The “Room Thing” And Other Indirect Chinese References to Sex

(photo by Sukanto Debnath)

I’ll never forget the way my Chinese mother-in-law described the impetus for my sister-in-law’s divorce, a divorce that eventually paved the way for her to marry John’s brother. “Her ex-husband became fond of another woman.”

She used the word hào, to like or be fond of. Yet the tone of her voice made the sentence sound much more like a juicy piece of village gossip, and made me realize that, chances are, there was fondling that came along with that fondness. That, in fact, it was my mother-in-law’s way of saying this man had a sexual affair with someone else.

My husband giggled the other night when I brought it up, because even he could hear the salaciousness in such a simple word. “She was being hánxù,” or implicit. Implying something that, chances are, I wouldn’t have thought to hide behind other words.

But she’s not the only one.

I remember all of the times when I visited doctors in China who asked if I had fángshì (房事). And I remember the embarrassment in John’s laughter, when he explained to me that they weren’t asking about a “room thing,” but rather sex.

I also recall those years in my company, before I registered my marriage with John and used to check the “unmarried” status on my health questionnaire. I always noticed how, in those “unmarried” years, they never gave me the gynecological exam, but they did to my married colleagues. Only then did I realize that being unmarried supposedly made me a virgin, which exempted me from the exam.

Of course, as much as all of these references make me smile — and even giggle — I have to confess that even I know the value of hiding something personal, something private. I still can’t share in public, even on this blog, just how amazing John is when it comes to a certain “room thing.” Some things, no matter what the culture, deserve to stay safely behind closed doors.

Did you enjoy this article?
Sign up now and receive an email whenever I publish new blog posts. We respect your privacy. You can unsubscribe at any time.

You might also like:

14 thoughts on “The “Room Thing” And Other Indirect Chinese References to Sex

  • February 4, 2013 at 10:16 am

    @Jocelyn. Tell us the details about the “room thing” between you and your hubby. We all want to know.

  • February 4, 2013 at 10:49 am

    Modern Chinese literature has described the village sex life to be crude and wild. It is the more educated class use terms like “sex life”.
    I would skip the last part of the writing to avoid people like Fred. Some things are better to be private. I don’t see how Americans behave differently.

  • February 4, 2013 at 12:47 pm

    What “room thing”? I don’t know anything about the “room thing”.

  • February 4, 2013 at 3:50 pm

    Fangshi guodu = too much sex.

    Well, it basically says that thing you only do in the room, which imply sexual activity. For cave men, it is cave thing. For nomads, it is tent thing. But some culture might not be so shy that `room thing’ really is strange since sex is public thing.

  • February 4, 2013 at 5:23 pm

    Way off topic, but I trust you saw yesterday’s good news about the verdict in Kim’s suit against Li Yang? The court declared Li Yang was guilty of domestic violence, found in Kim’s favour and awarded her a healthy sum in compensation and their daughters in Kim’s care. There is still a chance of Li Yang appealing, however…

    Some things are indeed best kept quiet and private (if not necessarily indoors…), but I’m glad Kim had the courage to take this public and seek justice.

    @Fred, a little bit more respect would not go amiss.

  • February 4, 2013 at 7:24 pm

    @ Chris Waugh
    I’d say well played Kim.

    Now I won’t be able to stop wondering what “room thing?” Sometimes “ignorance is bliss” tho.

  • Pingback:Chinese Expression: the Room Thing · Global Voices

  • Pingback:The “Room Thing” And Other Indirect Chinese References to Sex | Speaking of China | China Specialists Global Post

  • February 5, 2013 at 1:42 am

    Many words/terms have been used as “substitutes” (hide behind) due to its taboo or embarrassing nature.

    Whether it’s sexual, hormonal, emotional or of intimacy there are those who feel comfortable and at ease using indirect “substitutes”.

    On the other hand some words have fondly become an “on switch” shared only by those who know of its significance e.g. we may not know what the “Room Thing” is but at least 2 people know of its significance and it puts a smile on their faces which is great.

  • February 7, 2013 at 8:52 pm

    Hmm, Sex is actually a wild thing 🙂
    Can’t live without it … in private.
    Can’t talk about it … in public.

  • Pingback:Korean Gender Reader, 2-8 Feb. | The Grand Narrative

  • February 8, 2013 at 9:15 am

    Sex is a stress reliever! It helps both women and men to neutralize the good feelings and hormones. I’m smiling all the time because I’m sexually balanced, satisfied and fulfilled :). Some women who are pissed all the time are not satisfied in some ways. Sex can’t heal all problems but only some…..

    Bruce 🙂


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *