With the rapid pace of change, new memes and expressions come and go with the blink of an eye. As 2016 comes to an end, Lost in Translation, with the help of Yaowenjiaozi, is here with the top Chinese memes of 2016.

 Primeval Power(洪荒之力)

When asked how she won her race at this year’s Olympics in Rio, Fu Yuanhui* responded that she used all of her inner strength and “primeval power.” The term, together with her adorable facial expressions, made for instant memery.


*Editor’s note: If you don’t know who she is, make sure you check her out. She’s amazing.

Watermelon eaters (吃瓜群众)

“Watermelon eaters” refers a big crowd of passive onlookers. Similar in meaning to lurker, watermelon eaters usually refers to people on social media who do not actually contribute anything. As with any good meme, this has evolved into chicken eaters and pancake eaters, referring people who lurk, but don’t really pay attention.


Small Target (小目标)

Earlier this year, Wang Jianlin, China’s richest person, said in an interview, “You shouldn’t be that ambitious. Set a small target first, like earning 100 million RMB (15 million USD).” This was his advice to young people who want to be wealthy. And, like any public figure making an embarrassing gaffe, the quote quickly became meme fodder with one-liners like: “First set a small target for losing weight, such as losing 70 pounds in three days.” and “I will set a small target for myself, like finding a boyfriend like Daniel Wu before the Spring Festival.”


Whenever you disagree with each other… (一言不合就…)

This phrase refers to when a completely irrelevant tangent is brought into a discussion. The most typical usage is when Chinese mock Bollywood for their song-and-dance routines that disrupt the flow of the story: “Whenever they disagree with each other, they solve it by dancing.”

Other examples includes “Whenever you disagree with each other, you take selfies.” and “Whenever you disagree with each other, you solve it with doutu.


Sinking Friend “Ship” (友谊小船,说翻就翻)

De-friending: a much-discussed phenomenon in the heady early days of Facebook. That same phenomenon has made its way to China. You look up a casual acquaintance or high school sweetheart only to find you’re not friends anymore! To send them a message, you even have to resend a friend request!

The phrase mocks how easy it is for a cyber friendship to fall out. Any tiny trigger can lead to a broken friendship, from taking a bad selfie of your friend to losing weight when they cannot.


Ge You slouch (葛优瘫)

Originally from a China’s popular TV show I Love My Family (我爱我家), the decades-old photo of the Chinese comedian Ge You slouching has spawned a wave of humorous reinterpretations and imitations online. As the representative sitting position of Beijingers, it is also dubbed the Beijing Slouch. Send us a picture next time you see one!


Kungfu Forms (套路)

套路 originally refers to a series of skills and tricks in Chinese Kongfu. It now refers to tricking someone into doing something for you for your own personal gain.


Blue Skinny Mushroom (蓝瘦香菇)

Blue skinny mushroom became an internet phenomenon in China almost overnight. It’s however not about mushroom. The term is pronounced very similar to feel bad (难受) want to cry (想哭) in China’s southern dialect.


Image Credit: Baidu

Emma Lee (Li Xin) was TechNode's e-commerce and new retail reporter until June 2022, when she moved to Sixth Tone to cover technology and consumption. Get in touch with her via lixin@sixthtone.com or Twitter.