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An “Uncultured” Chant That’s Part of Chinese Culture

Tonight 18,000 Beijing fans will head to Wukesong to watch Game 4 of the CBA Finals and one thing is likely to be surprisingly absent during the game, the infamous “jing ma“. The CBA has threatened that if fan behavior is “unharmonious” or “uncultured”, the league might move Game 5 away from Beijing.

A little bit of background, the “jing ma“, meaning the “Beijing Curse”, is the shouting of “sha bi” at sporting events in the capital.  The phrase translated directly into English as “stupid c—t”, but whether the meaning is as strong as the literal translation or if its closer to “fuck” can be debated.  The “cheer” is regularly heard at football matches in Beijing and has become part of the fabric of attending a Guoan match, though only with the success of the local basketball team, Beijing Jinyu, this season has it started being heard at basketball games as well.

The reality of the “jing ma” is that it isn’t only a Beijing thing, fans across the country use this same expression, though often they do so in their local dialect so it is less apparent to those watching on television.  It should be called the “national curse”, but instead the media and fans across the country enjoy singling out Beijing and talking about their fans, in part because it is so obvious on television because of the massive crowds.

Much of the reason it even migrated to the CBA has nothing to do with Beijing.  Starting with the semifinals, a number of incidents, including the Beijing bus being attacked in Taiyuan and the Guangdong coach encouraging his players to intentionally injure Beijing players, have fanned the flames of anger in Beijing.  Why the CBA has failed to seriously crack down on this behavior and instead attack the biggest crowds the league has ever seen is anyone’s guess.

With the “jing ma” once again in the Beijing news, discussions about its place at Worker’s Stadium have popped up again in the media and online.  Many feel that swearing is a natural part of attending a football match and that you hear much worse on the terraces in Europe.  Further, it isn’t like the fans are swearing just to swear, you only hear the chants when the referee makes a bad decision or when there is a hard foul on a Beijing player.

The anti-“jing ma” forces are a mix of prudes, parents, those who believe the government line, as well as a few who think that it’s gone too far in recent years.  The intensity of the “cheer”, the anger behind it, and the reverberating noise of 30,000 fans shouting it together has caused people to change their opinion regarding the need to crack down on it.  It is understandable why some parents may not want their young children to hear the chant, though its likely kids hear language just as bad on the street, in cabs, or even at school.

It seems that efforts to stamp out the chant have disappeared at Worker’s Stadium, no longer is pre-recorded, “canned” fan noise being played when the shouting begins.  Also, the video regarding  “cultured” fans hasn’t been shown as much lately.  Attending a sporting event is supposed to give people the chance to unwind, cheer, and yes, even swear.  The CBA’s crackdown on Beijing fans is unique and hopefully will not set a precedent that extends to Gongti.  While the “jing ma” may not be “cultured” behavior, it is equally unfair to only attack Beijingers, who have proven themselves to be the best fans in the country, in this way.  As much as my feelings about the chant may be conflicted, the moment the referee makes an idiotic decision on Friday night, I’ll shout a “sha bi” or two myself, though refrain from joining the chanting.

*For more on basketball in China, check out Niubball.


Brandon Chemers aka B. Cheng aka A Modern Lei Feng – is a name which may be familiar to many in the Chinese blogosphere. He currently serves as Editor-in-Chief for Wild East Football and is one of the lonely souls writing about Chinese football in English for the last 10 years. Chemers' credentials are second to none – his former blog focused not only on the fortunes of his beloved Beijing Guoan FC, but a multitude of other aspects of Beijing life. He’s deservedly built a reputation in the Chinese blogosphere as an insightful observer of not only Chinese football, but also the wider picture of life in modern China and its many layers. For WEF, beyond writing about Guoan, he often focuses on fan culture and the business of Chinese football.



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