LSD. Upside-down pentagrams. The Playboy Bunny. These are symbols I've encountered in Beijing in the past week. What's weird is, this didn't seem weird.
After years in China, I take for granted that locals who display such symbols that are provocative in the West usually have little inkling how they may be interpreted by other cultures. They often don't know the meanings at all.
And this happens the other direction, too.
I've gotten used to conservative "grannies" wearing shirts that read, in English: "Everything's better on acid."
While this woman's shirt suggests all experiences would be more pleasurable if enhanced by the psychedelic drug, she almost certainly has no idea what LSD is.
And if she did, she'd probably be the last person to take it. Or wear the shirt.
Take, for instance, our nanny－a typical Beijing native in her 50s, who sometimes shows up in a shirt printed with satanic symbols.
She simply doesn't know what upside-down crosses, inverted pentagrams and goats' heads mean-and that her shirt reveres the deification of evil.
She's certainly no devil worshiper.
It's against our parenting philosophy to leave our daughter in Satanists' care.
But our nanny isn't demonic. Actually, she's angelic to our girl.
She simply has no clue one of her shirts exalts evil's premium incarnation in other cultures.
While this particular shirt is seemingly a fluke, in that emblems hailing Lucifer are far from pervasive in China, she also wears attire printed with the Playboy Bunny, which is ubiquitous here. Like many women in China, she sports the icon without any hunch of its pornographic origins and connotations. Westerners will generally think of porn when spotting the emblem of what is arguably the world's most famous nudie magazine, which is banned here. But people who have spent some time in China will start to forget the symbol's original meaning.