Kashgar Café Welcomes Big Noses

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Restaurant sign in Kashgar:

The Chinese sign reads:

Nánběi dàcài, nèi shè yǎzuò 南北大菜 內設雅座 ("Dishes from North and South; equipped with private rooms" [more literally, "elegant seating"]), plus the prices of special stir-fried dishes. It's curious that, where the English sign talks about "Weste[r]n & Chinese food," the Chinese sign specifies "northern and southern dishes" (probably referring to the two main parts of the Xinjiang region).

There's no mention in the Chinese of the "big nose friends" who are welcome. This is interesting because Kashgar is the heart of Uyghurdom, and many Uyghurs have noses every bit as big as those of Europeans. Anyway, if they had wanted to write "big nose" in Chinese, it would be dà bízi 大鼻子.

[A tip of the hat to Stanley Insler and Valerie Hansen]


  1. Rob P. said,

    August 9, 2010 @ 9:39 pm

    In my Chinese class many years ago I learned that da bi zi (big noses) were Russians in particular, not all Westerners as a group.

  2. vanya said,

    August 9, 2010 @ 10:18 pm


    Your teacher was probably trying to be polite. I've never heard anyone claim that "da bizi" means Russians in particular. In Hong Kong and Taiwan it certainly refers to white people in general and has for generations.

  3. Will Steed said,

    August 9, 2010 @ 11:00 pm

    I'm not remotely offended by that. I'm proud of my big nose, and it's a friendly welcome. I'd be eating there (Uyghur food is great!).

    It took me a moment to realise why there was an apostrophe at the end of the name Kashgar Cafe'. They probably couldn't enter an e+acute (é). I've seen it in Spanish when people who can't bear to leave out the accents don't have convenient access to accented vowels.

  4. Kylopod said,

    August 9, 2010 @ 11:01 pm

    Take away the G from "Kashgar," and I might have had a different interpretation.

  5. Martin Ellison said,

    August 9, 2010 @ 11:20 pm

    It's presumably deliberate; they're trying to attract the kind of traveller that likes being called 大鼻子.

  6. minus273 said,

    August 10, 2010 @ 12:17 am

    Strictly for Russian, we say 老毛子 (lǎomáozi) "old-hair-nominalizer", i.e. hairy people.

  7. áine ní dhonnchadha said,

    August 10, 2010 @ 12:24 am

    I always heard "You Yanse de ren" – "Coloured Eyes" – when people were not being rude.

    But normally people are rude, so they say "Lao Wair" or "Hei, Waiguoren!"

  8. Danny Bloom said,

    August 10, 2010 @ 12:43 am

    Victor, re the big nose thing, here in Taiwan we Big Noses are routinely, like every day, at evert street corner, and in newspaper headlines and on TV news segments called ADOAH, which is a Hoklo language term that means, literally, BIG NOSE….and while the term is spoken by Taiwanese as a warm friendly term for their dear Western friends, they even called Clinton a Big Nose once in the newspapers — and the word is NOT an insult in Taiwan, merely descriptive they like to say — and they LOVE our tall Roman noses — but even in 2010 the term ADOAH is heard from north to south on this colorful chaotic lovely invisible isle in the middle of nowhere. I tried to put a stop to this nonsense two years ago but the campaign went nowhere. I even had the article translated into Chinese for the local Chinese language newspaper and all it elicited was dozens of angry emails and comments on my blog that i was wrong and get used to it Big Nose, we love you. Smile.

    Dear Editor, Taipei Times:
    'Adoah' poll inconclusive

    Dear Editor,

    Some readers of the Taipei Times may remember an article that
    appeared in this newspaper last summer about the use of the local
    Hokklo term "adoah" for
    Westerners in Taiwan ("'Adoah': A demonstration of familiarity or an
    insult?", May 19, 2009, Page 4).

    After the article appeared, a poll was taken by a local
    marketing firm in Taipei based on the article, and the results are, if
    not conclusive, nevertheless very interesting.

    The online poll was conducted by "TNS Taiwan", a Taipei marketing
    firm, from May 22 to May 24, 2009 with about 25,000 Taiwanese people
    participating, and with several
    questions being asked.

    When those polled were asked "Do you use the term 'adoah' to refer to
    Caucasians?" the results were as follows: 45% said
    they do use the
    term while 55% said they do not use the term.

    When people were asked "If you learned that this term of adoah was considered
    offensive by some Westerners living in Taiwan, would you
    stop using it?" the results were as follows:

    93% said they would no
    longer use the word "adoah" while 7% said they would continue to use

    In the poll, the total sample
    size was 25,276 respondents, distributed in terms of age and gender
    proportionately to the general population, with ages ranging from 13
    to 64, according to the polling firm.


  9. Danny Bloom said,

    August 10, 2010 @ 12:44 am


    'Adoah': A demonstration of familiarity or an insult?

    'PROMINENT' OR 'HIGH': While most Taiwanese think 'adoah' is a humorous word used to refer to Westerners, some believe it is a little insulting and insensitive and should be avoided in public and forbidden on the airwaves

    By Dan Bloom
    May 19, 2009

    “Taiwanese people are not as sensitive as Westerners to some terms associated with a person’s body, such as weight or height or the eyes. Some Taiwanese also feel uncomfortable when they are called ‘fat’ or ‘short’ or ‘small eyes,’ but in general, Taiwanese are not so sensitive.”

    — Liu Yu-hsia, editor of Taiwan Tribune

  10. Tracy said,

    August 10, 2010 @ 1:48 am

    First, dishes from south and north do not seperated by Xinjiang, they refer to southern and northern part of China, which is seperated by The Yangtz River. With Cantonese, Jiangsu cusine, sichuan cusine as the sourhern representative, and Shandong cusine as a mark of northern part. Even though I'm native Chinese, I'm not into the Xinjiang flavor, its too raw and stange for me.

    Second, DA BI ZI, in my eyes, is nothing more than a funny label, indicating to foreigners. And I think it refer to a large group ranging from Russians, who are neighbors of them, and white people, who are their frequent visitors.

    Third, I don't agree with áine ní dhonnchadha.
    "Lao Wair" is quite common in China, which means a general appellation covering people from other countries, no any offensive tongues. In some degree, it means an intimate way to say "Hello", and it is popular in Beijing to way "Wair" coz in other parts of China, people are not get used to add "r" as a suffix. The same goes with "Waiguoren", it has nothing to do with rudeness, just a plain translation of foreigners.

  11. Emily Viehland said,

    August 10, 2010 @ 10:19 am

    My dad was referred to as "big nose" when he lived in Beijing; I loved the picture in the post! What was so fascinating was that the big nose reference was not even used in the Chinese wording.

    Clearly, someone was trying to say enticing and informative things to _each_ population subset that might be around. Equally clearly, they didn't realize that the typical word for white/western people was a hugely insulting slang term!

  12. Richard said,

    August 10, 2010 @ 11:13 am

    Second that "Lao Wai" doesn't seem terribly rude in Mandarin (though it is casual), and "waiguoren" connotes the same as "foreigner" in English. "You yanse de ren" actually sounds more suspicious (literally, it means "colored people".

  13. Shmuel said,

    August 10, 2010 @ 11:48 am

    Archie Bunker didn't think he was being offensive either.

  14. Buzz said,

    August 10, 2010 @ 12:54 pm

    Coincidentally enough, I just had this conversation with a couple of friends this evening. One friend commented that he found it amusing when "老外" (laowai) speak Tibetan slang because of the McGurk effect-like experience of hearing Tibetan sounds come from a non-Tibetan face. My other friend then quickly asked me if I mind being called "laowai". My response: Should I mind?

    Laowai is common enough in Mainland China, and used in very foreigner-positive contexts, that it's really not an insult–anymore. But I was first called attention to its quasi-insult status by all the Chinese people explaining to me how it's a term of endearment or whatever. No one has to do that for plain, old "foreigner".

    In Taiwan, laowai seems to be more clearly a crude term, if not exactly an outright insult. You almost never see or hear it in mainstream media.

    I've been called the unmistakably offensive "foreign devil" in its various dialect guises enough times that I can't be bothered to get upset over laowai. Basically, I think it comes down to intent. Most people who use laowai do so out of pure habit or are simply unaware that name might have any negative connotations. I've even encountered this last in people who called me Foreign Devil just because they were very old, lived in very remote areas and couldn't think of what else to call me, but otherwise were very pleased to meet me and speak with me. Racial or national epithets in China just don't have the same background that they do in the States (well, not all of them), so I think it's sort of pointless to treat them the same. At the very least, it will spoil your day. Plus, every now and again you get an interesting little linguistic fossil, like 红毛, Red Fur, which was supposedly first used to describe Dutch traders.

    That said, I still get upset when Hong Kongers call me "guai mui"鬼妹, or devil-younger sister. I don't know why, but I think it's because friends that have called me this *should* know better but feel like they can take this liberty with me. I told one friend that if he could call me 鬼妹, I could call him one of the racial slurs against Asians that his classmates used to torment him with when he was attending middle school in the States.

    But never, ever have I been called Big Nose in Cantonese or Mandarin–at least not within earshot. People will sometimes comment on my "sharp" or "tall" nose, but no one calls me Big Nose. I do get called "Russian" just about every day, though. I haven't figured out if they all think I'm from Russia, or if they think I'm a member of China's Russian minority group.

  15. Janice Byer said,

    August 10, 2010 @ 9:28 pm

    Yes, reportedly, Japanese, too, have historically referred to Americans similarly but go a bit further in dubbing us what's said to translate to "big-nosed, hairy beef-smelling ones". I find it refreshingly objective compared to what we're called by our detractors in Europe and the Middle East.

  16. danny bloom said,

    August 11, 2010 @ 7:08 am

    @Buzz, re: "In Taiwan, "laowai" seems to be more clearly a crude term, if not exactly an outright insult. You almost never see or hear it in mainstream media."

    In my own experience, I hear laowai as a term of friendly greeting in Taiwan every day, within earshot, 24/7…… TV news like TVBS often refer to foreigners arrested to being drunk in Kenting or doing something bad, they also show negative news of the Big Noses, never good news about the Big Nose helping the Old Woman across the street, the news is always negative….sigh…..and the TV newscasts refer to these foreign men, never women, as adoah or laowai, but not as an insult, just a descriptive term for Westerners…. Taiwanese are not sensitive to their own language, they call people who suffer from brittle bone disease as "glass dolls" and they refer to Asian women married to Taiwanese men as "foreign wives" — even if the woman has been married and living here for 20 years, and her kids, his kids too, are called "foreign immigrant children" even though their dad is Taiwanese national and the kid was BORN in Taiwan, he or she is still a foreign immigrant child, and the sweet Taiwanese do not even know they are being insensitive. They are a great people, I love it here, but their language manners stink…. Do you live in Taiwan? Or visit often. Never been called Laowai….maybe women get a special word…. i heard they call female BIG noses as "golden hair girl" which means Hooker…..really

  17. Bob said,

    August 11, 2010 @ 8:43 am

    When this entry popped up on my feeds I was overcome by a nostalgic vision of the three months I spent travelling around China because Kashgar was almost the first place I went and that very sign was almost the first picture I took. My hotel (well the hotel where I was sleeeping in a truck on the car park to be strictly accurate) was only a stone's throw away. I read no Chinese so I have no idea what the sign actually says but I can certainly confirm that a) they did serve both western and Chinese food, b) they were extremely friendly and polite and c) pretty much every big-nosed tourist passing by stopped to take a picture.

    Thanks for the nostalgia blast.

  18. H. Cardoso said,

    August 12, 2010 @ 12:55 am

    It's an old trend in Asia, I suppose. If you look at depictions of the Portuguese in 16th/17th-century Namban screens, you'll notice their grotesquely large noses. I'd be surprised if the Japanese didn't use the epithet in spoken language as early as that.

  19. Sheila said,

    August 12, 2010 @ 2:18 am

    When I was little I remember a littler girl who was new to our area asking, "Dim gai lei bei go gam dai geh?" "Why is your nose so big?" It's a happy memory because my friend Lap Dat stood up for me and said impatiently, "Aiya, lei ji dim gai ah!!" "Aiya, you know why!!" Lol

  20. Richard said,

    August 14, 2010 @ 12:38 am


    Archie Bunker-types (not the TV character himself, who seemed rather clueless) generally knew how hippies/liberals/African-Americans etc. felt about epithets applied to them. That's not really true with "laowai" or even "yang guizi" amongst older folks. That's just how they referred to foreigners, and the negative connotations just don't exist. I'd say it's similiar to "Oriental" or "colored" in English, except I don't think "colored" ever had even a neutral connotation in English.

    In Chinese, "lao" is appended to placenames a lot. When my father is with a Cantonese friend, he'll refer to what "Lao Guang" eat, and no one is offended. He himself was positively delighted when he visited Shanghai a few years and a shopkeeper called him "Lao Shanghai" (actually, "Law Zanhe" in Shanghainese) because he referred to money as "dong di" (tong2 dian4 in Mandarin). She told him that her grandmother used that term, and she hadn't heard it in years (he's from Ningbo and lived in Shanghai for a few years as a child 50+ years ago).

    Oh, and "waiguoren" does exactly mean "foreigner".

  21. Will said,

    March 23, 2012 @ 7:54 am

    I think its alot like calling someone black in US…. describing someone as black is an easy way to describe someone…not really offensive…but many people (especially in media) say African American…also you can say "black" in various forms. Black is not an insult…but stupid black person is…….. I kind of feel the same with laowai….. overall I don't like it … though its similar

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