Can you decipher the code?

A lot of the textual Chinese lingo used by locals is made up of numbers. While this appears to be some kind of code, all you have to do is simply sound out the numbers (add a bit of a Beijing accent, meaning an “-er” at the end of each word, if it helps) and decipher the message.

Number abbreviations

One of the most frequently used abbreviations comes in the form of numbers. Sound them out phonetically and with just a bit of imagination, you will be able to figure out the meaning. Some of them, such as 2333 and 250 are just numbers and don’t have any phonetic meaning.

2333 comes from the image code of a laughing cat, meaning that when the image doesn’t load properly 2333 appears. That is why this is nowadays used as an abbreviation for “ha ha ha”.

Texting chinese lingo
Number Phonetics Meaning
520 wǔ’èr líng  = wǒ ài nǐ


I love you
94 jiǔ shí sì = jiù shì 就是  Exactly
666 liù liù liù = liū liū liū


To be good at something
555 wǔ wǔ wǔ = wū wū wū 呜呜呜 Crying (symbolizes the noise)
88 / 3Q88 3 Q (“thank you”) bàibài 拜拜 Thank you bye bye
2333… hāhāhā 哈哈哈 Ha ha ha
250 èrbǎiwǔ 二百五 Someone who is not smart

Letter abbreviations

A different form of abbreviations comes in the form of letters. These are just the beginning letters of the characters pinyin and are used to express certain terms or to try and hide from governmental censorship. Sometimes, code words are also used when speaking of the government or governmental employees.

For example, 五毛党 wǔmáo dǎng, stands for the ’50 cent party’. This term originates from those hired by the government to write pro-government posts on the internet and are rumored to have been paid 50 cents to do so.


Letters Phonetics Meaning Context
BL bōlí 玻璃 Boy Lover While these characters literally mean “glass”, when typing BL, for boylover, these are the first two characters which appear
GG gēgē 哥 Brother, Bro  Used in the same setting as “bro”
MM mèimei 妹妹 Sister Only used for young, pretty girls
XSWL xiào sǐ wǒle 笑死我了 Dying of laughter Translates to our LMAO
ZF zhèngfǔ 政府 The government This abbreviation is used to pass on the use of characters when speaking of the government
PMP pāi mǎ pì 拍马屁 Patting the horses behind To overly flatter someone or to suck up to someone

Do you think you will be able to decipher messages you get from now on? Is there any other code you think is vital to surviving in China and think others should know? Let us know below!


Want to know more about Chinese slang? Check out our article!