“Double 12”: China’s Cyber Monday

12 Dec 2014

Today is December 12, AKA 双十二, literally, “double twelve” in Chinese. It’s a day when Taobao (淘宝) and JD.com (京东) offer huge discounts online (and this year, Taobao is really pushing its AliPay mobile phone payments, sort of similar to Apple Pay, but using barcodes on users’ phone screens instead of NFC). So today is kind of like China’s Cyber Monday.

12-12 is clearly riffing on 双十一 (“double eleven”), a modern Chinese holiday that was once known as “Singles Day” (光棍节) but has since been largely co-opted by online retailers and remolded as China’s Black Friday.

At first I was kind of amazed that this 12-12 holiday even “took.” It’s just such blatant commercialism to follow up a 11-11 shopping holiday with a 12-12 shopping holiday. But so far, as long as the discounts keep coming, no one seems to mind. What’s next, co-opting 1-1 (元旦节)? I have to say, 双一 certainly doesn’t have the same ring to it.

Some screenshots for today’s sales from the aforementioned sites:

Taobao 12-12 Sale

Taobao 12-12 Sale

JD  12-12 Sale

I’m not buying anything. I’m having my own little Buy Nothing Day. (不消费日 in Chinese, but make no mistake: this is not a familiar concept in China, and people find it pretty ridiculous.)

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John Pasden

John is a Shanghai-based linguist and entrepreneur, founder of AllSet Learning.

Comments

  1. I am just an intermediate Student, but shuang shi yi is supposed to mean “two for one” right?

  2. Oops, I just realized that it is actually called “shuang shi er” so the double meaning is not valid.

  3. Chalk this post up in the group of “this would have been useful YESTERDAY instead of seeing it too late to take advantage.”

    Ah, but anti-capitalists love this sort of thing. Well-played!

  4. Cheng Kwok Ying Says: December 18, 2014 at 2:56 am

    Most probably not 双一 but 双么. It also sounds the same as 双邀.

    • You mean 双幺 (Shuāng Yāo).

      Good point.

      • Cheng Kwok Ying Says: December 18, 2014 at 10:06 pm

        么 is used as 幺 in traditional Chinese in which I have not yet seen 么 being used as an interrogative particle, but I’ll certainly be grateful if proved wrong. Nonetheless, since I typed the simplified form of 双, I should have used 幺 instead, and I apologize for the inconsistency.

      • Ah, OK, I wasn’t aware that 么 is used that way. Thanks for the clarification!

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