March 05, 2008

Life place

The Chinese word shenghuoguan (生活館) is a word with a simple literal meaning, but looses the meaning when you scratch the surface. Shenghuo is life, and a guan is a place. Some other places that use the word guan are restaurants (literally "rice place" 飯館) libraries (literally "book place") and the list goes on with places like bowling alleys ("bowling place" 保齡球館) or arts museums ("fine arts place" 美術館).

So, what is this shenghuoguan, literally "life-place"? You won't find this one in a dictionary. Looking at examples of shenghuoguan does little to improve the definition. You will find that a shenghuoguan could be a shopping mall, a restaurant, a web page, a real estate company, or as the picture shows, a supermarket. The answer seems to be that a shenghuoguan is a place of business with the ambition of becoming a part of your life. Perhaps because providing goods and services is too mundane, so these places instead offer us a place to live for minutes at a time.

As expected, the word doesn't do well in translation. Keji Shenghuoguan (科技生活館) takes "Science Park Life Hub" as their English name. Other than the people who work there, I cannot imagine that the little mall is the hub of many people's lives. Sure, Burger King and the telephone company are nice, but I prefer that they not become integral parts of my life.

A search on the web shows that it isn't just Taiwan that is using this word, which appears to be a fairly recent creation. From China, there is Nalan Beauty and Fashion Life Home (納蘭美宮時尚生活館), another shenghuoguan.

The picture below shows a new sign up at the supermarket. The old sign (on the left) describes the place as a supermarket. The new sign (on the right) shows that the supermarket has now become or has hatched a shenghuoguan.

An overly ambitious supermarket that wishes to be a shenghuoguan.



  • that supermarket is there for more than a decade. during my last visit, my friend made a joke about the pronunciation of its chinese name - it sounds like 'E Coli.' :-)

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at March 12, 2008 10:39 PM  

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