Chinese urban dictionary: Man pinde

By That's Beijing, June 1, 2015

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by Mia Li

Chinese urban dictionary is a monthly series where we give you snippets of language that you might just find useful.


Man Pin De \ mán pīn de \ 蛮拼的

Definition: adj. working really hard; busting one’s ass; sparing no effort; giving it your all.

How to use it:

A | I have no money for a new suit so I will have to return this one after my job interview. I can’t afford to get any dirt on it so I just won’t ever sit down. I’m quite man pinde.

B | Right, but do you think you will get a job in this economy?

A | I’ll never get one if I don’t try.

B | True that.

Happiness is never far away. We see it all the time. Wherever you look, it is happening… just normally to those from well-off families who are confident, good-looking, raised by loving parents, and funneled through good schools.

Being content seems so effortless for them. It’s as if they’re frolicking through a flower garden in sunny spring, while you sit at the bottom of a deep, damp well, miserable after having failed again despite giving it your all and more.

For those with impeccable pedigree and the resulting confidence, happiness appears natural, inevitable even. ‘Man pinde’ describes the rest of us – those for whom nothing comes easy. The only long-shot we have at happiness is through working really hard, busting our asses and sparing no effort. We must give it all we have and then take out credit so we can give more. In other words, if we are man pinde then maybe – only maybe – we will get a whiff of the flower garden. Or, failing that, say that we didn’t go down without putting up a good fight.

In modern-day China, where inequality balloons and upward mobility becomes a thing of the past, man pinde has become the default status for many of us. It describes the incredible effort we must put in to achieve the same things that the privileged already enjoy. It is a term that separates us from the ‘effortless’ class.

We self-identify and self-deprecate by telling each other how man pinde we’ve been. The Internet is awash with such stories, like the man pinde young man who folded a million origami cranes but couldn’t win a girl’s heart. Or the man pinde student who memorized an entire dictionary but couldn’t get that job at a law firm. We hear about the man pinde parents who toiled for a decade and still couldn’t afford to send their child to school, the man pinde secretary who polished her CEO’s family’s shoes but still didn’t get promoted, and the man pinde son who saved up all his earnings and still couldn’t foot his own medical bills.

These are the tales of our times – our man pinde times – where things are hard and we just can’t catch a break, no matter how hard we try. The joke is on us all.

By day, Mia Li is a news reporter in Beijing; at night, she tries to turn that news into standup comedy. 

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