Those Shanghai Laowai…


The page features various articles on what foreigners are up to, and two pictorials. One is a gallery of foreigners fixing bikes (and it’s every bit as fascinating as it sounds!). The other is a smaller gallery of foreigners drinking beer out of traditional Chinese vessels called 痰盂. The dictionary says a 痰盂 is a spittoon, and the characters that make up the word seem to indicate this is well. According to a Chinese source, however, these 痰盂 were frequently used in the past as a “port-a-potty.” In other words, they housed not only phlegm, but also human waste. My source told me that for a Chinese person, seeing someone drink out of one of these things causes automatic feelings of revulsion, “even if they were actually brand new,” never having been actually used for their intended purposes. I pointed out that particularly in picture three, the bottoms of the 痰盂 clearly show some wear; they don’t look brand new at all.

Shanghai's Laowai

Shanghai Online, a Chinese internet portal site, recently did a special on Shanghai’s laowai.

[The chamber pot chuggers belong to a “drink and run” club called the Hash House Harriers. The Shanghai chapter has a website if you’re interested in joining.]

Hmmm, so what image of laowai is Shanghai Online trying to portray…?

Update: Bingfeng already blogged about the beer chuggers, way back in May! That’s what I get for not reading more than a handful of other blogs, I guess…


John Pasden

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


  1. i had that post at my blog, with more photos: ganbei! foreigners have beer party in china

  2. This linked article has a few paragraphs about Dan Washburn when he was teaching a college English class, and about his weblog (without a link, shame). They nicknamed him “蛋”, hehe.

  3. Micah,

    Oh yeah, originally I meant to point that out, but I forgot… Thanks.

  4. well yeah, I wouln’t want to drink out of a toilet even if it were brand new. not even out of a new bedpan or plunger or any number of things. just because it was new (or ultra-sanitized) wouldn’t make it appealing to drink out of in the least

  5. Da Xiangchang Says: October 27, 2005 at 12:56 pm

    I’m not sure what laowais they’re trying to present, but I’ve NEVER seen laowai women as attractive as the ones on top of that pic in Shanghai!

  6. The receptables in the photo are pretty standard 夜壶 – upgraded versions of the old wooden ones – and still used in many areas in Shanghai. I know old people in Shanghai with recently installed flush toilets (recent being five years ago) that cannot part from their beloved 夜壶, such is the force of habit. Indeed, a typical slice of life “portrait” of old 南市区 was the sight of a blarry-eyed forty something emerging from her olde worlde wooden abode in her pink pajamas with one of these loosely held in one hand. It might still be the case. They scruntch them clean with a purpose-made reed or twig scruncher by the roadside. I suppose the whole purpose of these buffoons using these to drink beer out of was the shock effect and so Kudos to them, it works – totally gross. As for these pots, I personally love to spit and piss in em, but crapping in them is no fun for all concerned. Da Xiangchang, I think those lovely ladies in the photo might have been recent contestants in a model or beauty pageant and just on a whirlwind tour.

  7. As long as laowais are being stereotyped, I’ll take silly and weird over evil and dangerous just about any day.

  8. I saw a laowai drinking a pina coloda at Trader Vic’s, in Shanghai, his hair was gorgeous.

  9. and perfect

  10. The image they are trying to portray is clearly that after a hard day of bike fixing, laowai like to drink from toilets and dress up like evil clowns.

  11. Greg Pasden Says: October 27, 2005 at 11:33 pm

    John, I was hoping you weren’t going to put that picture of me on your website.

  12. Gives a whole new meaning to potty mouth.

  13. Luo Dawei Says: October 28, 2005 at 1:28 am

    I used to run with the Shekou Hash House Harriers back in the mid 90’s. The worst we ever did was sit on a block of ice and chug a beer. Never out of chamberpots. GROSS! These chaps might have not have done it by free choice however. In the HHH tradition, the run leader gets to make up rules at the On-On (the end of the run where beer chugging commences). Any runner found to be in violation of a “rule” (wrong color shirt, hat, hatless, wears Nikes, wears Adidas …) is forced to chug a beer in the manner that the leader dictates. HHH clubs are not neccessarily known for refined manners.

  14. At least they have a pot to piss in!!!!

    I hope the next issue shows some foreign dudes eating babies and chics with guns mud wrestling.

  15. Errr~~
    About the “tanyu” drinking, I can only lol & =S . I am Chinese, and just like John said, even it’s brand new, I still cannot accept it. X_X

  16. What’s chinese about spittoons and “port-a-potty” ???
    How deprived of culture can some people get ? Didn’t you all see spittoons and potties at your grandma’s in the country side if not in movies or books ?

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