54 Scumbag – 渣男 (zhānán)

Trisha Nguyen

simplified Chinese: 渣男; pinyin: zhānán


Zhanan (Chinese: 渣男,pinyin: zhānán) is a Chinese internet slang term for men who are self-centered, irresponsible and have a negative personalities, but it can also refer to men who do not work hard for advancement in their careers. It is also used to describe creepy perverted males. In Chinese, “zha” is one of the lowest possible rating people can give to people. Zha-渣, which translates roughly as “dregs” or “dross,” which serves no purpose and should be eliminated, and nan-男 means male. In China, zhanan most commonly refers to unfaithful men or playboys. It translates to “rubbish man” or “jerk” in English. Currently, many non-Chinese speakers mistakenly think that zhanan also means “ugly man”. However, these two words have completely different meanings. Ugly man is just about the person’s appearance is not appealing to society’s standard. Zhanan refers to a man who has bad personalities and manners. The term gained its popularity through modern Chinese romance novels, which later makes it also popular among young people. It was originally used to describe male antagonists in romance novels, who have distinct characteristics such as being self-centered, unfaithful in relationships, inconsiderate, etc. They can be men who cheat when in a relationship or playboys who often break. Sometimes, they also refer to men who are not motivated to work hard for career advancement. Those characters are usually the cause of the main story’s plot, serving as obstacles to the main characters’ relationship. As the story ended, zhanan characters often face the consequences of their bad actions. The term zha also apply to women who share the same characteristic as zhanan, those women are called zhanu(渣女).

According to psychologists, the root cause of zhanan is low self-esteem, which leads men to believe they are unworthy of a genuine relationship. They attempt to mask their insecurities through cocky appearances and actions. They believe they can overcome their insecurities by bringing other people down and viewing others as a “challenge,” the more challenges they can pass, the more worthy they are. It can also come from their family’s poor education, as many zhanan are closed-minded and view women as an object which explain their terrible actions toward women. As a result, they will settle for whoever they can get because people usually only accept the kind of love they believe they deserve.


A: This guy I’m seeing shows up every other week to spend time with me, then just goes incommunicado. It’s been months. What is wrong with him?

B: Either he’s a spy or a zhanan.

A: But I like him. I can’t live without his sweet words on WeChat.

B: Wake up. You are such an enabler.

(“Chinese Urban Dictionary: Zhanan”)


“Chinese Urban Dictionary: Zhanan.” That’s Online, www.thatsmags.com/shanghai/post/14505/chinese-urban-dictionary-zha-nan.



Scumbag - 渣男 (zhānán) Copyright © 2023 by Trisha Nguyen. All Rights Reserved.

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