Rent a girlfriend for the Chinese New Year (Elementary)

Recently, there has been an intriguing news story spreading across the internet in China. Lily and Jerry are talking about it.

           Wǒ kàndào yítiáo qíguài de xīnwén.
   Lily:我    看到    一条    奇怪   的   新闻。

            I read a weird piece of news.

           Shénme xīnwén?
Jerry:什么        新闻?

           What was it about?

           Zū nǚpéngyou de xīnwén.
   Lily:租    女朋友      的  新闻。

           (It is) a piece of news about renting a girlfriend.

In the above conversation, 租 (zū) is a verb meaning “to rent.” For example, 租房 (zūfáng, to rent a house), 租车 (zūchē, to rent a car).


           Zhè shì nǐ mǎi de fángzi ma?
Lucy:这    是  你 买   的  房子  吗?

           Did you buy this house?

           Búshì. Zhè shì wǒ zū de fángzi.
Sally:不是。  这   是  我 租  的  房子。

           No. I rent it.

租车 (zūchē, to rent a car) or 租房 (zūfáng, to rent a house) is common in our daily life, but renting a girlfriend really is news. While uncommon for most people, this does happen, especially during the Chinese Spring Festival. But why?

When there is the need there is a market, and renting a girlfriend is no exception. In China, when one reaches the marrying age (around 25 years old) and does not have a boy/girlfriend, there tends to be a great deal of pressure coming from all directions. In Chinese society, family bonds are very strong and most major decisions will give heavy weight to the opinions of parents and close relatives. As such, if one isn’t in a relationship by this age then there is endless chatter and fix-ups from friends and relatives, most of which cannot be taken lightly or easily ignored.

This is especially the case around Chinese Spring Festival when family members are all together again. Many young people would like to avoid this meddling into their personal life; however, finding a significant other is not so easy. Young men, for example are busy with their jobs, leaving little time to date. And many girls want boyfriends who have at least a car and a house, making it so that those young men have to work even harder. It’s a bit of a catch-22. In order to escape this embarrassing situation and have a happy Spring Festival, many men will instead rent a girlfriend for Spring Festival.

The young Chinese who will engage in renting a girlfriend or a boyfriend for Spring Festival are termed 剩男 (shèngnán) and 剩女 (shèngnǚ), which means a man or woman who is at the right age for marriage but does not have a significant other. The reasons for their single status, as we have already said, might be economic in nature, but another reason is that many of these unmarried people are 宅男 (zháinán) and 宅女 (zháinǚ). These kinds of men and women like to stay at home and rarely go out. They call themselves 宅男 (zháinán, indoor man) and 宅女 (zháinǚ, indoor woman). This condition is relatively common in China, and it has made 宅 (zhái) a popular word in the Chinese language.

The original meaning of 宅 (zhái) is house or dwelling. In modern Chinese language, this has changed to 住宅 (zhùzhái), but the meaning is the same.


Zhège zhùzhái xiǎoqū hěn piàoliang.
这个      住宅      小区    很    漂亮。

This housing district is very beautiful.

But if you are in China, you will not find the above usage of “宅 (zhái)” to be common at all. The more recent, popular usage of the word “宅 (zhái)” is as an adjective or as a verb. In 宅男 (zháinán) and 宅女 (zháinǚ), 宅 (zhái) is used as an adjective to modify 男 (nán, man) and 女 (nǚ, woman), and it means “indoor.”


   Tā hěn zhái, hěn shǎo chūmén.
1. 他  很  ,   很    少     出门。

    He is a real home body, he rarely goes out.

    Péngyǒumen jiào tā zháinǚ.
2. 朋友们            叫   她  宅女。

    Her friends call her an indoor girl.

When 宅 (zhái) is used as a verb, it means “to stay at home.” And it makes the sentence more vivid.

     Zhōumò chūqu wánr ba?
A:周末       出去   玩儿 吧?

     What about going out for a bit of fun on Sunday?

      Búqù, wǒ yào zhái zài jiāli.
B:不去,我   要   宅   在 家里。

      No. I want to stay at home.

Are you a 宅男 (zháinán) or 宅女 (zháinǚ)? 宅在家里 (zhái zài jiāli) may be more comfortable, but it probably isn’t the best way to find your future wife or husband!


1. What’s the meaning of 租房 (zūfáng) in Chinese language?_____

A. to buy a house

B. to borrow a house

C. to rent a house

2. Which one of the following best fills in the blank in the sentence “她很____,周末很少出门。(Tā hěn____, zhōumò hěn shǎo chūmén.)?”________

A. 宅女 (zháinǚ)

B. 住宅 (zhùzhái)

C. 宅 (zhái)

3. What’s the meaning of 住宅 (zhùzhái)?____

A. house or dwelling

B. to live in a house

C. to stay at home


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