Questions for Yao Ming, and Other Tall People

A friend of mine is supposed to interview Yao Ming next weekend here in Shanghai. The Yao Ming.

He’s a famous guy, so I can understand if she feels a little nervous about interviewing him. Since I have a lot of experience in China and being tall, I thought I’d help her out a bit. These are the questions tall people love to be asked that she can ask Yao Ming:

1. How tall are you?
2. Do you play basketball?
3. What size shoe do you wear?
4. How’s the weather up there?

(Well, 3 out of 4 is not bad.)

I know what you’re thinking: those are the exact same questions we’d ask a non-Chinese tall guy! Amazing, isn’t it? Some facets of human nature know no cultural bounds.


John Pasden

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


  1. Hi! (No pun intended).
    Might not work in Chinese though.

  2. Have little kids out of the blue said to you “好高啊.” 🙂

  3. A question I’d ask:
    “Where the hell do you buy shoes man? Seriously.”
    I’m only 6′ and most Chinese shoes don’t fit me.

  4. Jason, that’s a great question. Where did you buy a) clothes b) shoes growing up in Shanghai. Also, another question to ask, “what’d you eat?”

  5. Shit, I’m tall, and I’d still like to know where tall people are buying their shoes. Maybe I could get in on that.

  6. “How much scar tissue is on your forehead”.

    Seriously, when I was in China I hit my head more in two weeks than I do in two years here. The problem is that the doorways are deceptively short so it looks like you can clear it, until you get smacked in the head. If I were you, John, I’d get a metal plate installed up there.


  7. In the Yao Ming movie two years ago, there was a joke about the sort of thing he puts in the lowest part of his cupboards.
    I think that made him smile.

  8. Ask him if he ate a lot of bread growing up…from what I have heard eating rice makes you short, but eating bread makes you tall…oh and by the way, black people are the way they are because they had too much soy sauce when they are young.

  9. ask him if he were not that tall as he is, would he still choose basketball? 😛

  10. similar problem but different. one of my male friend can’t buy shoes that in his size in sweden for they are too big

  11. I remember Yao mentioned in some interview before, that since his teens the Shanghai youth basketball team he played on had been providing him with (basketball) shoes, though he wore his quota out pretty fast. What partly motivated him to play basketball is to get better(proper) shoes.

    And the fact that both his parents were basketball players may have given him more access to larger-than-usual footwear. Buying is probably not a word he’d use with shoes.

  12. I recall reading a Sun (British tabloid) interview with Martin Johnson, the captain of the England rugby union team (and a very big man) that won the last world cup, which went something like this:
    Reporter (female, and noting the size of his hands and feet): “So Martin, I can’t resist to ask you this one last question, but are you, like, em, in proportion?”
    Martin Johnson (a very dry character and a man of few words): “Madam, if I would be in proportion I’d be 8″6”
    Would your friend be brave enough?

  13. It’s not just that his parents played basketball; they were bred together as per some kind of crazy-ass Olympic eugenicist program, and his parents had only met a few times before they got down to business.

    I’m sure Yao was tagged as a probable basketball star from about 9 months before he was born. Given the circumstances, his total lack of personality almost makes sense!

  14. On a related subject see also “Young giants in Britain”

  15. Is it Yao Ming real left hand here ?

  16. Alternatively, she could ask him if he’s ever met either of these two guys.

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