Chinese Urban Dictionary: Zhuxin

By Mia Li, January 21, 2020

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zhuxin / zhūxīn / 诛心 v. the act of paranoid people reading too much into things; not taking statements at face value but trying to guess the motive behind them

A: Beijing Ducks are doing well this season. 

B: You are not a Ducks fan. Why are you saying that? 

A: I’m just saying they are doing pretty decent this year. 

B: Which team are you looking to benefit by saying this?!

A: I can’t talk to you if you zhuxin like this. 

It is said that 90% of interpersonal communication is non-verbal. We say things, but what we mean is hidden between the lines. When your boyfriend says, “I’m thinking about buying some running shoes,” he really means, “I’m willing to work out so you’ll still be attracted to me.” 

While it can be frustrating to encounter those who only hear what we say and not what we mean, it is equally frustrating to deal with those who read too much into things. Sometimes, when you make an offhand comment or are just thinking out loud, a certain type of person assumes that you mean things you don’t, or goes hunting for the ‘hidden motives’ of your casual remarks. For example, just because you’re giggling at a shaggy puppy on the street doesn’t mean you condemn its owner for not doing a better job at taking care of its coat. 

Literally meaning “to punish the heart,” zhuxin is the act of going after the ‘hidden agenda’ (the heart) behind every statement. Unfortunately, this happens a lot on the internet, since all tones and context of messages tend to get lost in the comment section. 

Welcome to the chaotic world of internet debate, where you do your best to put your message in plain text while the paranoid Weibo users are only focused on the subtext, and where anyone who disagrees with you must be in on some nefarious plot. You don’t like my idol? It can’t be that you just don’t like EDM music. It must be that you are planning an evil plot to have your idol achieve world domination! Basically, once someone starts to zhuxin, the comment section is shot, since it’s suddenly filled with users accusing each other of crazy plots. 

There’s been much discussion into how to fix this. Some have suggested that one day we’ll all be leaving comments with voice or video messages, which will restore tone and context. And as far as I am concerned, that day cannot come soon enough. 

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