Chinese Urban Dictionary: Jitang

By Mia Li, August 22, 2018

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jitang / jī tāng / 鸡汤 noun. and adj. “chicken soup,” or advice that doesn't solve any problem but makes one feel better

A: Come out drinking with us! 

B:  I can’t. I have a huge project and I need to stop procrastinating

A: No you don’t. You just need to stop and smell the roses.

B: Stop feeding me jitang. Don’t you have any real advice? 

Ah, chicken soup. It tastes good, warms you up and fills your belly for a short while but can’t really sustain you until your next meal. Being mostly water, it is cheap, easy and devoid of substance. So is jitang information and advice. It tells you what you want to hear in the moment, but doesn’t help solve any real problems. 

Jitang is common in our attention economy. Content creators know that we don’t cruise the Internet endlessly day in and day out, or become glued to our phones and tablets, to actually learn anything. We don’t want the truth or any substance – we want dopamine and comfort. All we are looking for during our restless scrolling is a little something to make us feel better after looking at other people’s WeChat Moments.

This is where jitang comes in. Jitang is bite-sized content that tells us all our problems will be solved and everything will be okay, even if we don’t do anything, so we can read it and get through another day without making any changes. If you are overweight, jitang tells you that you are healthy as long as you have “a positive mindset.” If you are over-spending, jitang tells you to live in the moment. If you are in a career you hate, jitang tells you that hard work will be rewarded eventually. If you are in a miserable relationship, jitang tells you to “appreciate and cherish what you have.” 

Just like chicken soup, jitang soothes us for a short while and leaves us hungry soon after. We read it, feel better and go to bed, only to have the same problems haunting us a few days later. Then you find yourself reading jitang before bed again, and the cycle continues. 

Maybe chicken soup is good for one day, but sooner or later we have to eat something substantial. It's OK to find comfort in jitang in the short term, but we're better off seeking honest advice and making real changes. 

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