Zhibo is a weekly column in which Beijing-based American Taylor Hartwell documents his journey down the rabbit hole of Chinese livestreaming app YingKe (Inke). If you know nothing about the livestreaming (直播; “zhibo”) phenomenon in China, start here.
Well, I used scared to not be. What are you, the Yoda of death threats? Are you going to explain what I did to incur your wrath or must I live the rest of my (short) life in ignorance?
Oh. I guess never mind, then. Have a lovely day, sir/ma’am
I saw this comment last week and figured it would make for a good one-liner – a quickie, as it were – and nothing else. Instead, I spent hours researching a question I didn’t know I had and now this porn thing is providing the meat of this week’s post.
See, porn in China is often referred to as “yellow” or “黄” (huáng). This isn’t some obscure slang – it’s well-recognized terminology used by just about everyone (including the government). But as is so often the case with stuff like this, I didn’t actually know why or how this common term came to be (spoiler alert: I still don’t).
After all, yellow has historically been quite a big deal in Chinese culture – it’s the color of royalty, monk’s robes, good fortune, heroism, and the giant river that Chinese civilization was built on. And in modern times, it’s one of only two colors on the PRC’s flag. So what gives? Anti-porn (and more general anti-vice) efforts are literally called 扫黄, or “sweep up the yellow.” How did such an auspicious color get assigned this role?
The answer, as best I can ascertain, is that holy f@#king sh*t nobody knows.
Seriously, I’ve asked so many people about porn in the past few days that I’m genuinely worried I might get put on some kind of watch list. When I asked a professor who can usually answer all of my odd China-related questions, the response came back – and I quote – “no one can know for sure… start Googling.”
So Google I did.
Pro tip: Searching for “yellow chinese porn” is NOT the way to go
It seems that there is indeed no definitive answer to this question – but here are just a few of the potential answers I came across:
Finally, it could be that there is that there is no secret origin story, but rather the color that had represented the royalty of old simply came to represent decadence and vice in the modern era of revolution. That fact that there seems to be no definitive answer to the question makes me begrudgingly admit that this feels pretty likely. But until someone proves otherwise, I’m sticking with “racist turn of the century colonizers at the movies” for why China calls blue films “yellow.”
Wait, why do we call porn blue?
Assuming that this person doesn’t actually intend to hold me in their arms should I ever visit Ningbo, my best guess is that this is Baidu translate’s attempt at “接” (jie) or to receive/welcome someone. As with the word “receive,” 接 can mean to literally accept something with your hands or to welcome someone or something. So all things considered, this doesn’t seem like that odd of a mistranslation.
Damn straight they do.
Mouths are gaping head cavities filled with a constantly self-secreting mucus-y liquid, a large tentacle-like muscular organ, and are used on a daily basis to smash up plants and various animal bits.
So in conclusion, thank you for your affirmation that I indeed possess a regular and functioning human mouth.
Read the room, man. Read the room.
More from our Zhibo column: