Foreign Devil, Foreign Monkey

Maybe you’ve heard the term “foreign devil”.


The Chinese word “guilao” can be literally translated as “ghost man” and it dates back several thousand years to a time when European barbarians invaded China and made a really bad first impression.  The term has been carried down through generations as a candid description of unwelcome outsiders.  It is certainly still in circulation today but China is changing rapidly and with the changes comes a shifted view of foreigners.  We have rarely heard (or felt) the term “foreign devil”.  However, there is a newer term that better describes the opinion of the outsiders like us.

“Laowai Houzi”  or “Foreign Monkey”

The general idea is that the foreigner goes on display and draws a crowd.  You don’t have to live in China for long before you get to play the monkey.  It’s generally well intentioned, much appreciated and often an opportunity to show that you’re a good sport and build a relationship.  Westerners, however, often let their arrogance cloud their vision.  “Wow, these people really like me, I must be a superstar!”  They haven’t yet learned that these people also really like monkeys.

We haven’t seen a lot of real monkeys in China but when we do we are sure to snap a picture.
Originally posted in our now retired family blog: Keeping Up With the Joneses 


Monkey on her back
Trainer gets 10 kuai (about $1.50).  Monkey gets a piece of popcorn.
We get  a beautiful, lifetime reminder of the one moment that my
wife let a real, live furry beast climb on her back without screaming.
I think we got the best part of that deal.
Monkeys for Charity
This was a three man, two monkey operation
that we saw on the street in Qingdao.  The trainer
fed (and whipped) the monkeys while they did tricks.
Notice the disabled boy on the side who watched the
show.  The third man was in the crowd with a tin can
making sure spectators paid for the pictures 
they took. 
Monkeys on Motorcycles
This was a show on Monkey Island.  A short ski lift ride from
Hainan island in the south China Sea it is inhabited with literally
thousands of monkeys and is a popular tourist attraction.  It comes
complete with monkey shows, monkey swimming pools, monkeys
chained to the ground and a monkey prison for bad monkeys who
attack guests and steal their bananas.  

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