by Toffler



Split Pants & Unimaginable Places

July 9, 2007, by TofflerN, category Uncategorized

Perhaps you’ve heard of the split-pants phenomenon in China. Children under the age of 3-4 years do not wear diapers. They have a slit down the crotch of their pants so that they may relieve themselves freely. I’ve seen children, both of the split-pants age and older, urinate in just about every place imaginable. I will only mention a few memorable or noteworthy examples.

Shortly after getting off the plane in Lijiang (a beautiful, perhaps my favorite, town in China), my friend and I went into the airport bathroom. While I was waiting for her, a girl of about 8 came in with her mother, looked under all the bathroom stall doors and found that each stall was occupied. After a look of urgency and desperation at her mother, her mother nodded. Right in front of me, in the middle of the public restroom floor (not even near the grate in the floor), but 5 feet from an actual toilet, the girl pulled down her pants and proceeded to urinate, making a rather large puddle. When finished she pulled up her pants and her mother and she walked out complete normal and at ease. I stood there in shock.

Dali, another beautiful city in western China, has gutters running down the sides of the street which is meant to direct rain and mountain spring water close to the town. In this gutter water I’d seen people wash their vegetables and do their laundry. I also saw a man hold up his child over the same gutter so that the child could relieve itself. (No wonder I’m always sick.)

These two incidents happened when I was in China two years ago. Since then I’ve seen countless more children pee, in my mind, in very inappropriate places and so it shocks me less now. Nonetheless, now, 3 years later including after a solid year of living in China, there are times when I’m still floored as related below.

In Shanghai(!), while on a public city bus, an older woman had a split pants baby on her lap. The child seemed to indicate it needed to go the bathroom. The woman did a quick look around, angled the baby, and then hissed, apparently indicating that it was alright for the child to pee. Where did that woman aim that child? Squarely at the back of the seat in front of her. The piss proceeded to roll around the floor of the bus. I was horrified. Then the old lady sitting in the front seat, not seeming to notice this situation, turned round and started cooing at the baby and playing with it. This situation so bothered me that I repeated it to my Chinese teacher. She didn’t flinch, didn’t seem the least disturbed, and even seemed to pass it off as normal. I held my Chinese teacher in rather high regard considering her fairly educated, so her lack of reaction was even more shocking to me than the actual incident itself. I couldn’t believe her educated self could consider this normal and acceptable behavior.

By contrast, a trendily dressed young Chinese woman, while walking through a dirty part of Shanghai, watched then stormed off with disgust and indignation as a girl of about 7 pulled down her pants in the middle of sidewalk and urinated, not more than 15feet from the entrance of a public toilet. This woman’s reaction pleased me greatly as I was much relieved to find a Chinese person who agreed with my opinion that this behavior is dirty and unacceptable.

Someone once explained to me that the reason the Chinese let their kids pee in public places is because they believe the children’s wastes are quite pure and therefore not harmful. Can’t say I agree… Anyway, after these incidents and many, many more and with my total time spent in China, I thought I’d seen it all, until recently when I was in Beijing.

I went into one of the newest, most high end shopping malls in Beijing and found the premium grocery store in the basement. While waiting in line to check-out, a kid was running around and amusing one of the clerks, then the kid pulled down his pants. The clerk seemed to understand what was going on and alerted the father, who happened to be in front of me in line. He went over, scooped the kid up, did a quick look around and then held the kid over a new, shiny, stainless steel trashcan. When the kid had finished, the father pulled up its pants walked back to the cash register and pulled a bill out of his pocket and handed it to the clerk. The father’s pants were completely covered in urine. Momentarily, I stood there stunned, then regaining composure and with mounting disgust realized the clerk would take the bill from his hands and then run her hands over my groceries and then exchange money with me. Truly grossed out by this thought, I stormed out of that line. In passing the trashcan, I noticed it too was covered in urine and a pool was forming around it. I was aghast at how in such a supposedly upscale place in one of the most modern cities in China, with a family who apparently had enough money to shop at such a premium store, such base, uncleanly things could still happen. Could they not afford diapers? Or had they learned nothing and taught their kid nothing in all the time they were able to acquire the necessary wealth and status affording them to shop at such a store? Absolutely inconceivable. Furthermore, having watched ‘cleaning’ in countless places around China, I knew what would happen next (though I didn’t stick around long enough to watch): they’d pull out a dirty, plenty used mop, absorb the pee off the trashcan so as to render it no longer noticeable, move the pee around the floor just enough so no one would slip, then put the mop back in the corner to be used again without any cleaning.

Is it any wonder I’m frequently sick is this country?

Feel free to add your similar stories in the comments below.  I’d love to see who has the worst.  (After reading my blog, my friend said her boyfriend got peed on on a bus and jumped up screaming and the lady didn’t apologize or even flinch.)


  1. Uno |

    Whenever I have quite a bit of free time on my hand, I have this tendency to research a random topic until I learn a great deal about it. Today, I randomly remembered that in all of the Chinese shows or comic books I have read, the baby’s butts are showing. I googled “Chinese Baby butts”, and I looked thoroughly until I found out the real name of those are called “Split Pants”.

    Many of the stories I read told the positives about it and of how it saves the environment and helps the baby, etc.
    Then I read your hilarious story!
    I loved it! It really makes me want to go visit China (out of pure curiousity)
    Although the split pants can be used for ‘saving’ purposes, I definitely agree that it is… unsanitary for the people!

  2. Katrijne |

    I’m quite a fan of splitpants actually, but I’ve never been to China and I certainly can imagine you being shocked by the way they don’t care about where a child eliminates.

So, what do you think ?