Coarse grains hotel

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Libin Zhang sent in the following photograph of a restaurant in Datong, Shanxi Province:

Here's a close-up of the sign, with the lettering much clearer:

It has a competitor just down the street (see the right side of this photograph):

The sign reads:

xiāngměi cūliáng guǎn乡美粗粮馆
("rural beauties coarse grain restaurant")

As is evident from the photograph, the establishment is just a dining room, not a hotel as it self-proclaims. Some of the food inside is made of buckwheat, naked oat (Avena nuda), and other whole grains.

It would probably be better to render cūliáng 粗粮 as "whole grains" or even "whole food", because it does not mean that the food is coarse, but rather that it is made of unrefined grains and other unprocessed and unrefined foodstuffs.

Jeremy Goldkorn quipped: "As quinoa is to foodies in the US, cūliáng 粗粮 is to China's chīhuò 吃货 ('food aficionados; chowhounds')".

If you search for cūliáng guǎn 粗粮馆 ("whole food / grains restaurants") on the Chinese equivalent of Yelp, you will find that almost all the big cities in China have them. For example, here are the searches for Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou. According to this Google map, they are indeed quite widespread.

Cūliáng guǎn 粗粮馆 ("whole food / grains restaurants") are particularly popular in Harbin, and in fact have been common there for at least ten-fifteen years. They provide traditional Northeastern countryside style foods, but cook them into delicate dishes. Throughout China, they are generally characterized as serving Northeastern and Shanxi food.

Before closing, I shall briefly reply to Libin's question about the origin of the term jiǔlóu 酒楼 (lit., "ale / brew tower / storied building"). As he says, "it has always perplexed me that it means hotel, though Google translate says it means restaurant. There are some similar words that confuse the hotel-restaurant distinction, like the famous Běijīng fàndiàn 北京饭店 ('Beijing Restaurant –> Hotel')."

We have discussed Chinese words for eating establishments in various Language Log posts (e.g., here, here, and here, but there have been many others), and I recall vaguely that I wrote extensively on these terms elsewhere, but can't provide exact links at this moment.

Anyway, jiǔlóu 酒楼 ("ale / brew tower / storied building") goes back to at least the Tang as the name for drinking establishments, but in more recent times it has become the name for a Cantonese style of restaurant (zau2lau4), while at the same time (on the principle of pars pro toto) also being used to signify a hotel.

Similarly, from late imperial times fàndiàn 北京饭店 ("hotel; restaurant; diner; victualing / eating house") has been used to signify both an eating establishment and a hotel, also on the principle of pars pro toto.

[With extensive notes on "garage" in the comments.]

[Thanks to Jing Wen, Fangyi Cheng, Rebecca Fu, and Kellen Parker]


  1. beslayed said,

    June 1, 2014 @ 10:51 pm

    At least in Indian English, a "hotel" can also be a restaurant (which does not offer anywhere to sleep).

  2. Keith said,

    June 2, 2014 @ 2:00 am

    Many pubs in the UK are named Hotel without offering accomodation, too.

    And if cūliáng 粗粮 means "unrefined" or "unprocessed", then I can easily understand why it was translated as "coarse"; indeed it could also have ended up as "crude" in the same way that unrefined petroleum is "crude oil".

  3. Thor said,

    June 2, 2014 @ 2:18 am

    As an agricultural botanist, I read "coarse grain" as the normal technical term for maize, wheat, rye or barley, in contrast to smaller grains such as teff, sorghum [milo], quinoa or canua [Chenopodium]. The translation has confused a technical descriptor with a colloquial usage.

  4. Lugubert said,

    June 2, 2014 @ 3:59 am

    The various hotel/restaurant terms have bothered me for quite some time. I have tried to collect samples with what I thought would be their most appropriate translations, but I must confess that I'm still pretty much as confused now as when I started the project.

    Rather off topic, I'm reminded of the British 'garage', which I interpret as meaning a vehicle service/repair shop, possibly combined with a gas/petrol/service station and/or car sales. Worlds apart from the Swedish "garage", which according to me and the Wikipedia only can mean a "part of a home, or an associated building, designed or used for storing a vehicle or vehicles. " The Welsh "garage" that last serviced my car also did repairs, and sold parts and new and used cars. No fuel or public parking.

  5. AntC said,

    June 2, 2014 @ 4:00 am

    @Keith ended up as "crude"

    The French have "crudité" (raw, crispy vegetables with an assortment of dips).

  6. Keith said,

    June 2, 2014 @ 4:40 am

    The English adjective "crude" meaning "unprocessed, unrefined" comes from the same root as the French adjective "cru", where in everyday usage it means "raw, uncooked".

    From there, the French have derived a plural noun "crudités" for raw vegetables, but when used as ingredients in a sandwich (e.g. "sandwich jambon-crudités") this category is somehow widened to include hard boiled egg. I've asked a lot of French people about this, and none of them has ever thought it unusual that a hard boiled egg is part of "crudités".

    Claude Lévi-Strauss wrote an entire book, "Le cru et le cuit", exploring the difference between binary opposites such as "raw v. cooked", "dry v. wet".

  7. Alan Palmer said,

    June 2, 2014 @ 5:36 am

    @ Lugubert: a 'garage' in Britain can mean all the things you mention, plus the meaning you give for Sweden.

  8. Victor Mair said,

    June 2, 2014 @ 7:46 am

    Growing up in northeast Ohio, I encountered all of the following meanings for "garage", and was much confused by them:

    1. part of a residence where you park your car

    2. place where you take your car to get it fixed

    3. covered, often multi-story building where many cars can be parked in public settings

    The fact that I also encountered wildly different pronunciations for this word didn't do anything to allay my consternation over it either.

    (gə-räzh′, -räj′; ˈɡærɑːʒ; -rɪdʒ; etc.)

    And somehow it seemed odd that a noun with so many different meanings, all of which were architectural / structural could also be used as a transitive verb ("put or store in a garage").

    And then I started studying French and learned "gare", which I perceived as closely cognate and which added a group of other meanings: "station; train / railway station; depot".

    What's even more discombobulating about "garage" is that it is such a young word, as explained in this word history from the American Heritage Dictionary (as presented in the "The Free Dictionary" online:


    It is difficult today to envision a world without garages or a language without the word garage. However, the word probably did not exist before the 19th century and certainly not before the 18th; possibly the thing itself did not exist before the end of the 19th century. Our word is a direct borrowing of French garage, which is first recorded in 1802 in the sense "place where one docks." The verb garer, from which garage was derived, originally meant "to put merchandise under shelter," then "to moor a boat," and then "to put a vehicle into a place for safekeeping," that is, a garage, a sense first recorded in French in 1901. English almost immediately borrowed this French word, the first instance being found in 1902.


    So the French use both "garage" and "gare", though for different, yet overlapping, meanings.

    [French, from garer, to shelter, from Old French garer, guerrer, of Germanic origin; see wer-4 in Indo-European roots.]

    From Online Etymology Dictionary:


    garage (n.) Look up garage at
    1902, from French garage "shelter for a vehicle," originally "a place for storing something," from verb garer "to shelter," from Middle French garer "to shelter, dock ships," from Frankish *waron "to guard" or some other Germanic source (compare Old High German waron "take care"), from Proto-Germanic *war-, from PIE root *wer- (5) "to cover" (see warrant (n.)).

    Influenced no doubt by the success of the recent Club run, and by the fact that more than 100 of its members are automobile owners, the N.Y.A.C. has decided to build a "garage," the French term for an automobile stable, at Travers Island, that will be of novel design, entirely different from any station in the country. [New York Athletic Club Journal, May 1902]

    Garage sale first attested 1966.


  9. Victor Mair said,

    June 2, 2014 @ 8:02 am

    I have long been aware of the word "hotelier" as signifying a hotel manager. Since it can also refer to an innkeeper, and inn can be either a public lodging house serving food and drink to travellers (i.e., a kind of hotel) or a tavern / restaurant, the dividing line between "hotel" and "restaurant" is once again — as pointed out above in the comments — shown to be a fine one.

    I was somewhat surprised to learn that "Hotelier" was used as the title of multi-part TV drama series in Korea and in Japan.

  10. Dan Lufkin said,

    June 2, 2014 @ 9:02 am

    I believe that "hotel" was the usual word for a pub in New Zealand, at least up to the 1930s. A colleague told me about a WWI ordinance in Christchurch prohibiting "shouting in hotels," i.e. buying a round of drinks in a pub. I was dubious until I Googled around a few minutes ago and found THIS. The prohibition doesn't seem to have been successful.

  11. J. W. Brewer said,

    June 2, 2014 @ 1:16 pm

    "Hotel" would be odd in this context, but "The Such-and-Such Inn" for a bar or restaurant that does not offer beds for the night is unremarkable in AmEng.

    A speculative theory: the history of liquor-licensing laws in Anglophone countries is complex and not infrequently incentivized odd behavior. It would not surprise me if at some places in some times a "hotel" was given better regulatory treatment than a "bar," with the result that some bars arranged to have a minimum handful of not-very-nice rooms upstairs that were theoretically available to be rented for the night in order to qualify for regulatory treatment as a "hotel." That could be the sort of thing that could influence language use even after the regulatory environment (and the particular gamesmanship it had encouraged) had changed. Plus I have a vague sense that to this day in e.g. small English country villages and settlements in the Australian outback it is not uncommon for "the one place in town where all the locals go to get a pint" and "the one place in town where a traveler can get a room for the night" to be one and the same.

  12. Neil Dolinger said,

    June 2, 2014 @ 4:03 pm

    Dr. Mair,
    Aside from the posts you have made re the various Chinese words for eating establishments, have you done any similar posts on Chinese words for hotels / motels / inns / guesthouses?

  13. Dick Margulis said,

    June 2, 2014 @ 4:26 pm

    Coincidentally, at dinner last night in a small tourist town in the Hinterlands (uphill from the Gold Coast in Australia, stet initial caps), our host used the word hotel consistently to refer to what most Americans would call bars or taverns (no guest accommodations implied). I checked, and this was described as standard usage.

  14. J. W. Brewer said,

    June 2, 2014 @ 5:09 pm

    For the AustEng usage, this is an extensive but incomplete list of live gigs played between 1979 and 1990 by the Triffids (my nominee for the greatest rock and roll band ever to come out of Perth WA, and if you've got a rival candidate we might have to have a fight about it), from which you can see that quite a lot of venues they played throughout Australia over the years were named the Such-and-Such Hotel. I assume these were mostly bars-featuring-live-music without generally having overnight accommodations. If there's a subtle genre nuance implied by calling your alcohol-and-rock-music establishment the "Governor Broome Hotel" versus the "Broadway Tavern" (to take two regular gig locations in their early Perth years), I don't know what it would be.

  15. Rubrick said,

    June 2, 2014 @ 5:11 pm

    …and when I woke up, my buckwheat pillow was gone!

  16. Victor Mair said,

    June 2, 2014 @ 7:21 pm

    @Neil Dolinger

    I can't recall that I've done anything systematic on Chinese words for hotels / motels / inns / guesthouses; just scattered remarks. Perhaps, one of these days I'll be prompted to write a post on this subject, but maybe someone has to send me a sample of an unusual or problematic usage that will tickle my fancy and stimulate me to investigate it.

  17. Rodger C said,

    June 2, 2014 @ 9:59 pm

    *Sings* Down at the end of Granola Street is Coarse Grains Hotel.

  18. Rodger C said,

    June 2, 2014 @ 10:00 pm


  19. julie lee said,

    June 3, 2014 @ 11:34 pm

    I've enjoyed this discussion very much. I don't think anyone has mentioned the word "roadhouse", which I gather is a very American word meaning "tavern, bar, inn" etc. I only learned the word when I saw a few years ago "Roadhouse", a lovely film noir directed by Jean Negulesco, with Ida Lupino in it. Especially lovely was the jazz played on the piano. There's a more recent movie "Roadhouse" with Patrick Swayze which I haven't seen. I'll always associate a roadhouse with the 1948 movie.

  20. Quodlibet said,

    June 4, 2014 @ 10:02 am

    @J.W. Brewer – your speculative theory is right on the money. In New York, the Raines Law of 1896 forbade the sale of liquor on Sunday except in hotels – which led many bars to convert themselves into "Raines Law hotels". See e,g,

  21. Quodlibet said,

    June 4, 2014 @ 10:04 am

    Is 乡美 really "rural beauties"? Or is it "rural America"? Neither seems to make much sense in context.

  22. J. W. Brewer said,

    June 4, 2014 @ 12:19 pm

    Quodlibet: thanks! I guess the question is whether there was something similar at some historical point in Aust/NZ that influenced the nomenclature there.

  23. Victor Mair said,

    June 4, 2014 @ 1:39 pm


    乡美, in this context, means "nice things from the countryside". Although "rural America" show up more often in online sources as a translation for 乡美, it really doesn't fit here, whereas "nice things from the countryside" fits quite well.

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