Baozi: The stuffed, steamed bun becomes a meme

« previous post | next post »

So everybody knows what we're talking about:

Baozi (Chinese: 包子), Pao-tsih or bao, is a type of yeast-leavened filled bun in various Chinese cuisines. There are many variations in fillings (meat or vegetarian) and preparations, though the buns are most often steamed. They are a variation of mantou from Northern China.


Early on in his presidency, Xi Jinping picked this up as one of his nicknames, like Winnie the Pooh, both from his puffy shape.  Both fall under the category of "rǔ bāo 辱包" ("disgracing the dumpling").

From Denis Mair:

This is the opening paragraph of an article about the various forms that "辱包" takes on Chinese social media. "辱包," which is sometimes homophonously written as "rǔ bāo 乳包" ("breast bao") is literally "insulting the dumpling," which means making fun of Xi Jinping.



Memes are flourishing fast and furious in China today.  They are funny, powerful, and an effective way to keep the censors at bay — until they figure out what lies beneath the surface.


Selected readings

We've featured scores of others on Language Log, and they are on all sorts of topics, e.g.:

  • "Justin Bieber OK infix" (2/13/18), and endless hilarious image macros (biǎoqíng bāo 表情包), which are, after all, another kind of bāo 包 (though English "bun" is probably etymologically unrelated to "bundle")



  1. (Internet, chiefly Mainland China) sticker or emoji pack (for a chat software)
  2. (Internet slang, figuratively) a person with many facial expressions (such that they are often used as an emoji pack)


"pack / bundle of emotions"


  1. AntC said,

    February 22, 2023 @ 3:21 am

    I can only say yumm-eeee! And regret that what gets passed off as baozi in New Zealand is a pale shadow of what I look forward to when visiting Taiwan — in huge and mouth-watering variety.

    The connection with Xi Jinping will give an extra frisson in indulging in them.

  2. Stephen Jones said,

    February 22, 2023 @ 3:23 am

    Tangentially (as is my wont), the topic of baozi always reminds me of the poseur’s celebrated line, useful when someone asks if you know any classical Chinese (, n.1):
    [smugly] “I studied the Four Classics and Five Scriptures—Confucius, Mencius, various dumpling shapes, I’ve studied them all!”
    Wo xuedeshi sishu wujing—Kongzi Mengzi baozi jiaozi, dou xueguole!
    Also the cue for a related story:

RSS feed for comments on this post