Chinese Burn

What is a Chinese burn? Maybe you know, maybe you don’t…well, let me refresh your memory – a Chinese burn, is a childhood game/trick/prank thing, which is achieved by putting two hands on a victim’s forearm, and then twisting in opposing directions. It fucking hurts – and leaves a red mark…a “Chinese burn” as it is known.  

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After those early school years it features very little in your everyday life. It’s juvenile I suppose, and is probably at least a little bit politically incorrect, or even racist perhaps. Well, whatever it is – I had well and truly forgotten about it by the time I actually visited China many years later…

 Never in a million years, did I think this mythical childhood creature would actually be a reality.

Despite a long day at the Beijing summer school, and an early start the next day – a couple of us decided it would be a great idea to head further into the city, and out of the dusty suburbs…I can’t really remember much of what we did there, drink probably? Hmmm…not sure, all I really remember is the taxi ride back. Three of us fell into a car, and spent ages trying to get the pronunciation correct when we told him where we wanted to go…

“Shoonyee?” Nothing…blank stares – so someone else tagged in –

“Shun-ee?” Nothing again, possibly a shake of the head – someone else’s go –

“SHOONYEE, SHOONYEE?!” Nothing again.

“Come on…please…shoon-yee, SHOON-YEE!”

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(After many attempts) “Ahhhh! SHUNYEE!”

(Everyone on in chorus together) “SHUNYEE!! SHUNYEE!!”

“Yes, yes! I know! SHUNYEE!” he said with a smirk of accomplishment, as the population of his car began in a huge high-five-fest. And why wouldn’t we? At last we were off! That’s always a great feeling, especially when in a foreign land – that moment that you know you don’t have to worry anymore, as you will be brought to the door of wherever you want to be…you can say goodbye to any hassle (and hello to overpaying on the fare, but hey-ho!)

After a little while, it began to become clear that we were going a different way than the one we came…it was dark, so quite a challenge to see things, especially in our condition – but there certainly wasn’t a motorway on the way out, or was there? Maybe we hadn’t paid attention? Hmm…

We drove for a long time, we should have been back by now – but we were still not seeing anything that looked even vaguely familiar, we began to enunciate “SHUNYEE – SHUNYEE!” once more….“DWAY! DWAY! SHUNYEE!” He said he knew the way, but it was quite clear he didn’t – in a strange and non-nonsensical turn of events we began to give him directions…on what basis I don’t know. This served to only annoy the driver (not surprising) and get us even more lost in this dark unknown wilderness. Where would we even end up…maybe he was going to lead us out into the bleak wasteland, and just shoot us in the back of the head one by one…it happens…in movies…but still…IT HAPPENS!

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Some time passed, and whoever was in the front passenger seat was the only one still trying to converse – the rest of us had given up. We took a sharp-ish right which shook us out of our drunken backseat snooze – before we knew it we were outside of a building. “Shunyee.” the taxi driver pointed, whilst also avoiding all eye contact. 

We looked out of the window in unison. It was a huge flashy hotel, nothing like the one we were staying in. And around it…errr…well, nothing…at all, just a lot of grass…roads…and more grass, possibly some more road…then grass. Short version: this was the middle of nowhere. We tried to tell him that this was not Shunyi…but he insisted…we were drunk sure, but we weren’t that drunk! After some heated words we decided to cut our losses, handed over the money that it read on the taxi-meter and started to head into the hotel…maybe at the reception we could order another taxi, or get directions or something.

“ARRRRGHHH – GERRROFFFIZMAN!”

I spun around, there was my friend battling with the taxi driver, trying to pull away from his grasp – he had two hands clasped around his forearm and wouldn’t relinquish his hold…anytime my friend would try to prize him off he would hold on even tighter…anytime he tried to move, he would just follow right along with him…there was one weird moment where they walked along as if part of a wedding procession – would have been romantic in the right setting I am sure, but in this one it was down-right terrifying!

“COME IN THE HOTEL!” my other friend screamed,  “JUST GET HIM OFF, AND COME IN THE HOTEL!”

“I CAN’T…HE WON’T GET OFF MAN! HE’S HOLDING ME!?”

“GET TO THE HOTEL!” I started to imitate the suggestion loudly, despite being only a few feet away from him – I was scared that if I got too close he would somehow grab my forearm, and have us both!

“HE CAN’T GO IN THE HOTEL – JUST GET TO THE HOTEL, AND HE ISN’T ABLE TO ENTER! IT’S A LAW! 

My friend seemed pretty certain of this, I had no idea why a taxi driver would be banned from entering a building…but at the time it made sense to me. So I repeated these words, over and over – finally he managed to break free…and we all ran the last couple of steps – desperately pushed through the revolving doors and fell into the hotel reception, panting hard. We all stared out at him on the other side of the glass, as he stared right back at us…we were safe…it seems my friend was right…oh…wait…NO, NO, NO! WHAT?! WHAT IS HE DOING?!

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He started advancing, and began pushing the revolving doors, edging closer and closer – what was he doing…how? HOW?!

“I THOUGHT YOU SAID HE COULDN’T GET IN?!”

“HE…HE’S NOT SUPPOSED TO BE ABLE TO!!!”

“WHAT?! HE’S NOT ABLE TO PUSH A DOOR OPEN…WHY WOULD THAT BE A THING?!”

No one waited for an answer to that ridiculous question, we simply picked ourselves up, and sprinted to the reception…he was still following, not running – but following, at a weird horror movie killer pace…you know, where they don’t seem to go fast but are always around the corner? Yeah, that! We had limited time we knew that – so we explained the situation as fast as possible – but alas, the lady at the desk didn’t speak any English, and soon our nightmarish friend was back with us – grasping arms, and twisting hard.

Another guy was called over, who managed to speak to the irate taxi driver – he translated that the man was upset, because we had ran off without paying…even though the money we had handed over was still in his pocket – once we pointed this out, he changed tactic and said that it hadn’t been enough – when quizzed about his meter and how that could be so – he gave up, and went off in a huff. Phew, as you can imagine we already LOVED the translator guy – he was our hero, our savior. Our new best friend, for life.

He went even further than the call of duty, and called us a taxi with a trustworthy company, he even looked up where we were staying – and gave the exact address to the driver once he arrived, as well as making sure we paid FIRST, to avoid the same issue happening again…people’s arms were sore, we couldn’t cope with more of those shenanigans!

On the ride back home we were absolutely exhausted…the friend who had got the worst of the wrestling hold was complaining about how much it hurt, I thought he was just joking, or perhaps even over-exaggerating…but when I looked it was bright red – “wait…that’s a bit like a…Chinese burn, remember those?” My friend nodded solemnly. “So that’s a real thing…haha…hmph…well there you go! You learn something new everyday!”

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We slept soundly that night, I can tell you that for sure. Too much drama, and excitement for one night.

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59 thoughts on “Chinese Burn

  1. Okay, I just thought Chinese burns were meant to last a lifetime because it is the number one way my sister and I solve an argument. Whoever relents to the menacing torture mechanism first loses. Oh man, this is another one of those “it’s just you” moments, isn’t it? Damn -_-

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  2. Thank you for the pep talk 😀 My mind has been politely termed as “amazing” for as long as I can remember, I think everyone’s just being politically correct, because my aunt (who is a psychiatrist btw, though not sure why I felt the need to bring that up?) says the same thing, which always sets off alarm bells, but whatever 😉

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  3. I always thought it was called an Indian burn. Either way, I hate those, it’s not just pain, but this friction-based heat that makes the pain feel extra weird, tough to describe since it’s been so long. Great story though. I’ve been nervous about taking cabs in foreign countries and this just further establishes why!

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  4. That’s the thing with taxi drivers in many countries(especially China). Maybe next time the seat beside the taxi driver should be left empty to be out of his reach.
    Someone should clone the translator guy a bazillion more times and put him in every last possible tourist destination. Or maybe someone should shrink him to fit into our pockets or turn him into an app.
    Either way, one should always bring a friend who can translate when travelling to foreign countries, it seems. Or simply get an app that can translate and pray that you’re lucky.

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  5. Funny story! I could just see it happening as I read it…scary at the moment, funny in hindsight! Glad it ended without real trauma. And look, you got a blog post out of it! ~ Sheila

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  6. Awesome. Reason #47 not to travel when you don’t speak the language. Same idea applies when spending time with teenagers though…FYI.
    Glad you had an unforgettable time. I have to admit my favorite part was the unique philosophy about not being able to enter the building! One of those things that makes sense until you actually apply logic afterwards…
    Great blog!

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  7. I have THREE things to say about this:
    1. I HATE HAVING CHINESE BURNS, they feel like a thousand needles punching you at the same time.
    2. TAXI DRIVERS WHO DON’T SPEAK ENGLISH ARE WEIRD AND SCARY!
    3. IF I WAS IN CHINA WITH THE TRANSLATOR ON MY PHONE, WE WOULD HAVE BEEN TAKEN TO THE AIRPORT WITH NO WAY OF GETTING HOME (without having to speak Chinese to someone but again we don’t have the best translator with us.)

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  8. I’m pretty sure where I’m from in the U.S. it is called a snake bite. On a different note- Chinese fire drills are fun! Everyone gets out and runs to the next seat, driver becomes passenger, backseat passenger becomes driver- etc. Menacing taxi drivers are not fun.

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  9. Chinese burns lol, I never knew it had a name! Though it was more of an argument solver/ender than a game when I was growing up (with three other siblings, what do you expect).
    And great story as always!

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  10. Well told. Originally from Canada, as others mentioned, we called them Indian burns.. So not PC even as we are a First Nations family.. Great story , enjoyed “riding ” along . Thanks.

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  11. John, I love your blog! I read your post about the Monkey King and followed you straight away. Thank you for bringing your blog to my attention😊*May

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