue 12, June 11 - 17


Chinese people have a rule that the origin of your 祖先 zuxian (ancestors) determines where you are from. If your grandfather was a 广东人 Guangdong Ren (Cantonese), then you are a Guangdong Ren. Even if you were born and raised in 四川 Sichuan and your father was born and raised in 四川 Sichuan, you're still a 广东人Guangdong Ren.

What this revelation means to most people born and bred in Beijing - people who proudly fancy themselves 北京人 Beijing Ren (Pekingese) - is that the only real 北京人 Beijing Renwas 北京猿人 Beijing Yuan Ren (Peking Man), who lived in Beijing 500,000 years ago. For if you were to trace the ancestry of Beijing's inhabitants you'd find that Beijing is in fact a veritable "hot pot" of Northern Chinese peoples. But regardless of all that, there are nonetheless countless generalizations that can be made about 北京人 Beijing Ren. For example, all Beijing people love to drink! And there is no drinking age in China, so even the kids drink. As a matter of fact, 北京人 Beijing Renhave a saying: 冷酒伤胃 lengjiu shangwei (cold booze harms the stomach) 热酒伤肝 rejiu shanggan (hot booze hurts the liver) 无酒伤心 wujiu shangxin (no booze breaks your heart).

Seasoned veterans of the Long March, like the Comrade, drink 二锅头 erguotou (more affectionately) 老二 laoer (not to be confused with the other 老二 laoer, which is slang for a man's private parts). The Shanghainese call 二锅头 erguotou (little explosive). Americans call it moonshine.

Beijing women are more civilized about drinking alcohol than men. While Beijing women drink wine and smoke cigarettes to look sophisticated, the guys drink for drinking's sake - right from the bottle - whether it's 老二 laoer or a nice, warm 啤酒 pijiu (beer). Beer, by the way, happens to be the one beverage that is more 酷 ku (cool) than even Coke, and is the choice of at least three generations of 北京人 Beijing Ren!

Beijing Renare experts at the fine art of 劝酒 quanjiu (forcing someone to drink against their will). They have many 手段 shouduan (means; tricks) to get you to drink. At the dinner table, they will 以身作则 yishen zuoze (start the toasting), and 干一杯 ganyibei (lit. dry a glass) in your honor, making it impossible for you not to 干一杯 ganyibei in return. Depending on the situation, they will employ a myriad of ruses to get you to drink, such as 花言巧语 huayanqiaoyu (coercion or trickery), 甜言蜜语 tianyanmiyu (flattery), 豪言壮语 haoyanzhuangyu (boasting), 不言不语 buyanbuyu (keeping silent) and even 自言自语 ziyanziyu (talking to themselves).

Besides drinking, 北京人 Beijing Ren are also very 讲究 jiangjiu (particular) about the ancient Chinese practice known as 起名字 qimingzi (naming children). As a matter of fact, they sometimes start to 翻字典 fanzidian (flip through the dictionary) to find the right characters for their kid's name even before the child has been conceived!

The fact that many Beijing parents are giving their kids names that sound like foreigners' names simply shocks and mortifies the Comrade. For example: 玛丽 Ma Li Mary), 保罗Bao Luo (Paul), 约翰 Yue Han (John) and 大山 Da Shan (Mark Rowswell). This practice is a 坏毛病 huaimobing (bad habit) and it hurts the nationalistic pride of patriotic Chinese. What happened to names like 建国 jianguo (Build the Country) and 建军 jianjun (Build the Army), 爱民 aimin (Love the People) and 爱华 aihua (Love China), and 国庆 guoqing (National Day)?

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