Chengdu Bars and the People You’ll Meet There

I found this funny little post on Weibo earlier, which lists several bars and clubs in Chengdu along with the common patrons to be found at those clubs. The titles used for the clientele are great for people trying to stay up on the latest Chinese slang, and for those with an interest in contemporary Chinese culture and the Chengdu bar scene, the post has something for you too.

So with no further ado, here is the list:

1) 88, Muse, Babi, Suhe (苏荷)

失足青年 (shīzú qīngnián) Problem Kids. Or better put, kids slipping off the edge onto the sticky floors of the 88 dance club.

在校大学生 (zài xiào dàxuéshēng) College Kids. Straight out of high school, still getting milk money from moms and spending it on fake Chivas.

找刺激白领 (zhǎo cìjī báilǐng) White Collar Stiffs Looking for Thrills. Regular guys trying to pull a college girl, a problem girl, or a working girl … in that order.

time to … Freak Out!

2) 井介Jǐngjiè, 彩虹 Cǎihóng (Rainbow), 隔壁子酒吧 Gébìzi Jiǔbā (The Next Door Bar)

30岁以上中年哥老关 (30 suì yǐshàng zhōng nián gē lǎo guān) 30-something bears. These guys aren’t bad, just older dudes without all of the issues that plague the white collars and the angry youth. They can look their Cultural Revolutionary past in the eye and not flinch.

苦逼白领 (Kǔ bī báilǐng) Long-Suffering White Collar Stiffs. These guys were once bears, but they got sucked into the Chinese Dream. Now they turn off their cellies at night and go home with heads hung low.

I have never been to these places, so I have nothing to say about the venues. Sound like your local dive bars in the US.

3)  美高美 (MGM),零点酒吧 (Lingdian)

三线城市短腿矮撮穷 (Sānxiàn chéngshì duǎn tuǐ ǎi cuō qióng) Short-legged, ugly dudes from third-tier cities. My favorite dipshit. They can actually be fun, as long as you don’t step on their oh-so-delicate egos.

Local老超哥 (Lǎo chāo gē) local gangster dudes. Just a long pinky-fingernail away from being short-legged, ugly dudes from the campos.

MGM and Lingdian are “low-class” clubs and discos with ratty deco, old music, tired girls and the above listed men. Author of the post nailed it with this one.

4) Lan Kwai Fong

白富美 (bái fùměi) white-skinned, rich and beautiful

高富帅 (gāofù shuài) tall, rich and handsome

The two groups above are the creme de la creme of Chinese nightlife society. It’s a step up, if you ask me, from the fat, balding guys and their entourages that once ruled the scene.

Angry young men on their way to Little Bar

5) 白夜 Báiyè (White Nights),宽债巷子 (Kuan Zhai Alleys), 锦里 (Jinli Street)

行为艺术诗人 (xíngwéi yìshù shīrén) Performance artists

文艺装逼诗人 (wényì zhuāng bī shīrén) Wannabe Artists

摄影爱好者 (shèyǐng àihào zhě) Amateur filmmakers

不明真相游客 (bùmíng zhēnxiàng yóukè) Clueless tourists

Not too sure if I agree with this one, especially since Jin Li  Street is stacked with all kinds of locals, but the idea is to call out all those hacks that wander the so-called cultural areas peddling whatever it is they have to peddle. All of these guys get my sympathy because if I look myself in the mirror and speak truth, I find the word “wanna … ” coming out slow and inexorable.

6) 小酒馆 (Little Bar)

摇滚装逼范儿 (yáogǔn zhuāng bī fàn er) Wannabe Rockers

文艺装逼范儿 (wényì zhuāng bī fàn er) Wannabe Artists

无处宣泄青春痘少男 (wú chù xuānxiè qīngchūn dòu shàonán) Passionate pimple-faced young men

Again, have to disagree on this one. Sure, wannabes and angry young men do roll up on the Little Bar now and then, but it seems like the author of the post is a youngster who rarely rocks out at this bar.

7) 麻糖 (Hemp House),家吧 (Jah Bar),Lantown

飞行员 (fēixíngyuán) Pilots. Cuz they stay high.

破产嬉皮士 (pòchǎn xīpíshì) Broke Hippies. Trying to stay high.

炼丹道士 (liàndān dàoshi) Taoist Alchemists. Getting everybody high.

禅锈者 (chán xiù zhě) Zen Masters. Looking down from on high.

苦行僧 (kǔxíngsēng) Starving Masters. Looking up from down low.

边缘青年 (biānyuán qīngnián) Cutting Edge Youth. Watching everyone be high.

仙人扳板 (xiānrén bān bǎn) … this is a Sichuanese insult referring to the plaque above the mantle in many Chinese homes that houses the picture of one or many ancestors. 仙人扳板 is that plaque and it is common to threaten to perform offensive acts upon this plaque. Nowadays, the threat is implied and people just say “your ancestor’s plaque!” and then it’s on.

If you’re lucky, we’ll let you kick it with us.

This list obviously refers to the mystic herbal remedies associated with the above listed establishments. I myself fall into every category save cutting edge youth. I lost both my edge and my youth in the unisex stalls of the MGM.

Eight) Paname, Jellyfish

ABC Chinese born abroad.

国外讨口子 (guówài tǎo kǒuzi) Broke Foreigners

35岁以上英语鸡 (35 suì yǐshàng yīngyǔ jī) Over 35 English-language prostitutes. Does “me love you short time?” qualify as “English-language”?

英语专业学生 (yīngyǔ zhuānyè xuéshēng) English Majors. Awwww.

This list might reflect the recent (and enduring) local disdain for a certain type of liaison, but I can’t strongly disagree with the basic premise. There were many other types of people at the Paname before Madame X left the building. The description back then might have been more interesting than now …  C’est la vie.

“Where all the white men at?”

9) Xiong Mao

弄潮儿 (nòngcháo’ér) Hipsters

黑木耳 (hēi mù’ěr) Black Tree Fungus … refers to a vagina that has been penetrated so often, the labia resemble … black tree fungus. (See “wizard sleeves“)

吊丝 (diào sī) Hobos … all the cool kids now refer to themselves as hobos. Is this a global phenomenon?

嘻哈装逼少年 (xī hā zhuāng bī shàonián) Wannabe Hip-hoppers

海龟 (hǎiguī) Chinese Students Returned from Abroad

国际友人 (guójì yǒurén) Friendly Foreigners, like my man Big Mountain.

战士 (zhànshì) Warriors

GLBT Gay, Lesbian and Bi. The author’s list did not refer to transgender, but I figure any quick inspection of a Xiong Mao audience’s bits will reveal irregularities.

外星生物 (wài xīng shēngwù) Aliens

So now we know that the author of the post is a fan of Xiong Mao and there is nothing wrong with that. I might have to mosey on over there one of these weekends and get freaky with an alien. half alligator half shark-lady if you please …

Addendum

Some of you may have noticed a few omissions in this list. The Bookworm, The Leg and Whistle and The Shamrock are all absent. Perhaps some of you would like to take up the torch and write a few lines about the clientele of these fine venues in the comment section? Also, feel free to dispute, improve on and/or support this young man’s descriptions of the few nightlife options we have here in Chengdu. Is there a group of people out there that we missed? Are you lonely? Is your establishment not on any list, yet yearning to be recognized? Please step forward and be heard. ChengduLiving welcomes all.

Featured image courtesy of Her Space Holiday

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About Sascha

Sascha Matuszak is a writer and commentator on domestic and international culture and politics. He's lived in Chengdu on and off for twelve years and currently makes his home in the South of Chengdu.

31 Responses to “Chengdu Bars and the People You’ll Meet There”

  1. I love this article so much, but I’m not agree that DiaoSi means hobo. For me, DiaoSi is the antonym of GaoFuShuai, and refers to those people who always stay at home.

  2. yeah bum might be a better word to use. These days “hobo” in English does not mean what it used to mean either (a poor travelling man). It’s “cool” to be a hobo now, because it shows that you don’t care about the “system” and are free to do what you please. Not caught in the system.

    Hoboizm is a philosophy and there are people jumping on the bandwagon. This is what I heard Diaosi means:

    1) poor and uneducated and uncouth individuals with no hope
    2) the cool, free kids who don’t care about anything

  3. Loved it. Wonder what would happen if I started calling people out by these categories. But I’d have to actually learn to say them in sichuan hua first. Nailed Xiong Mao and I’ll keep my eye out for the seven tiered mages at Jah Bar.

    BTW 黑木耳 belongs to: Paname, Jellyfish 88, Muse

    Too many young folk in Panda.

    I think I’ve also been called “Diaosi” by my friends. Now I feel honored.

  4. “No I don’t want no mu’er ,
    a mu’er is the kinda girl who can get no love from me,
    sitting on the cocktail bar waving her legs at me”!

  5. My (limited) memories of The Shamrock:

    There were some clothes badly in need of laundering (mind included, of course), some hair badly in need of cutting (idem), and everybody was smoking cigarettes (idem et al). And I’m pretty sure some dude named Franklin was there. It was a pretty good time.

  6. Ray

    No kong pingzi? used to be infamous as the most dangerous bar for foreigners to visit. never had any trouble there however. A nice group of gentlemenly gangsters…

  7. Great piece! I really enjoyed learning that new vocabulary, and it seemed to be a pretty fair assessment of each venue. I thought it was 屌丝 though… like that show featuring the quirky German woman 屌丝女士. According to my Chinese colleague, for men 屌丝 means like 矮撮穷, and for women it means a kind of crazy, spastic (but seemingly somehow likable) desperation, which I am going to say = zany.

    • yeah hobo isn’t exactly the right word there. i was 1) being lazy and hoping everyone would just know what i mean and 2) really think that diaosi (for dudes) is similar to grungy hippy hobo and that guy’s rise to power in the late 90s to about 2003 or so in the USA. Now overthrown by the hipster magpie culture of cliches and references to other people’s cool shit.

      what can we expect from the Chinese youth, based on precedents in other nations? what is the trajectory that is visible from fenqing (now discredited) to diaosi to ….???

  8. haha this is so true. I got a real kick out of reading this post because it takes me back to the days when I was all over Chengdu’s bar scene. Some of my favorite bars in the world are all mentioned in this post; Jah bar, 88, Jellyfish oh man those were the days. I have some pretty wild stories about all these places and I’m sure i fall somewhere into these categories.

  9. Hahaha! I’ve read it on Weibo as well! Good stuff!

  10. By the way, 弄潮儿 (nòngcháo’ér) shouldn’t be “hipsters”. 其实成都话:超哥、超姐、烂眼儿 更能形象鲜明的解释hipsters

    • 哦是不是嘛,谢咯谢咯。你应该用 English 来解释,so we can have a better understanding of these things. I am just a 老外 after all and can’t pretend to know Chinese slang in and out。给你老公说,老子有他的钱,不给!

  11. To Everyone:

    Thanks for the help on defining these terms, if possible, be as clear as possible and use Hanzi – Pinyin – English to define so we can all improve a bit. 谢谢!

  12. Awesome round up of Chengdu bars and associated vocabulary, perhaps I can fill in some blanks from the remaining venues:

    Bookworm: educated foreigners, 30 and up, usually professionals in Chengdu (architects, photographers, writers, business people, etc)

    Leg & Whistle: authentic English bar feeling, everyone watches soccer, people from early 20′s to 50′s, mostly guys hanging out there. Good beer.

    Shamrock: older english teachers in Chengdu, Europeans dining or drinking beers on the patio outside in the summertime. Chinese people who are experimenting with Western food.

  13. iraglassismyhero Reply June 5, 2012 at 5:51 pm

    ah, thanks for the giggle. on a tenuously related note, came upon this just the other day (surely in the jah bar/lantown/hemp house category): http://play.9sky.com/t_657541/ which, inasmuch as i 听得懂, seems to encapsulate the reggae bar in everything except the music…ah, anything in china can become a ballad.

  14. 马山同志,how’s the DU? and how’s the Hai!

    The word “Hipster” in Chengdu slang probably means 超哥 chaoge (super older-brother)、超姐 chaojie (super older-sister)、超妹儿 chaomei’er (super younger-sister, also supposed to be way hotter than super older-sister) , 烂眼儿 lanyan’er or 烂眼儿娃娃 lan yan’er wa’wa (no proper English translation). Since they are local slang terms, it is difficult to explain them in English (at least I can’t explain them well). Basically, these slangs mean that a person does minor drugs, drinks foreign alcohol, and dresses differently with unexpected fashion design, and he/she is unemployed or has a weird profession.

  15. Machu Picchu does not exist?

    • It seems that Machu Picchu has flown beneath the radar this time. To me that’s one of the most endearing things about Machu Picchu – part of me doesn’t want to see it mature into a mainstream Chengdu bar like the Hemp House did or Jah Bar more recently.

  16. Mooneys – hookers, coverbands and expensive beers.
    Shamrock – hookers, old men, bad waiting staff and cider.
    Underground – smells like the underground.

  17. I’m a girl who want to teach foreign friends chinese(of course i’m a chinese)by heart and by the numbers.such as, teaching from bopomofo.PS.free of charge .If any friends were interest in it ,please connect with me .QQ:434508577 TEL:15184492456 .mail:[email protected]

  18. Interesting.

  19. last week was in Chengdu went to Shamrock to eat some food. cover on tables had burn holes from cigarettes, had a steak, food was cold, (maybe cause it was 30c outside) other than Guinness on tap and name looked anything like Irish Bar, An other night went to Bookworm its just across the road to the left, Food Fab, so much went back, Shamrock not for me.

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