chengdu (1)

(Translated from a Chinese entry on 出于不俗.)

Pick a city, any city, and Chinese people will tell you it has the most beautiful girls in all of China. Harbin girls, with their Manchu blood, will brave subzero temperatures to wear whatever strikes their fancy; beautiful ice queens, they are without question the most magnificent girls in China. Suzhou and Hangzhou girls, who once sang and danced for emperors, are refined and elegant; there can be no doubt that they are the most enchanting girls in all of China. Shanghainese girls may be shallow and so insatiably demanding that they greed their men into submission, but nobody can deny that they’re absolutely the most gorgeous girls in China. (Beijing girls seem to be an exception: I’ve never heard anyone say anything nice about them.)

Before I went to Chengdu with Kun, I’d heard a lot of people say that Sichuan girls were hotter than huajiao peppers. But because of all the conflicting accounts I’d heard of various places, I paid no heed. It was only after arriving in Chengdu and looking around that i found that Chengdu girls were indeed truly…ordinary. Maybe a little better on average, 6s instead of 5s, but on the whole nothing all that special. (To be fair, we went in winter, and nobody’s beautiful in winter.)

Actually, what I wanted to go to Sichuan for was the food, not the girls. Sichuan food was my favorite when I lived in Beijing, and hotpot, and when I went back to Philly I dreamt of them. Chinese food in America is mostly bastardized Cantonese food, and finding stuff from any other region is almost impossible unless you live in New York or San Francisco. So when Kun and I were planning my winter vacation this fall, Sichuan was my first choice.

I’m really interested in linguistics, even though I’ve never really studied. I’m especially interested in Chinese dialects: when I was in Beijing, any time I saw a new book about Chinese dialects – or topolects, as DeFrancis translates the term ‘方言’ – I’d buy it and, after reading it for a while, put it up on my bookshelf, never to be looked at again. To this day, if you look at my bookshelves, you’ll see a bunch of titles like 《中国方言调查》 A Survey of Chinese Topolects, 《中国方言语言学概况》 A Linguistic Overview of Chinese Topolects, or 《中国方言鸡汤》 Chicken Soup for the Chinese Topolect. It was from these books that I learned that the dialect spoken in Sichuan is a member of the northern guanhua dialect family, which is to say that it’s relatively close to Mandarin.
As I lay on the hard-sleeper bunk on the train to Sichuan, straining to follow the conversations of the Sichuanese around me from the one word out of every three that I could catch, I began to suspect that on this point, as with the most-beautiful-girls thing, I had been misled.

Comments (23)

  1. JoeClark wrote::

    OK, let me be the first then to say that I think Beijing girls are the most beautiful in China. I don’t know any Harbin girls but I find that Beijing chicks have a lot in common with northeasterners — they’re taller, have bigger eyes, and aren’t as tiny and delicate as southerners. (That said, I do know some great HK girls, particularly one who was born in Hainan. If i was going on vacation in China, that island would be my first choice!)

    PS: I’m not this shallow in real life… I just couldn’t let you dis the Beijing ladies like that!

    Sunday, January 23, 2005 at 12:42 pm #
  2. Brendan wrote::

    Oh, I wouldn’t dream of dissing Beijing ladies. I’m just repeating what I’ve heard here – or, rather, what I haven’t heard.

    Monday, January 24, 2005 at 9:31 am #
  3. Todd wrote::

    Hey Brendan, the ellipsis in the second paragraph was my favourite bit in the chinese version — how come “确实” didn’t make it into the english translation? This may seem like nitpicking, but really, I laughed out loud when I read it on 出语不俗!

    Monday, January 24, 2005 at 10:12 am #
  4. Benjamin wrote::

    Hunan, Brendan, Hunan.

    Don’t scoff at this. I’m deadly serious.

    There’s a certain element in attractiveness, when it comes down to sheer doggedness, will, and natural force of being. Coupled with loyalty, and add on a bit of rugged beauty, and you understand what I mean.

    Wednesday, January 26, 2005 at 1:51 am #
  5. yoshio wrote::

    from my own experiences (or one in particular), i hear that beijing women are tough to handle. haha, just kidding!

    Wednesday, January 26, 2005 at 1:12 pm #
  6. donny wrote::

    i don’t recall one hot girl in beijing, except for maybe my tutor. and hunan? bleh. from personal experience, i’ve gotta agree that shanghai has the best-looking women.

    unfortunately, shanghai also has the rudest people i’ve ever met (including new yorkers).

    Wednesday, January 26, 2005 at 6:00 pm #
  7. 盲虫 wrote::

    see it to believe it.

    However, If there wasn’t a majority of ordinary, there wouldn’t any unique beauty for attraction.

    There was a small village, named 宫花, in south China. I past by in a summerly evening. The girls was busy in the river bank. I couldn’t believe the unordinary beauties in the village. I became a frequent visitor.

    Few years ago, I went back there again. I was totally disappointed. It changed so much that people from the village no longer there.

    Saturday, January 29, 2005 at 9:57 pm #
  8. Anonymous wrote::

    You’re right. I’m from Beijing and no one has ever said anything nice about me. Not that I care or anything.

    It’s weird to hear foreigners talk about Chinese girls.

    Anyway, I’m hoping that my Chinese sisters these days are confident individuals who involve themselves in healthy relationships with Western men instead of selling themselves short as preys of fetishism and exoticism.

    Tuesday, February 1, 2005 at 1:47 am #
  9. Brendan wrote::

    Oh, dude, I’m just repeating what I’ve been told. I have nothing whatsoever against Beijing girls — especially given that I’m heavily biased in favor of Beijing-accented Chinese. So, Anonymous — I’ve got no particular opinions on girls from one region or another. I’m just translating what (male, and often Beijingnese) Chinese friends have told me. No need to get your panties in a twist because of it.

    Tuesday, February 1, 2005 at 1:52 am #
  10. Lu T wrote::

    hehe, you still need to go to yunnan! i would speak 昆明话 to ppl from the north, and they can understand about half of what i say.
    and we’ve got exotic minority girls there…haha

    Thursday, February 3, 2005 at 4:11 am #
  11. JD wrote::


    Wednesday, February 9, 2005 at 9:29 am #
  12. Brendan wrote::

    JD – In my experience, computer translation programs always generate laughably incorrect text, even with very simple sentences. When I write a Chinese entry, I do it entirely in Chinese, checking my dictionary as needed; it’s much easier for me to write something new, thinking in Chinese, than it is for me to write something first in English and then translate it into Chinese.

    Wednesday, February 9, 2005 at 9:38 pm #
  13. JD wrote::

    *thinking in Chinese*

    Thursday, February 10, 2005 at 4:42 am #
  14. Lili wrote::

    I heard that people only marry Beijing girls these days for a Beijing HuKou. I’m actually hoping to use my US Citizenship and one-up them all. muhahaha… a greencard babee!
    Maybe it’s something in the ManTou… Beijing’s girls just don’t make the cut.

    Thursday, February 10, 2005 at 1:52 pm #
  15. JD wrote::

    怎么说的我们北京女生这么可怜~ 别人娶我们都是为了户口。。。不过话说回来,一个肯通过自己努力来改变生活的人是不会这样子的。

    Friday, February 11, 2005 at 2:16 am #
  16. trevelyan wrote::

    >> instead of selling themselves short as preys of fetishism and exoticism.

    Friday, February 11, 2005 at 5:56 am #
  17. JD wrote::


    Chinese commentators may attack the West for “forcing a perverse sexualization of gender relations upon them,”



    Saturday, February 12, 2005 at 3:50 am #
  18. Brendan wrote::

    JD – David was referring to an earlier comment written by somebody who didn’t sign her name. Don’t worry!

    Saturday, February 12, 2005 at 10:09 pm #
  19. JD wrote::


    谢谢告诉我~:) 我看到上面他们贴的贴子了0_0

    Sunday, February 13, 2005 at 4:21 am #
  20. Jeff wrote::

    Hmm, I traveled in Guiyang (which from what I’m told is fairly similar to Sichuan as far as local dialects are concerned) over summer and the first thing that I noticed was how similar the dialect was to Mandarin – seemed like the biggest difference was in the tones.

    Heh, I have no comment on the women of China.

    Monday, February 14, 2005 at 8:00 am #
  21. Troubadour wrote::

    I’ve read that famous singer/actress Faye Wong grew up in Beijing before making it big in HK. I would say she is quite attractive, especially when her creative talent and personal style are factored in – I don’t find that any of her entertainment industry contemporaries really compare to her in those areas at least. And she has the most amazing eyes…

    Monday, March 7, 2005 at 3:13 am #
  22. gwen wrote::

    I will go to Philly two months later. It is really sad to see what chinese food there look like as you mentioned

    Wednesday, April 27, 2005 at 9:47 pm #
  23. freya wrote::

    That is cool to read your words on linguistics and Sichuan foods and Chengdu girls even after some 6 months later.


    I was told that I was going to be a linguist and Chengdu girls were most beautiful in China!

    Saturday, July 9, 2005 at 11:51 pm #