Beijing Bikini

Any visitor to Beijing during the summertime, especially someone who likes to explore the downtown Hutong neighborhoods, will quickly get familiar with the concept of a Beijing bikini. A Beijing bikini is the name for typically middle-aged men that roll up their t-shirt and let it rest on the ledge of their beer bellies so they can cool off. This is related to the belief in ancient Chinese medicine that it is good to air out the hot energy 气 (qì) and to bring the qì back into balance. This in turn goes back to the Chinese 陰陽 (yīnyáng) belief that everything needs to be in harmony.

A couple leisurely strolling in a Beijing Hutong while dressed in a fashionable Beijing Bikini.

As you can imagine, freely aired beer bellies are a somewhat unsightly view and when more and more foreigners started posting pictures of this on social media sites the Chinese government, worried about its image, decided to clamp down on it. As far as I can tell they haven’t been very successful at stopping this practice. I still run into it all the time and it doesn’t offend me at all. In fact, it makes me smile every time I see it, and knowing that the government has failed to stop it makes me laugh even more. It’s a form of harmless civil disobedience that’s also very quintessential Chinese.

Some companies have taken the term Beijing Bikini as a badge of honor and included it in their product branding. 京A (Jing-A), one of my favorite microbreweries here in Beijing, has named a summer beer after it: The Beijing Bikini watermelon wheat. A refreshing beer for hot summer days. Enjoy!

The Jing-A brewery menu from their new CBD branch proudly shows the Beijing Bikini watermelon wheat beer.

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