Grabbing a good bargain

Slow Chinese 每周漫闻

Here’s the latest edition of my Slow Chinese 每周漫闻 newsletter, a collection of Chinese words, phrases, idioms and slang to help you maintain and improve your Chinese language skills, and keep on top of the latest language trends in China.

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In this week’s newsletter, we…

  • dig into online conversations about grabbing an amazing bargain, and overly sensitive men with too much time and not enough money,

  • discuss new anti-overtime policies of Bytedance - is it really the beginning of the end of involution?

  • and recite a 1,800 year-old poem about conflict recommended by Elon Musk


How to grab a good bargain in Chinese: Genki Forest discounts

Last week, drinks brand Genki Forest (元气森林 - yuánqì sēnlín) drastically slashed the price of its sparkling water in its online shop (36Kr - Chinese).

A pack of 36 bottles was selling at a 95% discount for around half an hour before the error was corrected.

According to the company it was a mistake by one of its operating staff:

在设置店铺出现失误,导致公司损失200万,恳请买家退货 - An error occurred with online shop settings causing a loss to the company of RMB 2 million. [The company] respectfully asks customers to return their purchases.

Netizens were not so impressed with this response. There are some useful words in the commentary about taking responsibility and getting good deals.

Two-character words

Three words about doing the right thing.

  • 买单 mǎidān - ‘pay the bill’ - here it means take responsibility

    不想为自己的失误买单 - Does not want to take responsibility for its own actions.

  • 格局 géjú - strategic; see the big picture (very useful when talking to a ‘big boss’ in Chinese)

    200万就当打广告,不退了,才叫格局 - That RMB 2 million should be looked at as advertising budget. Don’t ask for customers to return the products, see the bigger picture.

  • 骨气 gǔqì - have backbone; have balls

    没骨气,200万有你投资的一部综艺贵吗?[The company] has no backbone. Is that 2 million anything compared to what the company invests in reality TV shows?

Three-character words

Two words about getting a good bargain.

  • 薅羊毛 hāo yángmáo - ‘grab sheep wool’ - grab a bargain

    消费者“薅”了30万单的“羊毛”后才更正价格 - Customers grabbed 300,000 worth of bargains before the price error was corrected.

    • 薅 hāo - to pull out, to grab

      元气森林昨晚出bug被薅秃了 - Last night, the company made huge losses due to bargain hunters taking advantage of a bug.

  • 羊毛党 yángmáo dǎng - bargain hunters

    有专职羊毛党一口气领了上千张100元无门槛券 - Professional bargain hunters that immediately grabbed more than one-thousand RMB 100 vouchers.


  • 自导自演 zìdǎo zìyǎn - ‘directing and acting on their own’ - pulling the strings behind the scenes

    元气森林的“自导自演”,目的是为消化库存,顺势做一波营销 - Genki Forest orchestrated the whole thing. The objective was to try to clear its stock, while hoping to get some good publicity.

  • 流传甚广 liúchuán shénguǎng - spread far and wide

    一张流传甚广的元气森林秒杀群聊天记录截图中 - A screen shot of a conversation in an internal Genki Forest chat group spread far and wide [on social media].

Yáng Lì’s amazing ability for annoying men on China’s internet

A short video clip of comedian 杨笠 Yáng Lì getting in a Mercedes Benz at Shanghai Fashion Week last week led to some male Netizens having a go at the company and her: how could a brand whose customers are mainly men associate itself with someone who’s made her name by attacking men?

This led to a backlash from Mercedes-owning women:

毕竟骂杨笠人的大部分应该…买不起奔驰 - After all, most people who criticise Yang Li in this way probably can’t afford to buy a Mercedes anyway.

There are some useful words in the media coverage of the story ( - Chinese). You can also dig into the social media commentary too if you really want to.

Useful three-character words

  • 钻空子 zuān kòngzi - taking advantage of a loophole

    针对许多男性网友来讲,杨笠的成名是“钻空子”的个人行为 - For some male Netizens, Yang Li’s success is not real.

  • 大伙儿 dàhuǒ er - everybody

    能够看得出大伙儿的观点两极化尤其显著 - People had many different opinions, which were very polarised.


  • 对号入座 duìhào rùzuò - take your seat according to your number; to self identify with someone else or an opinion, to follow suit

    看脱口秀的时候也只是觉得她在吐槽某一部分男性而已,结果没想到会有这么多男人来对号入座 - Watching Rock and Roast, I assumed Yang Li was just criticising some men. I didn't expect that so many men would follow suit [and react in the same way].

  • 息事宁人 xīshì níngrén - quieten things down

    奔驰官方迫不得已掩藏视频用意息事宁人 - Mercedes had to give an explanation about the video in order to calm things down.

  • 长盛不衰 chángshèng bùshuāi - everlasting; goes on and on

    英特尔知名品牌自主删除了杨笠的相关内容,但为此引起的舆情却长盛不衰 - Intel deleted content related to Yang Li but still, the public reaction carried on.

Read this earlier newsletter for more about Yang Li’s last run in with grumpy male Netizens when working with Intel.

Recommended: SupChina have an excellent piece in English about the story.


Discussing Bytedance anti-overtime policies

This week’s words of the week are about ByteDance and its change of working hours to 10am to 7pm, Monday to Friday.

An article in 36Kr is a good source of language to discuss the change as well as bigger issues surrounding the debate of changing working hours in China’s companies.

Useful words

  • 1075 - working 10am to 7pm five days-a-week

    字节跳动将推行“1075”工作制,工作时间从上午10点到晚上7点,每周工作5天 - Bytedance will roll out ‘1075’ - requiring staff to work from 10am to 7pm, five days-a-week.

  • 反内卷 fǎn nèijuǎn - anti-involution; policies to stop intense social competition

    字节可以说在带头“反内卷”的道路上再度前进了一步 - Bytedance has again taken a step forward in the move to stop involution [in the work place].

    • 新型内卷 xīnxíng nèijuǎn - a new type of involution

      加班管理制度究竟是内卷的结束,还是一种新型内卷的开始 - Is this new overtime system the end of involution, or just the beginning of a new type of involution?

  • 卷王 juǎnwáng - ‘involution king’ the winners of involution

    能够略带强制性地解决“卷王”存在的问题 - It can go some way in forcing the solution to the problems brought about by intense social competition.

  • 逗留 dòuliú - to linger longer than necessary

    在岗位上进行冗长而低效率的逗留 - Staying in the office for lengthy ineffective periods of time.

  • 放风 fàngfēng - ‘putting wind’ - subtle release of information, test the water

    加班管理制度的更新相当于字节跳动的一次“放风” - The updating of its overtime policies is Bytedance testing the water on how workers will respond to it.


  • 不相上下 bùxiāng shàngxià - about the same (a more advanced and grown-up way to say 差不多, or 差不了多少).

    有三分之一的员工反对取消大小周,与支持的人数不相上下 - One third of employees do not want to cancel ‘Big Small Weeks,’ which is about the same number as those who support it.

  • 在所难免 zàisuǒ nánmiǎn - inevitable

    工作做不完,加班是在所难免的,员工自己也无法控制 - If you don’t finish work then working overtime is inevitable. Employees have no control over that.

Useful phrase

  • 迟来总比不来好 chílái zǒngbǐ bùlái hǎo - better late than never

    不过迟来总比不来好,即使字节传闻中的新规最终并没有正式落地 - But it is better late than never; even if the new regulations have not yet been formalised.


This week’s recommendation is the irresistible formula of: an ancient Chinese poem + Elon Musk on Twitter + confused media speculation in English-language media, and then Chinese media speculation about what western media is speculating about ;).

Here’s the poem with pinyin for you to practice.

煮豆燃豆萁 - zhǔdòu rán dòu qí

豆在釜中泣 - dòu zài fǔ zhōng qì

本是同根生 - běn shì tónggēn shēng

相煎何太急 - xiāng jiān hé tài jí

It’s called Quatrain of Seven Steps (七步诗 qī bù shī), penned by Three Kingdoms poet Cáo Zhí 曹植.

Here's the English translation:

Beanstalks are ignited to boil beans,

The beans in the pot cry out.

We are born of the same root,

Why should we incinerate each other with such impatience?

The poem uses beans to describe a conflict between Cáo Zhí and his elder brother Cáo Pī (曹丕) - both sons of Han Dynasty warlord, Cáo Cāo 曹操.

According to legend, when the powerful Cáo Pī assumed the throne of the Kingdom of Wei (魏国 wèi guó), he believed his younger brother was trying to overthrow him.

So Cáo Pī summoned Cáo Zhí to court and told him to come up with a poem within seven steps to convince the king of his innocence. On his seventh step the younger brother recited this poem, comparing the beans to himself and Cáo Pī.

Cáo Pī was so moved that he spared his brother.

Nowadays the poem is used to describe unnecessary conflict between what you might call ‘two sides of the same coin’ in English.

Here’s the tear-jerking story, including the poem, in a short 3-minute Youtube video. It’s great for language learners.

That’s it for this week - thanks for reading.

All of the ‘words of the week’ will soon be uploaded onto…


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