Is Hiking in China Really Hiking?

Word of the Week: pá shān

The first time a Chinese person invited me to go “hiking” I was a bit disappointed. We basically walked up some concrete steps to the top of a small hill. This was what they called pá shān 爬山 (literally “crawl hill/mountain”)

I made a similar mistake earlier this year when I believed the Guangzhou tourist brochure and thought bái yún shān 白云山 (white cloud hill) would be a good place to pá shān and see the měi lì fēng jǐng 美丽风景 (beautiful scenery).

zá men qù bái yún shān pá shān ba, kě yǐ kàn měi lì de fēng jǐng 我们去白云山爬山吧,可以看美丽的风景 (let’s go hiking at Baiyun Mountain, you can see the beautiful scenery)

What I ended up doing was walking up some concrete steps set into the side of a heavily landscaped hill that had a funfair and shopping area (complete with a traditional Chinese MacDonald’s) on the top. I even had to buy and entrance ticket (mén piào 门票)

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my first “hiking” trip in China

It didn’t take me long to figure out that when Chinese people say pá shān it’s not quite the same as what I have in mind when I say “hiking” in English. Basically, pá shān could mean “hiking”, but for city dwellers it’s perhaps more likely to mean “a pleasant walk up some concrete steps in a park”.

If I’m going to shān I much prefer to do it in the real Chinese countryside and not a place with an entrance ticket. Luckily I have friends who run a tour group organising outdoor activities in Zhejiang Province, so I can get my pá shān fix.

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hiking in Zhejiang Province

爬 on its own means “crawl” (as in a baby crawling) but pá qǐ lái 爬起来 can also be used metaphorically to mean “crawl out of bed in the morning”, although from my experience it’s more common to hear the phrase pá bù qǐ lái 爬不起来 (unable to drag yourself out of bed). So if you’re not a morning person and your friend invites you to pá shān early in the morning you can say

nà me zǎo! wǒ pá bù qǐ lái 那么早!我爬不起来 (so early! I can’t get up)

 

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