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LAST WORD: Qiu Ku or no Qiu Ku, that’s a question
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Qiu Ku or no Qiu Ku, that's a question

By Leah Tsao

BT 201612 Last word 03 837941ad 2b97 477d 92e1 6186ba52c2ffHow can you tell winter is coming? Of course you can feel that it's getting colder. But in Chinese, there's a very special expression to announce the arrival of the cold season: I need to put my Qiu Ku on.

What is Qiu Ku?

It is difficult to explain to people from other countries. It is long underwear which looks similar to leggings. Normally it's made of cotton. And the most popular colors are grey, white and beige.

In Chinese, Qiu means autumn while Ku stands for trousers. So literally it's a kind of pair of trousers which you wear when autumn arrives. It seems there's no equivalent translation of this word in English. However, the brilliant Chinese netizens have come up with a perfect translation based on its pronunciation and function: Chill Cool.

If you've ever seen a pair of Qiu Ku, you would know immediately that it has nothing to do with fashion or style. The only reason for its existence is to keep you warm. When jeans can no longer resist the freezing air, just wear Qiu Ku under your jeans. Problem solved!

BT 201612 Last word 02 Modal Long Johns 2016 New Winter Women O Neck Thermal Underwear Female Breathabl descriptionImage3But there are so many countries which are much colder than China. Why don't they have Qiu Ku?

It is said that there are only two countries in the world where people wear it: China and North Korea. How comes?! Well, Chinese people themselves have not yet figured this out. As a result, various speculations about its origin make it the most common and mysterious clothing for them.

One of the most wildly spread stories is about the conspiracy of the Soviet Union.

According to some articles on the Internet, back in the 1950s, a Russian geneticist told Stalin that once a nation wears Qiu Ku for 60 years, they could never get rid of it again because their legs would lose the ability to endure the cold temperature. So the Soviet Union introduced Qiu Ku in China and North Korea in order to reduce their combat power in high altitude areas. What's funnier is that these articles even found evidence to support their story: why Chinese football always sucks? It is because Qiu Ku has weakened the function of their legs. But why is it that North Koreans can play football much better? It is because they were poorer and their Qiu Ku was lighter.


Of course, the authenticity of this story is highly doubtful. What is more convincing is that Chinese people really do care about warmth. They can not understand how come in western countries people never drink hot water in the morning. And they are shocked when they see Japanese pupils wearing shorts and skirts during winter. In China, the older generation is extremely cautious about the cold. They say you need to cover your neck because once your neck is warm, your whole body won't feel cold. You should not stand in the wind for so long without a hat, it would give you headache and you should definitely wear Qiu Ku in the winter. If not, you would have pain in your legs and knees when you get old.

Older people have several reasons to wear and to convince others to wear Qiu Ku but if you ask young Chinese why they wear Qiu Ku, they would probably say: because my mum thinks I'm cold.

BT 201612 Last word 01 japan winter girlsAs mentioned before, Qiu Ku is not the kind of thing which can add points to your outfit. There's a very popular saying to describe how young people get through winter: only Feng Du, no Wen Du, in which Feng Du means style, while Wen Du means warmth. You can find young men wear jeans with two big holes on their knees and young women wear boots and skirts, leaving their thighs shaking in the cold wind. They would insist on style for as long as possible, but at last Qiu Ku is still the strongest weapon against the cold. When they finally surrender and put their Qiu Ku on, they do it as prudently as possible. But there is no Qiu Ku for any formal occasion, party, date, etc. Once they put their most dedicate make-up on, they would take their Qiu Ku off for sure.

Nowadays, Qiu Ku is no longer a simple piece of clothing. It has already become a cultural phenomenon in China. There was even a Qiu Ku gate incident in recent years. A famous fashion editor claimed in a TV interview that she has never worn Qiu Ku and suggested her colleagues not to wear it when they had their suits on. Then her speech was exaggerated by the media and caused a huge discussion about whether people should sacrifice their health just for the sake of looking good.

At the same time, "put your Qiu Ku on" is also a way to express their concern for other people. Parent say it to their children, fans say it to their idols. However, what should be kept in mind is that no matter how caring you are, never ask your date whether he/she is wearing Qiu Ku unless you really want to ruin a romantic night.

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