How to speak gay in Shanghai

How to speak gay in Shanghai

As ShanghaiPRIDE continues, beefing up your Shanghai gay lexicon might help you connect with Shanghai's LGBT scene
gay in Shanghai
One of the most tolerant cities in China, Shanghai has a vibrant LGBT scene, with an equally lively vocabulary.

Emperor Ai of the Han dynasty liked to swing both ways. Or so the story goes.

One afternoon after waking up from a nap next to his male concubine, Emperor Ai cut off his sleeve to get out of bed without disturbing his beloved's sleep. Kind of adorable, no?

Thus 'duanxiuzhipi' (斷袖之癖) or 'the passion of the cut sleeve' entered into the ancient Chinese vernacular as a euphemism for the love that dare not speak its name.

A couple millennia later, gay communities in China are more visible than ever and they still have a colorful lexicon.

Kenneth Tan, purveyor of men's lingerie and other racy wardrobe items at MANifesto and ShanghaiPRIDE organizer, helped us compile the following list of essential terms for anyone looking to make a foray into Shanghai's LGBT scene.

Chitudoude (吃土豆的)
Literally meaning 'eats potatoes,' this refers to a gay Chinese person who has a case of white boy/girl fever, and thus tends to only date Caucasians. There are also 'rice eaters,' 'sushi eaters' and more, depending on your cuisine of choice. You get the idea.

Chugui (出柜)
To come out of the closet. 'Gui' literally means 'cupboard,' but we'll refrain from making food puns, for example, "Did you hear? That fine piece of potato is finally out of the cupboard." Oops, we just did.

Kong (控)
n. Kong means fetish in Chinese gay subculture. It can be combined with almost anything. Call someone “Dashu [uncle] Kong," and it means someone who's into older men; “Xiong [bear] Kong” means someone who's into chubby and hairy “bears.”

Lala (拉拉)
Lesbian. A phonetic adaptation of the English term.

Niang (娘)
Sissy or effeminate. e.g., "He's cute, but he's gone a bit heavy on the eyeliner. A bit 'niang' for my taste."

Tongzhi (同志)
Homosexual. Literally meaning 'comrade,' tongzhi was a term bandied about heavily during the Cultural Revolution. Today it has been appropriated by the gay community to refer to same-sex comrades in the bedroom.

Xiao Gong (小攻)
n. Xiao Gong refers to the person who "gives" in gay sex (commonly described around the world as a “1" or “top”). The term Xiao Gong originated from Chinese gay romance novels and Japanese gay animations.

Xiao Shou (小受)
n. As the opposite of Xiao Gong, Xiao Shou is the one who "takes" in gay sex (also known as a “0” or the “bottom”). However, in Chinese this term can also be used to refers to the guy who is in a more feminine role and needs to be taken care of in a relationship.

ShanghaiPRIDE, Oct. 16-Nov.6,, see official website for event schedule:

Abby hails from Washington D.C. and bounced around Hong Kong, Singapore, Massachusetts and Egypt before arriving in Shanghai in 2007.

Read more about Abby Lavin

Now a writer and art communicator based in Shanghai, Xing has also been covering the Shanghai's LGBT issues for local publications since the summer of 2009.

Read more about Xing Zhao