Shanghai, majestic city of intrigue, pearl of the orient, the place where you can call someone “monkey” in praise of their shrewd character. Yes, “monkey!”?These days, menkanjing (门槛精) is the way to say “you’re no fool” on the streets of Shanghai. The first part, menkan, comes from the sound of “monkey,” and if you’re familiar with “Journey to the West” and the mischievous Monkey King, it is not hard to see how the monkey can refer to shrewdness in Chinese folklore. The suffix jing, stapled to the end, literally means shrewd or clever. So “Monkey-shrewd,” or menkanjing, is now the compliment across Shanghai. Try the phrase, “ni menkanjing (你门槛精),” to praise someone on their quick wit, or, with a sarcastic tone, say “ni menkanjing le (你门槛精了)” to shame someone for their wicked cunning. – N.R.
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