Best of Beijing: The best Beijinghua words and phrases!

It’s often said that spring is the best time to visit Beijing and see everything the city has to offer. While getting out and about and experiencing everything isn’t exactly possible at the moment, that doesn’t mean you can’t start to make plans!

To that end, for the past few weeks Cultural Keys, in partnership with some of the best travel and culture companies in the business, have brought to you our Best of Beijing series. Each week, our partners introduce you to the best that the Chinese capital has to offer, from food to flowers, from classical architecture to useful words and phrases especially for Beijing! 

Now in week 3, we are proud to be joined by the Hutong School, as the language maestros introduce you to some of the most Beijing-centric words and phrases this side of the Forbidden City. Enjoy! 

Best of Beijing Part 1: The Most Beautiful Places to See this Spring!

Best of Beijing Part 2: The Best Places for Actively Exploring the Capital City!

撸串 lū chuàn – Mutton kebabs

As we enter summer and Beijing gets back to normal, we are reminded of the magical words 撸串 (or 撸串儿 lū chuàn ér if you use the Beijing accent). It’s the old time Beijing favourite of eating meat on a stick. Roasted over charcoal and often seasoned with cumin seeds, this popular treat originated from the Chinese Muslim community.

An interesting fact about the character 串 , is that it actually looks like a skewer with meat! 撸 is the verb and means to strip the sticks bare. If you see the character 串 when on a hutong stroll, take a seat and order ten!

光膀子guāng bǎng zi – Beijing bikini

As you continue your summer walk, you may encounter a group of gentleman eating some 串儿 with their shirts rolled up exposing their chests and bellies. Don’t be afraid. Beijingers call this 光膀子and despite laws to ban such fashion statements, 光膀子(or as some say, “Beijing Bikini”) is still a popular way to keep cool on a hot summer’s day.

CK Says: As we were getting ready to publish this article, Beijing authorities announced announced a ban on this ubiquitous Beijing statement. Does that mean we’ll never see it again? Well, this is Beijing, so never say never’r

劳您驾 láo nín jià – Excuse me!

You’re a long way from home but already coming to grips with hutong lingo. You find that a busy hutong can be like a rush hour expressway of people, pets, bikes, cars and more. How can you squeeze past while making a good impression at the same time? Saying 劳您驾 is a polite way to say “excuse me” by Beijing people and will hold you in good stead on those busy days.

嘛呢?má ne – What are you doing?

嘛呢 means “what are you doing?”. It’s to the point and rarely found in any beginners Mandarin textbook. So if your friend steals the last 串儿 from the plate and you want to put them straight, you can throw in this handy Beijing phrase. If you want to keep things more polite, you can say 您嘛呢 nín má ne. “您nín” being the polite way to say “you”.

千里之行始于足下 qiānlǐ zhī xíng shǐ yú zúxià – A journey of a thousand miles…

千里之行始于足下 is the famous Chinese saying meaning “a journey of a thousand miles must first start with a single step”. Ask any Mandarin learner and they will agree that studying Chinese can also be compared to a journey of a thousand miles. And best of all, you’ve already started your journey with these easy words and phrases!


Many thanks to the Hutong School for that look at some of Beijing’s most interesting words and phrases! If you want to learn more and make those thousand miles shorter, you can jump into a trial class at Hutong School by reaching out to Angelina Lee @ email – [email protected] or WeChat – ange_lee.

Hutong School are an award-winning Mandarin school situated in the heart of Sanlitun.

A multi-cultural team passionate about helping expats and students from all over the world, they also offer Chinese cultural events and China focused career workshops alongside their Mandarin programmes.

Hutong School currently have a great 2 for 1 promotion where every 2 hours of offline group or private classes you take during the month of purchase, you will receive a voucher for 1 additional hour. 


Learn something new today? Think you’ll be using any of these phrases any time soon? Was something ‘very Beijing’ missed? Let us know in the comments below, or on Facebook, Instagram or LinkedIn. Have a question about anything Cultural Keys related? Use the contact form at the bottom of the page. However you choose to get in contact, we always love hearing from you!

Photo Credits
– Barnarama.com
– Cultural Keys
– hd-tech.cn
– tenor.com

Disclaimer: This is not a sponsored post. No company or individual whose articles we share are paid, nor is Cultural Keys paid to share their contributions. Some of the organisations whose articles and information we post are partners of Cultural Keys, some are not. All contributions are assumed to be the original work of the submitting company or organisation. Neither Cultural Keys nor any of our staff, partners or associates accept any liability for the opinions, information or advice shared in these articles. Articles may have been lightly edited for length and clarity.



Recent Posts


Upcoming Events


About Us

Are you interested in learning more about the traditional culture of China, and perhaps experiencing it for yourself?  Since 2013, Cultural Keys Chinese Culture Centre has been helping people doing exactly that.

Through our provision of content, classes, information and services, Cultural Keys helps people access, understand and experience the traditional culture of China, from kung fu to calligraphy, feng shui to painting. Click hereto read more about Cultural Keys and what we can do for you, your school, company or organisation to help you get more out of your time in China.

For more information about anything on this page, please contact us or use the form below to let us know your specific requirements. We look forward to hearing from you!

CLICK TO SHOW CONTACT FORM

Your Name (required)

Your Email (required)

What is your enquiry about? (required)

Your Message


Leave a Reply

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