Big Underpants Illustrated

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In the entry of the building where TIME’s Hong Kong offices are located, there is a statue of a man squatting on a pedestal. Presumably the artist envisioned a work depicting a person deep in thought. To anyone who has used a squat toilet in China, the statue clearly depicts a man engaged in one of life’s necessary activities. Whether he’s deep in thought is incidental. (I’ve often wondered what sort of message the building owners intended by placing that statue where hundreds of workers must walk beneath it daily, but that’s another story.)

I was reminded of the squatting man by a series of illustrations comparing China Central Television’s new Beijing tower with a man engaged in the same necessary activity, albeit with the aid of Western toilet. As we wrote earlier, the revolutionary building has been nicknamed “Big Underpants.” The state broadcaster is apparently unhappy with the inelegant nickname for its stunning new building, and is backing a search for an alternative. That’s only made things worse, and prompted an online campaign in defense of “Big Underpants.” Danwei.org reported yesterday that the Shanghai press has now taken up the story.

In the face of such attention, CCTV should embrace the earthy sobriquet. As the illustration below hints, the alternatives could be much worse:

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