Chinese Urban Dictionary: Nanshen, Nushen

By That's Beijing, March 5, 2014

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By Mia Li

Chinese Urban Dictionary

nanshen /nán shén/ n.

n. a male pin-up, a man revered for his attractiveness. 켕

nushen /n㉦shén / n.

n. a female pin-up, the female equivalent of a nanshen 큽


How to use it:

A: Ryan Gosling is a total nanshen

B: That is until you actually get to know him. Don't meet your hero.


A: What would you do if a nanshen asked you out?

B: I'd wake up, make breakfast for my husband and kids and then slap you in the face for suggesting something so unrealistic.

One month after this year’s Spring Festival gala, with the much-heralded appearance of Korean pop star Lee Min-ho, an agreement on exactly what constitutes a nanshen seems to have been reached. Nanshen, literally meaning “male god,” is the male equivalent of, and the sequel to nüshen, or goddess.

Both nanshen and nüshen are the fantastically flawless examples of their respective gender, possessing both physical beauty and faultless character. They are perfect renditions of femininity and masculinity. A nanshen is Prince Charming with depth, or Jesus with sex appeal. 

Compared to the qualities of a nüshen (big-eyed, pale-skined, nice-smelling and graceful in heels), the criteria for a nanshen center around a man’s capabilities. He can run, drive, climb, dance, sing, flirt and romance. He can dress to impress, make memorable public speeches and bravely shoulder responsibilities.

His shoulders and jawline are strong, like his opinions. He has long legs and a long attention span. He plans for the weekend as well as for the future. He holds the door for you and a prestigious degree in medicine for himself. He adores his girlfriend (singular) and small animals and children. Feeling nauseated yet?

Some of the criteria may seem a bit paradoxical. He is tall but not too tall, muscular but not too muscular. He enjoys the company of ladies but doesn't indulge. He doesn't play video games but is very good at it when he does. He gets jealous but not very often.

The same as a nüshen, a nanshen is defined by how out of league he is for all of us who live in the real world. A nanshen only lives in our fantasy, no matter which k-pop star face you put on him. Like the “first super model” Gia Carangi said when she first appeared on the cover of Vogue magazine: “Nobody looks that good, not even me.”

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

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