The Rat Game

Rats don’t really freak me out at all. I recognize them as carriers of disease, so I certainly wouldn’t want any in my building, but I don’t get “disgusted” when I see one like some people.

I live pretty near the Zhongshan Park subway stop. When I walk to the subway, I pass by a large planter with some rather sad-looking bushes and grass (?) in it. The city’s attempt to cultivate this little green oasis inside a long expanse of concrete is mostly a failure, as there’s more dirt than anything in the planter. It is also in this location that I frequently see rats.

They’re your typical brown city rats, I guess. About the size of a good Idaho potato. They like to scurry around in that dirt. There are storm drains nearby, and the Suzhou River with its bustling garbage trafficking is not far to the north. The rats come out the most after it rains.

One day Carl and I started talking about how we always see rats in that one place. Since then I can’t help looking for rats every time I go by. It’s a sort of competition.

Today on the way home I saw three rats at once, all chilling within a few feet of each other. It hadn’t even rained very recently. Beat that, Carl!


John Pasden

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


  1. A few years ago, there was a great dive in Shanghai called The Stage, where they had 10 kuai beers and 2-for-1 Thursdays (also 1 kuai tequila shots after 2am!). On my first or second week in Shanghai, I decided to try it out, so I went in and found a spot at the corner of the bar. I ordered two beers, handed the bartender a ten, and when he set my beers down in front of me, a rat ran out from the corner down the whole length of the bar.

    I consulted my pocket dictionary for the Chinese word for rat, and a few minutes later I ordered two more beers: “Just two beers this time, no rat.” That got a laugh from some apparent regulars who’d been looking at me suspiciously until that point. The bartender must’ve not understood my (admittedly poor) Chinese, though — as soon as he set the new beers in front of me, another rat ran out from the corner to join his friend.

    Beat that, John.

  2. Brad,

    Hehe, nice story.

    But if I understand you correctly, you saw only two rats. And not even at the same time.

    I win.

  3. Kikko Man Says: April 8, 2005 at 3:27 am

    I’ve noticed Chinese rats are fearless. They’ll friggin run across a busy street in the middle of the day. Once one got in my kitchen and I cornered him. Took off my shoe, and not wanting to actually kill him, just wopped him upside the head. He never returned.

  4. I was sitting in a restaurant I often went to in Taiyuan, when a rat started running around the restaurant. The staff didn’t do much, just looked at it the way the looked at me the first time I went there. I told a friend of mine about this. Her response:
    “It was still alive, right?”
    “That’s ok then.”
    “Well, I’ve seen rights walk out of restaurants and die on the footpath. If the rat is still alive, the food is safe to it. If it’s dead, go somewhere else.”

  5. Dude. WE live by the Zhongshan stop on the Shanghai Metro! Like, seriously… ~250 meters away. I’m a huge fan of the Meiguifang shopping center.

  6. speaking of rat, i keep this cute txt msg on my mobile: Èç¹ûÓÐÀ´ÊÀ¾ÍÈÃÎÒÃÇ×öÒ»¶ÔССµÄÀÏÊ󣬱¿±¿µØÏà°®£¬´ô´ôµÄ¹ýÈÕ×Ó£¬×¾×¾µÄÒÀÙË…Èç¹ûÄãÉú²¡ÁËÎҾͽô½ôµØ§×ÅÄ㣬ιÄã³ÔÀÏÊóÒ©! loosely translated into Chinglish is like: “if there’s a next life, let’s be a rat couple, to foolishly love, idiotically live, clumsily snug…and if u fall sick, I’ll hug you tight and feed you tenderly with rat bait(medicine)!” note: in Chinese rat poison is called rat medicine, hence the joke. 😛 hey anyone interested in a translation contest? starting from this one:P

  7. We have a rat spotting contest?

  8. I lived in Kunming for 6 months, in my building, everytime i passed through the “garden” to get my building door, the “neighbors” came out from the garbage tin, and cross in front of us (me and my ex).. no matter if it was day or night, rainning or sunny.. and i win, i saw 2 crossing in front of me, and 3 more still in the garbage..
    At the end i got use, but the bad point was that there was a school and a dormitory there..

  9. Da Xiangchang Says: April 9, 2005 at 7:26 am

    Who cares if you’ve only SEEN a rat? I’ve KICKED one. I was just walking through the courtyard to my apartment in Nanjing, not running or hurrying or anything. Then from a hole, a rat ran out right in front of me. In one of those coincidences that could only happen with the alignment of certain stars, my right foot while stepping forward in a perfectly normal step kicked the rat’s body as he passed me. The rat flipped over a few times, and then stopped and stared at me for a moment, then ran away. Ahhhh, China . . .

  10. I’m not sure about Shanghai, but I’ve spent at least six months each in Beijing, Nanjing and Taizhong, and rats are quite few in each of those places. Since I’ve moved to Baltimore, however, I see a rat at least once a week.

  11. Carl,

    Don’t be a sore loser, now. 🙂

  12. I’ve seen 5 mice and two rats at the same time…
    But then again they’re my pets….

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