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Mingbai: What do Chinese kids watch on TV?

A big-headed boy, a small-headed dad, and happy goats.

Mingbai (明白, meaning “understand”), written by Christian Føhrby and Deng Jie, is a daily newsletter that drops knowledge on things “everyone in China knows, but almost nobody outside the country knows.” Sign up for their newsletter at GetMingbai.com.


If you grew up in the English-speaking world, you were probably shaped in some little way by Disney, Sesame Street, or Cartoon Network. You also probably don’t know what kids in China were watching all this time.

Today’s Mingbai introduces two kids’ TV shows that everyone in China knows, one from the 1990s and one from the 2000s.

大头儿子和小头爸爸 (Dàtóu Érzi hé Xiăotóu Bàba), Big Head Son and Small Head Dad, was an animated series seen by every self-respecting 1990s child in China.

The show follows a typical family consisting of a boy with a huge head, his father with a tiny head, and the mother who always wears an apron.

Each episode tells a lighthearted yet educational story about family values: In one episode, the son, named simply “Big Head Son,” learns to overcome his fear of swimming in the ocean. In another, the father, named simply “Small Head Dad,” learns that even parents must keep their promises, when he misses a zoo trip because of overtime work, and the son gets into all kinds of trouble.

The theme music is universally recognizable by the ’90s generation and their parents. A remake of the show was run in 2013, and there have also been two feature-length movies featuring the happy family.

Fast-forward in time, to the present millennium: 喜羊羊 (Xĭ Yángyáng), literally “Pleasant Goat,” is a much-loved character in the cartoon that bears its name: 喜羊羊与灰太狼 (Xǐyángyáng yǔ Huītàiláng, Pleasant Goat and Big Big Wolf). A happy primary school goat living in the Green-Green Pastures, he spends his time hanging out with his friends (who are named after their character traits just like the Smurfs, including Lazy Goat 懒羊羊 and Beautiful Goat 美羊羊) and trying to avoid being eaten by the big, bad wolf.

The wolf tries to catch the sheep in each episode, usually concocting some inventive ploy, a lot like Wile E. Coyote from Looney Tunes. He fails epically in every episode, often resulting in his narcissistic wife hitting him with a frying pan.

Kids watching the show are usually unaware of the many brilliant puns and references to famous people that it includes, but every schoolchild knows the characters from the show, and one can’t walk far down a Chinese street without seeing the happy goat and his friends on a backpack or T-shirt.

So fluffy.

Did you ever watch either show? Which do you enjoy more? Drop us a comment — and come back next Wednesday for more Mingbai.


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Mingbai is a daily, one-minute introduction to China, from TV shows and emperors to popular candy and figures of speech. You can sign up at www.getmingbai.com.

2 Comments

  1. Ian Reply

    I once did a lesson on family terms where I had my teenage students fill out a family tree for Xiyangyang. At first they completely denied knowing enough about Xiyangyang to do this, but between them we had that thing complete out to five generations.

  2. Paul Reply

    I signed up to receive Mingbai, then received three issues, up to number 70, then no more. Signed up twice again since and received no issues. Something is wrong with the sign up process or some kinda glitch somewhere.

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