44 Spicy Eyes – 辣眼睛 (là yǎn jīng)

Dani Omana

simplified Chinese: 辣眼睛 ; pinyin: là yǎn jīng

Spicy Eyes

The slang term “Spicy Eyes” or “辣眼睛” (là yǎnjīng) is a popular and unique expression that is used in mostly online and youth culture. The unique expression originates from the playful and creative nature of internet colloquialisms in China.

The term comes from a combination of the word “辣” which means hot/chili and “眼睛” which means eye. However, grammatically it is used as a verb in this context, like the action of physically getting something irritating or burning inside your eyes. It is a metaphorical and hyperbolic expression typically used to describe something shocking, outrageous, disgusting, or taboo. It is also used when describing the feeling one may experience when confronted with something overwhelming or even excessive. The word “辣” or “” (hot/chili) is often times combined with other words in the Chinese language to describe things other than food or flavors. For example, “火辣辣 ” can mean scorching, hot, sexy, provocative or even rude and forthcoming.

Generally, Chinese culture can tend to be incredibly traditional. With more and more pressure to conform to the world around them, it makes sense that internet colloquialisms can describe the feelings young Chinese people experience when confronted with something that is deemed shocking or against the grain. However, because China is so interconnected with the globe, younger generations are exposed to many diverse and even sometimes shocking things. This clash between traditional values and the changing world around them, especially on something so widespread like the internet, can cause a unique tension. “Spicy eyes” can serve as a tool to cope with what they are seeing, allowing them to express their feelings of unease or astonishment at the sight of the unconventional. As a consequence, the unfortunate side-effect is that this descriptor is many times used against people’s appearances and behaviors even if they are not actually affecting the people around them. The adoption of this term and others like it shows how young Chinese people navigate the changing world around them, even if it’s harsh and judgemental.

I have attached photographs of some memes that I discovered while browsing the web for instances of the word “辣眼睛”. As you can see, many of these photographs portray disgust or disdain in their expressions. Many of these were shared by Chinese people as an example of common ways people use “辣眼睛” in everyday internet vernacular and also to show some popular images that might be shared by the average Chinese person on social sites such as WeChat and Sina Weibo.


  1. https://www.quora.com/What-does-%E8%BE%A3%E7%9C%BC%E7%9D%9B-mean-in-Chinese


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Spicy Eyes - 辣眼睛 (là yǎn jīng) Copyright © 2024 by Dani Omana is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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