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Synonyms: 腐女, fujoshi
See also: Danmei
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Funü (pinyin: fǔ​nǚ, simplified Chinese: 腐女), literally meaning "rotten woman", is a term used to describe Chinese fans of boys' love/danmei fiction. It originated from the equivalent Japanese term, fujoshi, which was originally a pejorative that fans later reclaimed.[1]

It is unclear whether the Chinese term went through the same evolution, as it came directly from the Japanese, meaning that fans may have always used it to refer to themselves (instead of it being an insult that evolved into a reclaimed label).

Because of the link between funü and boys' love, the word "fu" (腐) - though literally meaning "rotten" or "decadent" - has come to refer to boys' love/gay culture and its fandom,[2] such as in the phrase "fǔzhějiànfǔ" (腐者见腐). Taken literally, it means "the rotten ones see the rot" - in other words, BL fans see the gay subtext, the equivalent of the western term "slash goggles".


It is unclear exactly when Chinese fans started using funü to refer to themselves and the term became widespread. In 2012, a question was posted to Baidu Knows (the Q&A section of Chinese search engine Baidu) asking, "When did funü become widespread?" One answer stated that funü appeared in the 1990s, and that the term has been popular since 1998.[3]

In 2017, in response to a question on Quora asking how to explain the term funü in English, a user named Quynh An stated that, "Chinese funü appeared after the third season of the BBC drama “Sherlock.” It is credited for Sherlock fan fiction and video clips depicting the detectives as a couple."[4] While this is almost certainly not when the term originated, 2014 is cited as the year that funü in China gained international attention,[5] thanks to a BBC blog post on Sherlock fandom in China which referenced the term.[6][7]

Links to British popular culture

In English-language media, the term funü often appears in conjunction with references to BBC's Sherlock and Sherlock fandom, in part because of how the term was internationally popularised (see Origins). However, Sherlock is not the only fandom involving British actors that funü have flocked to. The United Kingdom has acquired the nickname "fǔ​guó" (腐国), or "rotten/gay country" thanks to what Chinese fans see as the particular homoerotic subtext between characters in British media like Harry Potter, Sherlock, Merlin and Doctor Who. In January 2014, only days after the BBC article that mentioned funü, Weijing Zhu wrote in The World of Chinese,

Given the rise of Japanese otaku fandom in China, 腐女 have been taking over Chinese popular culture. The term 腐女 itself comes from the Japanese, whose full name is 腐女子(ふじょし,fujoshi). Mostly fǔ nǚ are girls who fantasize about man-on-man romance, or BL – Boys’ Love. Although BL material originated from a specific branch of Japanese comics, novels, and games, the term now applies to works of many different media. Mostly, the term – which may come as a surprise to many readers – has come to refer to British popular culture. In fact, the country of England itself has acquired a new name: 腐国, or Boy’s Love (gay) Nation.


In China at least, Britain and homosexuality are now indeed synonymous. Millions of teenage Chinese girls across the nation are believed to be breaking-out in hot flushes, at the thought of decadent, British man-love. But why? The reason, is not that the Chinese believe that all British men are homosexuals running amok in the land of England, though there is no doubt an element of that. But, rather, it is the projection of seemingly homoerotic, and ever-popular, modern British culture on Chinese audiences.

British TV shows have a nickname all of their own: 腐剧, or fu TV shows.[8]


  1. ^ 腐女 [fǔ nǚ], Haha China: Chinese Humor and Internet Slang. Published June 27, 2015 (Accessed June 16, 2019). (Archived version)
  2. ^ Britain a ‘Gay Nation’ in Chinese Pop Culture, The World of Chinese. Published January 6, 2014 (Accessed June 16, 2019). (Archived version) "腐 has acquired a new meaning in Chinese, deviating tremendously from its original usage: it is the new word for fans of gay culture"
  3. ^ 腐女是从什么时候开始流行的?, Baidu 知道. Question answered February 9, 2012 (Accessed June 16, 2019). (Archived version) Translation: From when did funü start to spread/become popular?" Answer: "Hard to say: funü appeared in the 90s, and become widespread from 1998."
  4. ^ How do I explain the online Chinese word "腐女" in English? Is there a corresponding English word/phrase to it?, Quora. Question answered January 5, 2017 (Accessed June 16, 2019).
  5. ^ 中国腐女, Baidu 百科. From the first line: "During the third season of the hit BBC drama "Detective Sherlock", Chinese funü gained international attention, prompting the scrutiny of the majority of netizens."
  6. ^ Gay love theory as fans relish Sherlock in China, BBC China Blog. Published January 2, 2014 (Accessed June 16, 2019). (Archived version) "But the most fervent fans are those intent on finding a gay subtext to the relationship between Holmes and Watson. There are numerous Chinese sites that host Sherlock fan fiction, depicting the detectives as a couple. And among this group of fans, many identify themselves as funu or "rotten women" - young women who like gay stories. "I have to say, this show is catering to our rotten girls' taste more and more," said one fan."
  7. ^ Catch Phrase 潮词潮语, Shenzhen Daily. Published January 9, 2014 (Accessed June 16, 2019). (Archived version)
  8. ^ Britain a ‘Gay Nation’ in Chinese Pop Culture, The World of Chinese. Published January 6, 2014 (Accessed June 16, 2019). (Archived version)