Neutral Terms for "White People"

got me thinking about someone (who knows less Chinese than I do) telling me that "Big Nose" is the Chinese term for westerners. Is that true, and if so, is it considered racist, i.e., never said where we might hear and somewhat offensive even when we can't (like "nigger")?

If it is "harmless," is it written 大鼻子 ?

2 Answers 2


Yes, 大鼻子 is used for primarily white people, although it is regionally limited to the North East. See http://baike.baidu.com/item/%E5%A4%A7%E9%BC%BB%E5%AD%90/940166

It is not really used these days; when it was used it was mostly used to refer, pejoratively, to Russians, due to the history of conflict with China's North East. Another similar pejorative (and antiquated) term is 老毛子.

I would argue that the term is racist, as it is pejorative and was originally intended to be offensive, even if current users don't intend to offend with the term. You should not use the term in polite company.

  • When I traveled in China, it was related to me that my nose was considered exotic and attractive. (Speaking as someone who lived for a decade in an American Chinatown, one learns not to take terms such as "gwailo" personally;)
    – DukeZhou
    Commented Apr 12, 2017 at 17:22
  • 1
    大鼻子 is almost a dead word,cuz now people like white- man-shaped nose. '毛子
    – sfy
    Commented Apr 13, 2017 at 4:08
  • '毛子' means bandits in North-East, 老 means bad-ass, The Chinese bandits are called 毛子, Russian bandits are called 老毛子 in North-East in the late 19th century.
    – sfy
    Commented Apr 13, 2017 at 4:17
  • I really don't get how 大鼻子 is a dead word, I've been called it multiple times, mostly by children. I think what they're trying to express is just 'big nose' and not 'big nosed (foreigner)' though.
    – Mou某
    Commented Apr 15, 2017 at 0:15
  • haha, white people called big nosed. me: laughs in black Commented Mar 3, 2021 at 4:29

when I lived in china for a year, 'big nose" was the common name for westerners. It was most definitely not a positive thing.

  • It's the same as Westerners calling orientals "Slant-eye"? Commented Mar 3, 2021 at 1:52

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