Waterless, emission-free toilet that Chairman Xi saw

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(see in particular the second item)

The poster board on the bottom left shows Xi inspecting the hallowed hardware on an earlier visit.  It says:

Zhè shì Xí Zhǔxí kànguò de mǎtǒng


"This is the toilet that Chairman Xi has seen."

The red block letters displayed above the sacred object draped with a red cloth on a green floor in the photograph on the right say:

wúshuǐ líng páifàng cèsuǒ


"waterless, zero emissions / discharge close stool"

There are many words for "toilet" in English, but I wanted to avoid ones that alluded to water (e.g. "lavatory"), and also didn't want ones that hinted at portability (e.g., "commode"), so I chose a word that — although archaic — doesn't imply either of those characteristics.


Selected readings

Toilets and the appurtenances and functions / activities pertaining thereto have been one of the most popular themes on Language Log.  Posts here have especially featured their appearance in Chinese culture.

[Thanks to Mark Metcalf and Diana Zhang]


  1. Wanda said,

    August 22, 2023 @ 9:01 pm

    I thought "stool" was the substance that goes in the toilet, not the toilet itself.

  2. JOHN S ROHSENOW said,

    August 22, 2023 @ 9:20 pm

    I think in the sentence: "S/he went to stool", 'stool' may have evolved from a literal noun to a verb and back to a noun again, all as euphemisms.

  3. Chris Barts said,

    August 22, 2023 @ 9:39 pm

    The cult of personality and its consequences have been a disaster for the Chinese people.

  4. Taylor, Philip said,

    August 23, 2023 @ 2:33 am

    Fascinating. I had never before known (or realised) that "stool" as in "fæces" derives from the euphemism "stool of ease".

    I frequently wonder how we do learn to infer the meaning of words. OK, I remember having comprehension lessons at primary school, and they were clearly an important part of the process, but I am almost 100% certain that the word "stool" was never explained there, so how was I able to understand what my GP meant on the first occasion that he asked me to describe my stools ? It certainly wasn't a word that my parents would have used.

    I also remember vividly my first encounters with conference-speak, where I was genuinely surprised that find that a "presentation" did not involve the formal presentation of something tangible (e.g., a physical prize) and the conference "road map" looked nothing like a map whatsoever.

  5. Benjamin E. Orsatti said,

    August 23, 2023 @ 9:39 am


    Speaking of primary school: My poor 11 year-old is just as talented at spelling as his old man, and it’s frustrating, because if the teachers would only give some superficial etymological guide to each word sought to be spelt, it would be SO MUCH EASIER. For example, hearing your name and thinking horse-lover rather than gas pump would get me to spell your name right.

    — Ben[son of]jamin[uncertain etymology]

  6. Scott P. said,

    August 23, 2023 @ 10:51 am

    What a sad life to grow up with a name like "uncertain etymology."

  7. Joshua K. said,

    August 23, 2023 @ 11:06 am

    I must be missing something here. What is the significance of how the word for "toilet" is translated, particularly the intention of avoiding words that reference water or portability like "lavatory" or "commode"?

  8. Rodger C said,

    August 23, 2023 @ 11:33 am

    Joshua K, I think his point is that if it's waterless, a word like "lavatory" is inaccurate. (And I must say I never realized before that the word "commode" implied portability.)

  9. Benjamin E. Orsatti said,

    August 23, 2023 @ 12:25 pm

    Scott P., Indeed; ever since 1st grade, I’ve always been jealous of the etymological patrimony of my peers, take my best friend, Bhelg̑h, for example.

    Roger C , what about dry cleaning?

  10. Ellie Kesselman said,

    August 23, 2023 @ 12:50 pm

    The toilet is from Wuhan. No, not from the institute of virology. I was reading an article about the Chinese miracle toilet earlier this morning. Nothing sticks to it. See here for further details. Publication date is today 23 August 2022 https://techxplore.com/news/2023-08-silicon-infused-3d-toilet-bowl-repels.html

  11. Ellie Kesselman said,

    August 23, 2023 @ 12:51 pm

    Oops, sorry I meant to say today, 23 August 2023.
    23 8 23
    very symmetrical

  12. David Morris said,

    August 23, 2023 @ 3:31 pm

    I recently wrote a blog post pondering what to call a 'seat toilet' to distinguish it from a urinal (eg 'There was a urinal available, but I had to wait for a _'), with no firm conclusion.
    The stool is the symbol of authority of traditional chiefs in West Africa. Some refugee applicants claim fear of harm for refusing to be enstooled.

  13. NoLongerBreathedIn said,

    August 24, 2023 @ 7:30 am


    It means "right" (as in "not left"). It might mean "south" (with "forwards"="east", but that's rarer (more common is "desertward", and Modern Hebrew has דרום, of unclear etymology). Considering the tribe lived near Jerusalem, I don't know which is correct here.

  14. ajay said,

    August 24, 2023 @ 8:23 am

    I think his point is that if it's waterless, a word like "lavatory" is inaccurate.

    "Lavatory" is literally a place where you wash. It's no more inaccurate or contradictory to talk about a waterless toilet as a waterless lavatory than to talk about a normal toilet as a lavatory. (That object in the photo is not used for washing.)

    And a "commode" is so called because it's useful and convenient – I'm not sure that it has to be portable. The alternative meaning is a low chest of drawers – not portable.

  15. Victor Mair said,

    August 24, 2023 @ 10:26 am

    "Lavatory" is literally a place where you wash. — with water

    Commodes often have wheels so that they can be moved around, as in hospital rooms and assisted living facilities.

  16. Tom Dawkes said,

    August 24, 2023 @ 1:37 pm

    What about the use of 'bathroom' or 'restroom'? You caould never have a bath in most public toilets — and not many people would want a prolonged 'rest' in one.

  17. Benjamin E. Orsatti said,

    August 24, 2023 @ 1:51 pm


    Interesting. So, in all likelihood, it just meant, “those guys over there *indeterminate waving*”, which would indicate an earlier split between the kingdoms of Benjamin and Jude’s, wouldn’t it?

  18. Benjamin E. Orsatti said,

    August 24, 2023 @ 3:00 pm

    *kingdoms of Benjamin and _Judea_" (is iphone's autocorrect anti-Semitic?).

  19. David Marjanović said,

    August 25, 2023 @ 12:33 pm

    Fun fact: Stuhl is used for "feces" in medical contexts in German, even though the same word is most people's everyday word for "chair" (and not for a modern toilet bowl).

    Toilette can still refer to all practices of bodily hygiene in French.

    I was genuinely surprised that find that a "presentation" did not involve the formal presentation of something tangible (e.g., a physical prize)

    It does: the slides of your presentation. Literal slides lo these onescore years ago, PowerPoint/Keynote/… nowadays.

    jamin[uncertain etymology]

    I thought it's the right hand? Netanyahu's party is called Yamina, intended meaning "The Right".

  20. David Morris said,

    August 30, 2023 @ 3:09 am

    No-one has commented on 'saved for all posterity'. We might also say that it is excluded from all posteriors.

  21. David Morris said,

    August 30, 2023 @ 3:11 am

    And 'zero emissions'!

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