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Keng is one of the most familiar word to the old and the young generation by different aspects of understanding. Keng is everywhere in people’s daily life. Scientifically, there is nothing is hundred percent smooth in the surface exists in the world yet; neither in the natural production nor the artificial production. Therefore, people get the meaning behind Keng immediately just because of seeing a pit visually. When people see it, they know it.

坑 (pronounced ”keng") written in standard Chinese.

As a noun, a hollow, a pit, a gully all represented by Keng in sum. Connect to the fast development of modernization in China, in the past decades, the most representative usage of this world is for describing the pits and hollows on the roads. The lack of asphalt roads at that time make Chinese people totally experience the feeling of Keng when they driving, riding, and walking.

Zoom in to Keng’s function. Keng could work in any size underground. It could be a long deep hall made by armies during wars or a small round one for hunting animals. They dig a Kengs for different purposes as needed.

For the internet use, the online users are leading the world to a noun as the definition of a group of people. They have same interest and form a circle called Keng.

The Genesis of 坑 (kēng)

Keng get popular in China due to the trend of social media. The young generation love to visit stores, taking photos and sharing thoughts about them. Under the huge environment of sharing culture in China online platforms, the positive comments are conclude as Zhongcao, the bad comments are conclude as Keng. People would conclude anything that unreal to its appearance or doesn’t match to its description, they would judge it as Keng.  Therefore, network users could use only one character to summarize and emphasize the multiple negative reasons, which make message spreading short and clear. The new definition of Keng make people’s communication more convenient .

Dictionary meaning and Etymology of 坑 (kēng)

Dictionary meaning of 坑 (kēng)

The word pit, written as the character 坑 (pronounced as kēng) is used to describe a cave on the surface that is hollow in shape or form. It is used to describe various forms of sunken terrains such as man-made potholes in a road surface or naturally occurring sunken holes in the ground. In standard Chinese, 坑 is mainly used as a noun.


Etymology of 坑 (kēng)

The origins of the character 坑 date back all the way to the Warring States period (between 476 BC to 221 BC) in ancient Chinese history[1], where Chinese characters still resembled pictograms. The original structure of the 坑 character comprised 3 radicals, a “阜” (pronounced as fù) meaning the multistep/ terrace terrain, a “亢” (pronounced kàng) merged with a “大” (pronounced dà) that represented the shape of a human with their legs tied, and a “土” (pronounced tǔ) meaning soil or dirt.[1] The “亢” merged with “大” written on top of the “土” signified a person buried in dirt with their legs bound/tied and the “阜” represented multiple layers of dirt, where the combined meaning of these characters conveyed the meaning of burying a person alive which was how this character was specifically used in ancient Chinese language.[1] In contemporary Chinese, the 坑 character has remained relatively the same, only becoming more and more simplified over time. With mainly the meaning and general use of the word facing the most change since its origins.

Transformation of 坑(Keng)

An elaboration of its variegated meanings, actual usages, and value-loaded implications

Honor Of Kings

One of the most commonly used scenarios is during the famous Chinese mobile games the Honor of Kings(王者荣耀)

There are five positions in the game Honor of Kings.

1. On the top lane, most of them are fighters and tanks to resist the main damage of the opponent.

2. On the bot lane, most of them are marksmen to take charge of the main damage output.

3. Usually, the marksmen have a support to protect him by taking damage, controlling enemies, and replenishing blood.

4. On the mid lane, most of them are mages to cooperate with and support their teammates in the other two roads to complete the attack on the enemy.

5. Jungler clears wild monsters (Red and Blue buff etc.) and GANK(to attack, outflank, or encircle an opponent with premeditated numbers or skill to overwhelm the enemy) their enemies as assassins.

Perfect teamwork will win the final victory; There are several ways to avoid pitting teammates(坑队友)[2]

1. Always keep the network connection normal and unobstructed, do not easily hang up or network congestion resulting in the lack of a teammate's injury output.

2. Choose characters that you know how to play, and do not choose characters who are not familiar with operation and acting in a ranking match for exercise.

Netizens adapted a poem by Tang Dynasty poet Li Bai to express the tragic mood to have a pit teammate in the team.Original meaning is "[t]he Peach Blossom Pool's waters are a thousand feet deep, yet do not match Wang Lun's emotion as he sees his friend go."[3] The adapted meaning by netizens is"[t]he Peach Blossom Pool's waters are a thousand feet deep," not as good as teammates pit to death.

3. Pay attention to the outfit, don't buy the wrong equipment. Physical output should not buy some useless equipment such as mage equipment; The marksmen should not buy so much damage resistant equipment that cannot achieve the original damage.

4. Give the buff to a teammate who really needs it, don't grab the buff when you are playing a tank character. (The tank is responsible for the main damage of fair death, and the buff will be added to the opponent after death) (The red buff mainly slows down the enemy and continuously burns the enemy more suitable for marksmen).

5. Do not give the heads, do not always think of killing the enemy under their tower, often easy to kill not to be killed. (Double output of opposing towers and enemies will lose blood faster).

6. Do what needs to be done. Tanks should resist damage when they need to, don't hide behind marksmen; Marksmen don't run away when the tank is up to resist the main damage from the opponent, also don't rush too forward; It is best to hide behind the tank and giving a crazy output.

坑队友:It is an adjective/Literal translation: Pit a teammate/The Meaning behind it: hack, weak teammate.

Pitting teammates means putting teammates in danger by not having a complete understanding of the rules of the game and the skills to play the game, not having operation skills, not fighting in groups, easily allowing the other team to win and taking away the economy and experience of teammates.

A pit in a teammate can be used as an adjective or a verb. This word is usually used in a team-assisted game or mission. When used as an adjective, pitting means performing poorly, so the expression pitting a teammate can refer to a member of a group who performs poorly. Example: "How could Someone mess up such a simple thing? What a pit teammate!" . When used as a verb, to pit means to drag down the actions of others by their poor performance, thereby ruining them. Example sentences: "Someone not only did not work hard himself, but also screwed up his teammates' plans.".

The dog is digging a pit

刨坑:It is a verb/Literal translation: Dig a pit/The Meaning behind it: Design a trap.

To plant vegetables, dig the field pits with a hoe and scatter the seeds.

The dog's instinct to dig a pit is to bury food.

Dig a pit in the ground and then hide it. Bury the nail, bamboo stick and other objects used to kill the enemy.

火坑:It is a none/Literal translation: A pit of fire/The Meaning behind it: Abyss of suffering.

“How can I watch my daughter jump into the fire”.

It usually involves marriage issues. For example, when the family income and living background of the two sides are greatly different, the woman's living conditions are superior, the man's family is embarrassed or his character is questionable; While the woman is "blinded" by love and cannot see the true side of the other side. Then the woman's family will take some actions to block and oppose the marriage relationship and prevent the woman from marrying into the "fire pit", battered and bruised by the marital relationship.

入坑:It is a verb/Literal translation: Into the pit/The Meaning behind it: To become entrapped.

Often used to focus on a field that requires a lot of time or money, "Into the pit已入坑" can also express affection for something. For example, something that takes a lot of time, such as a TV series, anime, or game; As well as things like perfumes, bags and sneakers making a collection that cost a lot of money.

Squat toilet

蹲坑:It is a verb/Literal translation: Squatting pit/The Meaning behind it: Requires a long wait.

It is usually used to describe the wait for something or to do something. For example, the process of waiting for the update of a new chapter in a good serialised novel.

蹲坑:It is a noun/Literal translation: Squatting pit/The Meaning behind it: Go to the toilet(defecate).

Squatting on the pit. Before modern China, most toilets had a pit to “store” excrement and therefore needed to be used in a squatting position. Later, the toilet was introduced into China. Although the shape and position of the toilet were changed, it was sometimes used to mean to go to the toilet(defecate).

坑蒙拐骗[4]:It is a Chinese idioms/Literal translation: Pit, deceive, abduct, cheat/​​The Meaning behind it: Bluff and deceive.

Used to describe the design of harm, with false words and deeds to cover up the truth, so that people cheated and used improper means to make profits. To get money by deception, to frame others.

焚书坑儒[5]:It is a historical events during the Qin Dynasty of China/Literal translation: Burn the books and bury the scholars(confucianism) alive.

“In 213 BC and 212 BC, the First Emperor of China burned books and buried and killed over 460 violators.” The essence of burning books and burying Confucianism is the movement of unifying thoughts. The latter refers to the destruction of culture and intellectuals.

坑位费 : Refers to company or individuals to pay to live streamers that have great influences to promote their products.

How live streamers introduce the product in pay-pomotion scenario

Social and Cultural Aspects

The most common use of the word 坑 in modern Chinese is used as a verb, meaning to intentionally harm, blame, or frame someone through deceptive means. It occurs quite frequently in everyday speech among Chinese people. There are many ways the word is applied in casual Chinese, for example, “坑爹“ is widely used to express that something has occurred that has resulted in the speaker’s loss, or “太坑了!” to express how displeased or dissatisfied they are with something according to the context. However, it should be noted that the use of this word in this way is a form of Chinese slang that is rarely used in formal Chinese. Instead, many formal speakers or writers opt to use “陷害“ (pronounced xian hai) to express the meaning that something has resulted in a detriment to someone.

A popular Chinese meme showing the contemporary use of "坑".

The informal use of the word rose to popularity mainly through the online Chinese gaming community, where it then gradually became more and more prevalent in the speech of the young Chinese generation. In the gaming culture, it is often used in a derogatory manner to describe the actions of other players within a game in a negative context. An example of how “坑” is widely used in gaming is “他坑了我”, which can be roughly translated to “he/she screwed me over”. This specific phrase is used to convey discontent when one believes someone has done something that has resulted in their detriment.

In addition, “坑” has become so prevalent that it is now regularly used in Chinese media to grasp the attention of viewers. Many video titles use “坑” to interest viewers in watching their videos, featuring titles such as, “双十一避坑”[6], describing how shoppers in China can avoid being screwed over during China’s national shopping day. Also, there are lots of physical shops that owns big posters to tell people to avoid being a victim of bad products.

In Canada, there is also a very interesting usage of word “ 坑” which is when those imigration company advertise themselves they often used the tittle “不要踩坑!6个加拿大新移民容易犯的错误”[7], meaning “Don’t be screwed over! These are 6 mistakes that new Canadian immigrants typically make”. Although 坑 can be applied with other verbs in its noun form, as seen in the 2 examples, the literal meaning,  “avoid a pit” or “step into a pit”, means to avoid being screwed over. The 坑 character is also used in many popular landmarks in China, for example, the 深坑酒店 (InterContinental Shanghai Wonderland) in Shanghai, meaning “deep pit hotel”, which features a popular hotel built in a large pit of what was originally a coal mine. It is also hailed as a "miracle in the history of architecture"[8].

上海深坑酒店(InterContinental Shanghai Wonderland)


The word "pit" (keng) is developed from many different perspectives. Initially, it only refers to holes and landforms in the physical sense. Later, it has gradually become an attribute that can be used as both a verb and a noun. In the traditional sense, pits have many applications, such as the pit in the famous Chinese historical event "burning books and burying scholars", which not only refers to the action of digging holes and landfilling, but also refers to the pit in the physical sense. "坑蒙拐骗" (kengmengguaipian) is another highly used word in daily life, which can be seen in many Chinese news reports. It generally refers to criminal acts such as fraud or acts that ignore morality for economic benefits.

In recent years, as the word "坑队友" (pit teammate) has become a popular slang in the game, pit, also as a network term, has become popular again. The most common application scenario is to describe teammates with poor skills and jeopardize the whole team's benefits behind in the game. Not only in games but also in the application of online literature, a series of words composed of pits have gradually become the topics that readers enjoy talking about, such as "挖坑" (digging pits) and "填坑" (filling pits). Because of the social impact caused by the large-scale application of pit, we can see more of this word in our daily life. For example, the term "蹲坑“ (squatting pit)originally meant to describe the use of toilets, has evolved into a word to describe a long wait. At the same time, because of the popularity of the Internet, more and more businesses and advertisements are also widely using the word pit. For instance, there are many "Pit Avoidance" (avoiding wrong products) guides in the "Double 11 Shopping Festival" (one of the largest Chinese shopping events, comparable to Black Friday)

Pit(keng), so far, still has a very high frequency of occurrence. At the same time, more words about "pit" and new meanings are being given. It has been gradually rooted in the Chinese language system. For further study of (Keng) it requires more than just the cultural and social aspects but also need to focus on the historical meaning and how this transformation take places in the comtemporary Chinese society. The in-depth study of pit also needs to continue to combining many more profound cultural concepts and the timeliness of the information.


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Baidu, Baike (2020/12/04). "坑 [kēng], baike, baidu". Check date values in: |date= (help)
  2. 美, 滋滋 (Mar 15, 2018). "王者荣耀如何才能做到不坑队友?How can Honor of King not pit his teammates?".
  3. East Asia Student (October 9, 2012). "李白 贈汪倫 translation: Zeng Wanglun, by Li Bai".
  4. 汉典. "坑蒙拐骗".
  5. 百度百科. "焚书坑儒".
  6. Chen, Yu (2022/11/04). "双十一避坑:"零添加"食品乱象大起底:满满都是忽悠,消费者被如此套路". Check date values in: |date= (help)
  7. "不要踩坑!6个加拿大新移民容易犯的错误". 2022年9月7日. |first= missing |last= (help); Check date values in: |date= (help)
  8. "上海深坑酒店:建在88米深坑中,被誉为世界建筑史上的奇迹". 2022/9/06. |first= missing |last= (help); Check date values in: |date= (help)
UBC Asian Centre, Bell Shrine, Winter 2013.JPG
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