Even with countless errands on your to-do list, do you find yourself taking excessive breaks, scrolling through social media, or binging one Netflix series after another? If yes, congratulations: You’ve joined the ranks of Chinese youth who are ‘lying flat,’ or at least claim to do so.
In this involuted era triggered by China’s intense ‘996’ work culture, new slang terms are being coined to capture young people’s sense of doom and despondency.
The latest to join the Chinese lexicon is ‘let it rot’ (bailan 摆烂).
2022 is the year when Chinese chose to bailan.Bailan means to actively embrace a bad situation (i.e. let it deteriorate further) rather than to try and flip it into a good one.A similar Chinese idiom is 破罐破摔 referring to dropping a pot that's already cracked. 3/7— Chang Che (@Changxche) May 12, 2022
2022 is the year when Chinese chose to bailan.
Bailan means to actively embrace a bad situation (i.e. let it deteriorate further) rather than to try and flip it into a good one.
A similar Chinese idiom is 破罐破摔 referring to dropping a pot that's already cracked. 3/7
— Chang Che (@Changxche) May 12, 2022
‘Let it rot’ means to let things that are already beyond repair deteriorate. Some suspect that the word originated from NBA fan circles and was used to describe teams that intentionally tank games or lose on purpose to secure a competitive advantage in the next round.
The phrase was picked up by Chinese gaming communities after reportedly being popularized by ‘Big Eggplant’ (大茄子), a livestreamer known for using colorful language.
Not long after, memes related to ‘Let it rot’ began circulating the internet and became embraced by the masses.
‘Let it be,’ reads the sticker
Bubbly 27-year-old Shanghai resident Erica Liu works in education and described herself as someone who isn’t easily self-defeated. In recent times, however, she has identified more and more with the ‘let it rot’ mentality and frequently uses the expression when chatting with her friends.
“When my company set impossible goals for me to meet, I just felt like the only thing I could do was to bailan,” Liu tells RADII.
A WeChat sticker that reads ‘Start to bailan’
Liu explained that the term ‘let it rot’ is similar to ‘lying flat’ but conveys a new degree of cynicism.
“‘Lying flat’ equates to spending little effort and adopting a laid-back attitude, whereas ‘let it rot’ means not caring whatsoever, seeing as there is nothing to be done.”
Other netizens on Weibo have shared similar sentiments with comments such as, “Lately, I really want to bailan. There’s just too much going on in my life.”
Unsurprisingly, many of said commenters are caught in Shanghai’s drawn-out lockdown or other cities in China that are experiencing movement restrictions. The buzzword describes how they have gone into ‘goblin mode’ and are enjoying it.
A WeChat sticker of two avatars performing bailan together
Whether the ‘let it rot’ mentality represents the final stages of cynicism among Chinese youth remains to be seen. Meanwhile, all we can do is sit tight while enjoying a tidal wave of memes on the Chinese web.
All images via Twitter
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