5 “Buddhist” – 佛系 (Fú xì)

C. M. Clark

simplified Chinese: 佛系; pinyin: Fú xì



Fú xì is a buzzword in Chinese pop culture, referring to young people who distance themselves from the competitiveness and workaholism of the modern Chinese economy. Younger Chinese people who take up this mindset are sometimes called Generation Zen.


The term has its origins in a Japanese magazine called Non-no. There, it was used to refer to a more extreme form of the grass-eater or herbivore man, a Japanese pop culture term for men who showed little to no interest in interacting romantically with women. The term blew up on Chinese social media after the WeChat account Xin Shixiang published an article referring to “the first group of post-90s generation that have become monks.”


Though not an actual Buddhist practice, the term is couched in Buddhist terminology to place an emphasis on achieving contentment by letting go of attachment to ephemeral things. As a result, the lifestyle these people advocate for and follow is relatively Laissez-faire, though not in the capitalist sense. In fact, many of the market-driven aspects of the modern Chinese economy have created the conditions that make the Buddha-like mindset so attractive.


Young Chinese citizens born and living in the mainland now face economic challenges previous generations simply didn’t have to contend with. The government’s one-child policy places extreme pressure on students and young professionals to succeed from a very early age. As far as forming relationships with the opposite sex goes, the disproportionate ratio between men and women makes forging romantic relationships difficult for both sides. The urban generation born after the institution of the one-child policy (between 1980 and 1989) entrenched themselves so firmly in the business world that many members of the younger generations perceive social mobility as an illusion. As a result, they drop out of the rat race.


Younger citizens of Hong Kong currently face a similar plight to their mainland counterparts. In addition to all of the previously mentioned problems, the issue of the city-state’s sovereignty and the CCP’s encroachment upon its democratic institutions poses an existential threat to the city as we know it today. With so many protesters rounded up during crackdowns and imprisoned indefinitely, the youth of Hong Kong can hardly be blamed for feeling their situation hopeless. Combined with a ludicrously expensive housing market and a median income that can’t keep up, many young Hong Kongers have taken up the fo xi lifestyle.


The Buddha-like mindset as it is known to the Chinese is fascinating because despite being couched in the terminology of Buddhism and Chinese culture, the mindset is one being adopted by young adults the world over. The growing apathy for participation in economic and political aspects of life reflects a lack of faith in society’s current direction and a refusal to pour blood, sweat, and tears into a system that no longer provides for one’s needs. Though potentially frightening, perhaps a large enough number of people with the same mindset could gather the traction needed to institute the desired changes, in China and elsewhere.



“Chinese Youth Adopt ‘Buddha-like’ Mindset in Face of Modern Pressures.” Chinadaily.com.cn, March 14, 2018. https://www.chinadaily.com.cn/a/201803/14/WS5aa9420ca3106e7dcc141abd.html.

Kingdom, Magpie. “#6: Why Chinese Millennials Are Trying to Be More ‘Buddha-Like.’” Medium, January 25, 2018. https://medium.com/magpie-digest/buddha-like-millennials-12cdb1758e25.


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"Buddhist" - 佛系 (Fú xì) Copyright © 2024 by C. M. Clark is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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