What Chinese Netizens Mean When They Talk About “Chicken Soup” [Lost In Translation]

1 min read

If you use China’s most popular social chat app, WeChat, you might have seen a lot of strange references to ‘chicken soup’:

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A little chicken soup before bed
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Proceed with caution, chicken soup inside
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I drank this bowl of chicken soup!

Clearly, ‘chicken soup’ is not chicken soul in Chinese netizen vernacular. So what are people really talking about?

Chicken Soup For The Soul

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In 1993, a book series called Chicken Soup for the Soul  launched in the U.S. The books were about making people feel good and were filled with heart-warming and cheesy motivational essays. Over the years, hundreds of them were sold. There were different variations of Chicken Soup books too, like Chicken Soup for the Woman Golfer’s Soul or Chicken Soup for the Soul: Parenthood.

Thus, Chinese netizens turned ‘chicken soup’ into a catchall term for gooey, feel-good essays that might belong in a Chicken Soup for the Soul book, like “Ten Things Jack Ma Taught Me” or “He’s Rich But Not Happy – Why?”

Like the original Chicken Soup for the Soul stories, the emotional power of ‘chicken soup’ essays should not be underestimated. In a report released last October by Tencent, post-60’s WeChat users were identified as big fans of ‘chicken soup’ essays.

‘Lost In Translation’ is a weekly column that covers netizen-speak from China’s Interwebs. China’s internet slang is a fast-moving linguistic phenomenon and staying fresh has never been harder. Here, you’ll find new words or phrases every week with a breakdown of what they mean, how they’re used, and how they came to be.