Cast the Net Wide


Since its introduction to China 20-plus years ago, the Internet has flourished like mushrooms after a spring rain. Its users now top 600 million and there are around three million Chinese websites.

The Chinese word for Internet is 互联网 (hù lián wǎng) – interconnected network – very close to its English equivalent. Logging onto the Internet is to 上网 (shàng wǎng), and people surf the net on a 电脑 (diàn nǎo), computer, or a 手机 (shǒu jī), handset. These two Chinese words are highly descriptive: 电脑 literally means electronic brain and 手机 hand-held apparatus. The modem is often nicknamed 猫 (māo), cat, or 锚 (máo), anchor.

In less developed areas of China, in particular the countryside, not all communities have access to the Internet, and not all families own computers. The need has hence arisen for 网吧 (wǎng bā), Internet cafés. Some people are so addicted to surfing the net that they may spend entire days there. They are often called 网虫 (wǎng chóng), Internet worms, and their behavior is referred to as 泡网吧 (pào wǎng bā), steeping in an Internet café.

There are many venues for 网上聊天 (wǎng shang liáo tiān), on-line chatting, such as 贴吧 (tiē bā), on A 贴吧 is an online forum – an interactive platform where anyone can raise a theme for discussion. Such a person is known as 楼主 (lóu zhǔ), landlord of a highrise building, because the comments other people contribute pile up in the way a tall building is constructed. and are examples.

A 微博 (wēi bó), microblog, is the Chinese equivalent of Twitter, a service that enables subscribers to share messages and photos. The owner of a microblog account is the 博主 (bó zhǔ), and those who follow his/her posts are their 粉丝 (fěn sī), fans. So far the number of microbloggers at has reached 500 million, telling evidence of the hyper popularity of the service.

With the emergence of an Internet culture, a lexicon of on-line expressions has come into being in China. For instance, 没有 (méi yǒu), there are/is no⋯, is often written as 木有 (mù yǒu), and 不要 (bú yào) is 表 (biǎo). (jiǒng) is an ancient character that had almost become defunct in modern Chinese before it went viral in the Internet age for its configuration that is reminiscent of a scowling visage. It is used to mean frustrated or embarrassed.

To save typing time netizens often replace certain Chinese characters with numerals that have similar pronunciations. For example, 748 is 去死吧 (qù sǐ ba), go to hell, and 847 is 别生气 (bié shēng qì), don’t be angry.

Acronyms are also common in on-line conversations. 蛋白质 (dàn bái zhì), protein, is no longer a biological molecule but an abbreviation for 笨蛋 (bèn dàn), goof, 白痴 (bái chī), idiot, and 神经质 (shén jīng zhì), nervosity. 白骨精 (bái gǔ jīng), the white bone demon in Journey to the West, signifies 白领 (bái lǐng), whitecollar worker, 骨干 (gǔ gàn), backbone, and 精英 (jīng yīng), an elite.

If you find my writing 养眼 (yǎng yǎn) pleasing, please give me a 赞一个 (zàn yí ge), thumbs-up, or 转发 (zhuǎn fā), forward, it to your friends. It’s time for me to 下线 (xià xiàn), go off line. See you guys later, 88!