Chinese Urban Dictionary: Zhanan

By Mia Li, July 14, 2016

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Zhanan / Zhānán /渣男 n. a player, an unfaithful man, a cheater, scum

A: This guy I’m seeing shows up every other week to spend time with me, then just goes incommunicado. It’s been months. What is wrong with him?

B: Either he’s a spy or a zhanan. 

A: But I like him. I can’t live without his sweet words on WeChat. 

B: Wake up. You are such an enabler. 

In the Chinese language, ‘zha’ is probably the lowest appraisal you can give to anything. It’s the worst name you can call anyone, lower than ‘asshole’ or ‘garbage,’ which can be used or recycled respectively. Roughly translated as ‘dregs’ or ‘dross,’ zha has no use to anyone and should be eliminated. A zhanan is such a man.

A zhanan excels at nothing, yet feels very good about himself because none of his failures are his fault. It’s always someone else’s fault: his boss was against him, his coworkers were idiots, he was deprived of opportunities. In the mirror, he sees a shiny diamond that the world is just too dumb to recognize. 

On top of that, zhanan are good with women. He knows how to sweet talk and shower you with compliments. He compares you to different kinds of flowers. He says whatever you want to hear, but he means none of it. 

The most important characteristic of a zhanan is that he cheats whenever he gets a chance. A zhanan plays the numbers game. He casts a wide net. Even if 99 percent of women reject him, he will still end up with the 1 percent whose judgment is clouded by his compliments. And then he cheats on them.

The science of identifying a zhanan is advancing rapidly. According to the latest findings, typical signs include: constantly asking girls out; having multiple WeChat conversations with girls throughout the day; and never taking dates to group activities. 

Leading experts in this field think the root cause of zhanan-ism is low self-esteem, which leads men to assume that they are not worthy of a real relationship. They therefore settle for grabbing whatever they can get, because we only accept the kind of love we think we deserve. 


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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