The street sign for "Fatty Pig Market Street"
From Chengdu QQ:
Recently, a poll appeared asking Chengdu residents to nominate the most beautiful street names. The poll gained more and more prominence, and more and more netizens of Lotus City Web came to participate, each offering their own suggestions. But one astute netizen found a most shocking street name: "Chou Mao Si." Do you think this name needs to be changed?
1554 Yes. It needs to be changed.
3555 No. It's not necessary.
In response to the question posed, most replies were the expected, standard "pretty" names (excuse our unpoetic translations; they're just to give you an idea): Xiangheli/祥和里, Caihong Qiao/彩虹桥 ("Rainbow Bridge"), Qintai Lu/琴台路 ("Zither Stage Street"), Tianya Shi/天涯石 ("The Stone at the Other End of the World"), Xizi Gong/惜字宫, and so forth.
But one netizen pulled up the name "Chou Maosi" (臭毛屎). In local dialect, it means something like "Smelly Toilet." The discovery led one intrepid reporter to ask "Where is this Chou Mao Si? And how did it get such a disgusting sounding name?"
On Google Maps, several listings come up: one in the Jinjiang District and one in nearby Pengzhou. In the Jinjiang District, the area lies in the south, between the Third Ring Road and the High-Speed Ring Road, near a place called Zhuguo Sicun (祝国寺村), on the third section of Jinghua Lu (锦华路三段). But residents who live in the area don't seem to know exactly where this "Chou Maosi" is or why it has such a name. All they know is once, long time ago, there was an area called Chou Maosi. But now it's all an industrial region.
The reporter did what any lost person would do: ask a pedicab driver.
"'Chou Maosi?' The people who live around here all know it, it's just up ahead," a pedicab driver said. A few minutes later, I arrived. To put it precisely, this is a village. At the entrance to the village are two deserted sofa factories that are just waiting to be torn down. The few houses that are inhabited are also surrounded by debris.
"Nowadays, the young people are all very embarrassed to say they live at 'Chou Maosi.' Instead, they all call it 'Zhuguo Sicun,'" informed a 67-year-old woman who lives in the area.
As far as the name, legend has it that once up on a time, this was the toilet for a large landowner, and people all referred to it as "the smelly toilet" until, gradually, that became its official name. An 86-year-old man remembers that when he moved to this area at 10 years old, everybody called it "Chou Maosi."
But on the official city map, there is no "Chou Maosi."
Assistant engineer of the Sichuan Provincial Surveying and Map-Making Bureau Ms. Zhang is a specialist in map-making for Sichuan Province as well as the whole country. She couldn't find any "Chou Maosi," nor had she ever heard of such a place. She said, "We're in charge only of names that appear on the official map, which all must be verified by relevant on-site departments and then approved by the Ministry of Civil Affairs. We have no say over what appears on Google or Baidu maps, all we can do is report it. As far as these electronic maps of today, I don't even know which department oversees them in the end. I reckon there are some large issues there."
In Beijing, a Google employee said, "Google China has not made corrections to place names that appear on Google Maps. If necessary, please contact Seattle headquarters."
And the automated answering service at Baidu said, "The Baidu Maps department does not have a telephone. If you need to contact them, please send an e-mail" before hanging up the phone.
It gets more complicated. Because the name was originally assigned in the local dialect, there is no written form of the phrase. Chinese characters have been assigned to represent the phrase in writing based on their pronunciation. Those characters would translate to something like "Smelly, hairy, sh*t," which is how a Chinese speaker unfamiliar with Sichuan dialect would read it. The phrase, too, is outdated, even among locals. For this reason, Sichuan University professor Tian Maoqin believes that the name should be changed. Particularly now that the name can be disemminated so easily around the Internet, such a name will negatively impact the image of Chengdu city, he says.
"What will people think if they see online that there's a place with such a name in Chengdu? Sichuan dialect is growing ever closer to Mandarin. Children these days don't say 'maosi'; they say 'cesuo' (lavatory) or even more polite words such as 'guanxijian' (washroom) or 'xishoujian' (hand-washing room)."
Chengdu's Most Shocking Street Names
挨打巷 "Get Beat Up Lane"
杀牛巷 "Cow Slaughter Alley"
肥猪市街 "Fatty Pig Market Street"
胎神路 "Soul of the Fetus Street" (now known as the phonetically equivalent Taisheng Lu/太升路)
粪草湖街 "Manure Straw Lake Street"
Legend has it that in the 1990s, Jingxing Lu and Xin Guanghua Jie which were once connected were separated into two sections, the north section named Daye Lu and the connecting part called Manure Straw Lake Street because there had once been a body of water on the street in which the excrement from the people in the Daci Temple would be poured into. The name stuck.