48 Watermelon-eating Bystander – 吃瓜群众 (chīguā qúnzhòng)



simplified Chinese: 吃瓜群众; pinyin: chīguā qúnzhòng  

Watermelon-eating Bystander

吃瓜群众 (chīguā qúnzhòng) translates to “eating melon seeds crowd” or “watermelon-eating bystander.” This phrase refers to bystanders, typically on the internet. The phrase is not exactly positive, rather critical of those bystanders. The phrase is not intended for those who passively scroll on the internet, but instead for those who enjoy watching what others are doing for fun, disregarding facts from the situation being observed. Instances where this happens is when there is a post or article written, someone who leaves a comment about it, not knowing the situation, can be known as 吃瓜群众. In English, they can be known as an instigator, or someone who inserts themselves into a situation and stirs up controversy despite having no prior involvement. 吃瓜群众 can also refer to someone who blindly follows the opinions on others, not knowing the context behind the situation.

The phrase 吃瓜群众 has some cultural significance, but the origin is still not fully known. Watermelon is an extremely popular fruit to eat during the summertime in China. Vendors line the streets making it very easy to buy watermelon no matter where you go. Often, vendors will offer services to cut the watermelon for their customers, allowing them to stand and eat it right away. Due to this, many people will stand on the side of the often busy streets eating watermelon and observing the crowd. This act can be compared to sitting at a cafe and drinkg tea or coffee while looking out of the window at the people on the street. Another theory as to how this phrase was created comes from a news interview. The news was reporting on a fatal accident and interviewed an elderly bystander who was there at the time of the accident. When questioned about what they saw, the bystander said they were just eating their watermelon on the side of the road and didn’t know anything. Both of these explanations are a funny way to describe the origin of this phrase.

Examples of when 吃瓜群众 is used can be onthe internet under controversial posts, such as someone being rude to an employee at a store. A 吃瓜群众 may comment under the video defending the rude customer while everyone else understands the customer was in the wrong. The actions of the 吃瓜群众 are seen negatively because it is clear they did not fully understand the context of the video before commenting. An example where someone chooses to be an uninformed bystander could be if someone tries to engage in gossip. One may approach someone with a negative rumor and they could reply with, “我 不知道。我 只 是 一个 吃瓜群众!” In this example, someone chooses to remain out of a situation they are not involved in.



R, Hannah. “Watermelon-eating people (吃瓜群众)”. https://uhlibraries.pressbooks.pub/chin3343sp23/chapter/watermelon-eatingpeople/.

“How do you translate the Chinese net-lingo ‘吃瓜群众’?”. https://www.quora.com/How-do-you-translate-the-Chinese-net-lingo-%E5%90%83%E7%93%9C%E7%BE%A4%E4%BC%97.


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