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Advertising and Marketing

Beijing's toilet travails and a foreskin poem

Appearing at a toilet near you

Occasional Danwei contributor Ichabod is back with another rant:

The framed advertisement to the left has appeared above urinals in public toilets around Beijing. It promotes the services of the Dongda Hospital for Anus and Intestinal Diseases and contains a poem. The poem is about misshapen foreskins. The images of emerging hatchlings represent the crimped anterior region of the male sex organ -- the Chinese word for penis is a homonym for little chicken. A rough translation follows:

A Must-Read for Men

Too long a foreskin wrapped as bark
The myriad of forms and shapes
Too much toil sets Heaven askew
Worms and germs upset and vex.

Offensive odors swollen red
Lengthy foreskin is to blame
And if yours is so afflicted
Dongda Clinic has your fix.

Korean-style circumcision
Absent pain and absent wound
Awkward maladies will vanish
Lovers laugh and beam with bliss

Where is this Dongda Hospital?
South of Landao Mansion’s side
8563-9299 give a call
Ensure your lover’s happiness

Danwei is outraged by these ads. If this profit-driven trend toward noting the shortcomings of our johnsons is allowed to continue in the one place in the city where we can share a private moment with our valued members, then China’s progress in the way of public facilities will face a swift reversal.

And to think how far the culture of the water closet had advanced. The Qing Dynasty’s last emperor, Puyi, enjoyed no fixed commode in the entire Forbidden City. He instead summoned eunuchs carrying a silver pan and a donut-shaped stool. Ordinary Chinese squatted above the cistern down the ally, and fetid public conveniences in Beijing remained little improved until only two years ago. That’s when, in preparation for the 2008 Olympics, the Beijing city government ordered nearly four thousand eco-friendly, color-coordinated, lily-fragrant public toilets.

We at Danwei applauded that decision. It indicated not just forward planning but also that China had left the political struggles of the past at a distant remove. After all, we recall what befell history’s most virtuous sanitation worker. As the Communist Party’s “model hero of nightsoil portage” during the 1960s, Shi Chuangxiang’s nightly task was to empty the city’s pit latrines. This he did with such élan that, like model soldier Lei Feng, his story of selfless toil became familiar to schoolchildren from the Yalu river to the Laotian border. He even shook hands with China’s president, Liu Shaoqi -- and that moment, captured by photographers, became his undoing. When President Liu was purged as a “capitalist roader” in 1967, Shi fell into disgrace, faced torment by ultra-leftist Red Guards and died of a broken heart.

Gladly, the reformist leadership under communist patriarch Deng Xiaoping decreed that leftist politics must no longer intrude upon the smooth functioning of public conveniences. First, it introduced economic reforms to feed the masses. That accomplished, it pointed the levers of power toward the softer side of governance. As ministry of construction official Zhang Yue admitted to attendees of the World Toilet Summit in Beijing in October 2004, “We’d been too busy feeding and clothing the people and paid scant attention to public toilets.”

Well, Mr. Zhang, your political pendulum has swung too far the other way. Having allowed market forces to improve the common weal, you now allow them to undermine it. And you should have known better. Didn’t the government commission studies showing that the market economy left people wealthier and
happier even as it increased their resentment of excesses like corruption and money-grubbing? We tell you, toilets are no different. The new stainless steel urinals and ample use of industrial deodorants leave us happier, but we resent the excessive reach of marketeers whose alarming services affront us as we stand to relieve ourselves.

Mr. Zhang, we call on you to remove this advertising and allow us once again to urinate without being reminded that a clutch of Korean quacksalvers stands ready to have at our foreskins with scalpels. Thank you. Thank you very much.

This is the original Chinese text of the advertisement:


There are currently 7 Comments for Beijing's toilet travails and a foreskin poem.

Comments on Beijing's toilet travails and a foreskin poem

Post of the decade!

I nearly wet myself!

The hatchlings: NEW LIFE! Foreskin is bad for you!
Feeling depressed?
Cut it off!
Feeling grumpy!
Cut it off!
Feeling angry?
It's all your bloody foreskin fault!
Just cut it.
Thousands of years of Jewish tradition can't be wrong...

This is not quite as trivial as it might seem. It will be a convincing test of modern China's resolve to do things the Chinese way. Will they solidly maintain their tradition of 5000 years of foreskinned existance? Or will they let themselves be sold this totally alien practice, just because it is said to be "modern", "healthy", "sexy" and "western"?

It will also be a very good test of their marketing skills and could yet become a big worry for the rest of the world. If you can get the male population of China to cut bits off their dicks just by putting up posters in public toilets, you can get them to do ANYTHING!

fancy language
have or halve?

I've just posted an alternative translation (complete with a rather free rhyme for the word "Korea") up on my blog:

Hey, I am a Chinese girl, I don't think this sort of advertisement is unusual. It does effect a new, open trend of life of modern Chinese. But so what? Don't you think it is quite rhythmic and humorous?

Curiously, I have never seen an uncircumcised Chinese male in UK, Europe, Hong Kong and Malaysia.

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