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Ready for the Future? Learn About Face Recognition Technology “刷脸 (shuāliǎn)”

Oct. 27, 2017

Chinese General face

Have you heard about “刷脸 (shuāliǎn) Face Recognition” technology? It is beginning to become a popular and exciting development in China. Recently, during the celebration of National Day, a Kentucky Fried Chicken KPRO restaurant in Hangzhou Vientiane City utilized this new technology.

Customers would go through the buffet line and then check out with their food using this “Just look with your face” payment method. When they got to the payment machine, they simply entered their meal, selected preferred method of payment (facial recognition) and then stood in front of the screen for 1-2 seconds. They then confirmed their account and phone number and finished the payment process–all of it taking less than 10 seconds!

So what exactly does “刷脸 (shuāliǎn)” mean? Let’s break this word down and see!

刷 (shuā): v. brush; clean with the brush.

脸 (liǎn): n. face.

When you put these characters together, you get:
刷脸 (shuāliǎn): facial recognition.

This word has become popular around China as the ability to pay with facial recognition has become more popular. Here are several examples of how you might hear this word in daily life in China.

Zài Hángzhōu, yì suǒ gāozhōng tuī chū shuāliǎn chīfàn fúwù.
在     杭州,     一   所    高中     推  出   刷脸      吃饭   服务。
In Hangzhou, a high school provides a service where students can pay for meals by facial recognition.

Chinese General face2

Shuāliǎn zhīfù zài Zhōngguó zhèng liúxíng qǐ lái.
刷脸      支付   在     中国       正      流行   起 来。
Face recognition payment is becoming popular in China.

However, this isn’t the only way we use this word in China! When you combine these characters together you also get another meaning:

刷脸 (shuāliǎn): “Brushing face” —This is when you use your good looks, or popularity or social status to your own advantage.

How do we use this in daily life? Here’s a good example:

Jackie Chan kào shuāliǎn miǎnfèi huòdé yī dùn wǎncān.
Jackie Chan  靠    刷脸     免费    获得   一   顿  晚餐。
Jackie Chan got a dinner for free by “brushing his face.”

Do you get it? Normally, people pay for dinner with a card, or as we say it: “刷卡 (shuākǎ) punch the card”. However, because Jackie Chan is a Superstar, people offer him amazing dinner courses for free. Jackie Chan was able to use his social status to his advantage(the celebrity effect), and this is “刷脸 (shuāliǎn).”

Another example would be:

Yīnwèi shì běidà de xuéshēng, suǒyǐ nǐ shuāliǎn jiù qīngyì de jìnrù le zhè cì jiànmiànhuì.
因为   是  北大   的     学生,  所以 你    刷脸   就    轻易 地 进入 了 这 次     见面会。
As a student of Beijing University, you can get easy access to this meeting by “brushing your face”.

Students who attend Beijing University are considered to be higher in social status than students who attend other schools. They also are able to use this social playing card to get into coveted meetings, speaking engagements or other special events.

Now it’s your turn!


1. Fill in the blank with the most appropriate word.

Zǎoshang liù diǎn de shíhou, wǒ jiù qǐchuáng xǐliǎn __ le.
早上         六  点  的   时候, 我 就   起床      洗脸 __ 了。

A. 刷脸 (shuāliǎn)

B. 刷牙 (shuāyá)

C. 刷卡 (shuākǎ)

See Answer

— Written by Jennifer Zhu —
Jennifer Zhu is a professional Chinese teacher from eChineseLearning. She has many years of Chinese language teaching experience and received her B.A. and M.A. in “Teaching Chinese as a Second Language.”

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