From the book 活着 (audio book, about 7 minutes 40 seconds into 第01集):


I translate this to:

Several [几个] women [女人] wearing [包着] headscarves [头巾] are [正将] pulling out [拔出来] cotton stalks [棉秆]; they [她们] frequently [不时] shake [抖动着] their bottoms [屁股] so the root's [根须上的] mud [泥巴] falls off [摔去].

I'm confused about 屁股 (pìgu) = "bottom". I've only ever seen it used to mean "bottom" (of an animal) in the sense of "arse" (and not "bottom" as in "lower part" as it also means in English). So I feel it's odd to think about the "bottoms" of the cotton stalks in this context.

However, in this sentence, if it means the women are shaking their respective bottoms, I don't understand how that causes the mud to fall off the cotton stalks.

Question: Does 屁股 refer to the womens' bottoms?

  • yesԅ(¯ㅂ¯ԅ) I think so Jul 30, 2018 at 11:03

3 Answers 3



I listened to the audio, there is a big pause after 屁股, so you may add a comma there:


And my explanation would be: when you move one body part with great force, like to shake off the mud off the root, you cannot hold your other body parts still. They all "shake". So it is not that they shake their bottoms to shake off the mud, but when they shake off the mud, their bottoms shakes. There is no direct indication of which caused which in the sentence.

  • Interestingly enough. I didn't hear a big pause. Instead, it sounds fairly fluid to my ear. Anyways, there could be various understandings given it's rendered a bit ambiguous.
    – dan
    Jul 31, 2018 at 3:05

摔去根须上的泥巴 means to swing cotton stalks 棉秆 and hit ground heavily in order to remove the mud attached on the root. In order to make sure the root can hit the ground, they have to squat or bend their knees. By repeating the motion several times, the mud can be removed thoroughly. So, looking behind, their butts shake up and down.


It looks quite ambiguous to me (native speaker) as well. According to the context, it means 棉秆的屁股 rather than women's :-)

  • Yep , though it should be woman's bottoms. But sounds like confusing first with 棉杆的屁股
    – sfy
    Aug 1, 2018 at 7:32

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