Chinese Urban Dictionary: Xiaotianbing

By Mia Li, March 22, 2019

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Xiaotianbing / xiǎo tián bǐng / 小甜饼 noun. little cookie, someone who’s born into a welloff family, has an easy life, is nice and popular


A. Lily just got elected to be class president!

B. Good. She’s got good grades and loves to help others.

A. It must be good to be a xiaotianbing.

B. She once told me her parents taught her that studying was FUN.

We all know this small subset of the human population: They are popular because they are genuinely nice, and they are nice because they’ve never been damaged. They were born into a good and well-off family. Their parents still love each other, encouraged them to do good things, knew how to give “the talk” and basically did everything right. 

These rare humans are socially charming. They are trusting, warm and confident. Thanks to a good upbringing, they know when to be humble and when to be assertive. Thanks to a good education, others do not intimidate them. They have a lot of friends and are always making more. 

They are romantically successful too. They know their worth and don’t settle or self-sabotage. They have faith in love and can form long-lasting relationships, thanks to examples set by their parents. They then pass on their good fortune to their offspring. On and on it goes. 

Meanwhile, the rest of us witness our parents struggling to keep it together, never got much encouragement growing up, and end up stumbling through life living on a few prayers. 

We watch on as the lucky ones claim all the success, seemingly effortlessly. We enviously scroll through their WeChat Moments, which are filled with smiles and sunshine. We hate them but we can’t fault them, because they never did anything wrong. 

We end up giving up comparing ourselves to them and just place them in one group, which we call xiaotianbing, or ‘little cookies,’ because their lives are one sweet, delicious and warm ball of dough. You get a good feeling just looking at them. 

A xiaotianbing has never been messed up by their parents, scolded by their teachers, abandoned by their lovers or fired by their bosses. Why would they? They are lovely! A xiaotianbing has three birthday parties with cakes and balloons each year. They get promoted each year. Their lives are always in good balance. They are excited to try new things and learn a new skill each year. They are going to make great parents one day. Their entire lives are a virtuous cycle. 

Meanwhile, the rest of us stay up till 4 in the morning dealing with our own neuroses, get to work three hours late, beat ourselves up with guilt and take it out on our partners. Our parents call us and tell us they knew we wouldn’t amount to anything. Afterwards, we open WeChat Moments, see a xiaotianbing’s guileless smile and wonder where it all went wrong.

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