For many, 2019 has been a tough year. However, in the internet community, it’s always about finding the fun amidst the dullness of everyday life. Certain words or phrases from hit movies, video platforms and online influencers become buzzwords and started spreading across Chinese social media platforms. By understanding these words and where they come from, we can take a peak into this year’s Chinese trends.
1. 我命由我不由天 (Wǒ mìng yóu wǒ bù yóu tiān)
My destiny isn’t written in the stars, but held in my hands. /I am the master of my own destiny.
This particular line is taken from one of the most popular animations this year Nezha. In the movie, Nezha was born with a demon spirit, cursed by his master to be punished by the lightning from heaven at the age of three. With a rebellious nature, Nezha didn’t surrender to his fate. Instead, he fought against the heavenly curse and called out the renowned line, “My destiny isn’t written in the stars, but held in my hands.”
Actually, if we look into traditional Chinese classics, the line wasn’t coined in the 2019 animation. It originated from the famous Taoist scholar Ge Hong from Eastern Jin dynasty. It’s an early manifestation of Taoist tenets. A man’s fate is held in his own hands.
Designers: “My destiny isn’t written by my client, but held in my hands.”
Programmers: “My destiny isn’t written by project managers, but held in my hands.”
Students during their thesis’ dissertation: “My destiny isn’t written by the professor, but held in my hands.”
2. 996 ICU
996 working culture of Chinese tech companies
For young working professionals in China, 996 has been on everyone’s lips in 2019. The 996 working culture, popular among the tech community, refers to going to work at 9 in the morning and finishing your work at 9 at night. Instead of having a full weekend, many tech company employees work 6 days a week. Ironically, CEOs don’t necessarily feel bad about it at all. Jack Ma argued about 996 being a blessing. “If you found your passion in life, there is no such thing as 996; if you don’t love your job, every minute is torture.” Meanwhile, Richard Liu is busy telling people his heroic story of his early career, about how he managed to sleep at his workplace, waking up at midnight to complete a project, and therefore his “fellow brothers” shouldn’t complain about their tough working schedule.
Later this year, Li Hongyuan, one of Huawei’s former employees was jailed for 251 days after demanding that the company pay him a contract termination compensation of 300,000 yuan for over a decade of service.. Considering this case, 996 might not be the worst thing that can happen to a tech firm employee.
-Are you 996 now?
-996 my ass, we are 007. (working til midnight seven days a week)
3. 我酸了 (Wǒ suān le)
I get sour/I’m envious!
To get sour means to be envious. It is mostly used as a self-mockery expression, referring to a sense of envy towards other people’s appearance, social status, from material life to love life. It is similar to being green-eyed in English, but it doesn’t necessarily carry a malicious feeling. Chinese netizens use it to complain about all sorts of good things happening in other people’s lives.
My colleague’s boyfriend was born with a silver spoon. I get sour.
My best friend is getting married next year. I get sour.
4. AWSL（啊我死了/A wǒ sǐ le）
I’m dying/ This is killing me!
“AWSL” was popular on Chinese ACG video platform Bilibili, and became the comment of the year on the platform after it appeared more than 3.3 million times between Dec. 1, 2018 and Nov. 30, 2019.
The expression is an emotional phrase expressing one’s affection, amusement and excitement when watching a Bilibili video. “AWSL” is similar to the colloquial English expression “This is killing me” or “I’m dying,” phrases that are often said when something, especially on social media, is found to be extremely cute, exciting, or funny.
5. 太难了 (Tài nán le)
The popular words came from an internet influencer Brother Giao on the short video platform Kuaishou, who finishes every video with “Tài nán le. I feel so pressured lately.” It expresses a sense of frustration and helplessness towards the pressure of life, which can be used in almost any circumstance.
No annual bonus this year. It’s too hard.
Our company is having the 996 working schedule. It’s too hard.
6. 你是什么垃圾? (Nǐ shì shénme lājī?)
What kind of waste are you?
It came from Shanghai’s waste classification policy that was implemented this year. Starting from July 1, regulations concerning classification of household waste in Shanghai came into effect, stating that all the household waste should be divided into four categories including kitchen waste, recyclable waste, hazardous waste (batteries, etc) and other waste.
Shanghai was the first city in China to ever proceed with waste classification policy, and the guidelines confused many citizens. Usually there’s a senior volunteer lady guarding the huge community trash bin, and those who come up to throw away their trash are all asked the same question “Nǐ shì shénme lājī?” which in this context refers to “what kind of waste are you holding?” However, taking the phrase out of context it literally means “What kind of waste are you?”. The pun has then been widely spread across the nation. On the one hand, it reflects the hardships for ordinary citizens trying to proceed waste classification accordingly. On the other hand, it is a phrase mocking all the hardworking “corporate slaves”, with a hilarious implication. “We are trash, and that we need to be classified.”
7. 车厘子自由 (Chē lí zǐ zì yóu)
Fruits are getting ever more expensive in China. Take cherries for example. The high quality ones imported from New Zealand are around 320 yuan/kg. Even the most ordinary cherries cost around 60 to 80 yuan per kilo. Therefore the phrase “cherry freedom” was invented because of the price going up day by day. Only a lucky few can enjoy such a luxurious privilege. Later, the saying expanded and began to include other types of freedoms.
An article titled “26-year-old, earning over 10,000 yuan a month, unable to afford cherries” went viral. It mentions a list of 15 stages of financial freedom for girls. The most basic is the spicy bar freedom (a kind of snack), then comes the milk tea freedom, video app membership freedom, food delivery freedom, coffee freedom, cherry freedom, lipstick freedom, clothes freedom, etc.
I don’t need cherry freedom, I want Louis Vuitton freedom.
PUA, pick-up artists, is not a Chinese term. But recently, the abbreviation spread across Chinese social media due to a new incident. A girl studying at China’s most prestigious university Peking University committed suicide after being bullied and manipulated by her boyfriend. The boyfriend, who was seemingly successful and put together, asked the girl to kill herself to prove her love for him.
PUA refers to a group of people (usually men) self-identifying as dating professionals. They usually have abundant theories on how to pick up women. Originating in the west, pick up techniques have spread to cities in China, helping the so-called “losers” to regain their confidence through pursuing girls. The goal is not to find love, but rather to cheat girls into having sex only to abandon them afterwards. In China, however, PUA has taken on an even more extreme meaning of manipulating girls into doing crazy things, even committing suicide.
9. 道路千万条，安全第一条。行车不规范，亲人两行泪。(Dàolù qiān wàn tiáo, ānquán dì yī tiáo. Xíngchē bù guīfàn, qīnrén liǎng háng lèi.)
Roads are countless; Safety comes first; Unregulated driving; Loved ones end up in tears.
This slogan of safe driving is taken from the Chinese hit sci-fi movie, Wandering Earth, that came out in 2019. The line appeared several times throughout the movie, and had a brainwashing effect. After the movie was released, the line was applied in real life, projected onto LED screens by the road in some Chinese cities. Some say it has to do with an anecdote of the leading actor of the film Wu Jing, who was fined 1800 yuan and taken into custody for ten days due to drunk driving in 2006. Netizens then created tons of derivatives based on the line.
Fun things are countless, homework comes first; wasted winter vacation; school time end up in tears.
Ways to get wealthy are countless, going to work comes first; forgotten alarm clock; Full attendance end up in tears.
Ways to stay healthy are countless; Sound sleep comes first.
10. 我不要你觉得，我要我觉得 (Wǒ bùyào nǐ juéde, wǒ yào wǒ juéde)
I don’t need what you think, I need what I think.
The line originated from Chinese celebrity Huang Xiaoming in a popular variety show called Chinese Restaurant. The show features a group of Chinese actors and actresses opening up a restaurant in Italy. In the show, his fellow co-worker accidentally cut her fingers. He insisted that she goes to the hospital, but she replied “I think some ointment would do.” To which Huang said stubbornly, “I don’t need what you think, I need what I think.” After that, the actor became a laughing stock among many for being so bossy, and his line went viral.
-I can’t take this anymore Stacy, I think we are done.
-I don’t need what you think, I need what I think.