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Chinese Slang Series – Lesson 2:山寨 (shānzhài)

July 7, 2011

Today’s Word: 山寨 (shānzhài)

China is famous worldwide for many things: the Great Wall, delicious culinary delights, and more cities with over one million people that you’ve never heard of. For people who seek $5 Polo shirts, $2 DVDs, and iPhones with 2 sim card slots, China is most famous for its unparalleled production of counterfeit and knock-off goods. Therefore, it’s no surprise that the Chinese have coined a popular slang word around the ‘fake’ goods culture. That word is山寨 (shānzhài).

山寨 (shānzhài) first came into use to describe knock-off cell phones, which are produced in mass in China. According to the Chinese government, in 2007, 150 million “shānzhài” phones were sold in China, making up more than 10% of worldwide cell-phone sales.

山寨 (shānzhài) can also refer to something imitative or some type of parody. In 2009, a Shānzhài New Year’s Festival Gala (山寨春节联欢晚会) was held to parody the CCTV 春节联欢晚会 watched by hundreds of millions of Chinese during the Spring Festival celebration.

As connoisseurs of shānzhài products know, not all knock-offs are equal. For some funny shānzhài “fails,” check out this ChinaSmack page.


山寨 (shānzhài) refers to imitation, knock-off goods, particularly electronics. It can also refer to lookalikes and things done in parody.

山 (shān) literally means mountain. 寨 (zhài) can either mean fortress or village.

Example Sentence:


-This cell phone is China’s hottest selling knock-off iPhone

有的人说我弟弟像山寨版的Justin Bieber.

- Some people say my brother is a Justin Bieber look-a-like.


The original meaning of shānzhài was mountain fortress or mountain stronghold, often located in a remote place outside of government control. The name also correlates to the city where many shānzhài products are produced, Shenzhen. The Mandarin pronunciation of shānzhài and Shenzen are not too far off when spoken with a Cantonese accent.

Jamie Fleishman & Cindy Su both work at the Asian language learning publisher, Cheng & Tsui.
Cheng & Tsui is the leading publisher of Chinese language textbooks, interactive material and resources. Visit for more information and to view our entire catalog.