Sexual pun riles netizens

THE tourism advertisement was supposed to be a clever play on words. But it has generated a heated debate because the meaning turned out to be too "insulting and obscene".

Tourism officials in Lichuan, in the central Chinese province of Hubei, had put up the controversial advertisement on 21 buses in neighbouring Chongqing on Tuesday, Hong Kong newspaper South China Morning Post reported.

The advertisement, which translates literally as "I rely on Chongqing; Lichuan a pleasantly cool city", has been widely circulated on mainland microblogs and chat rooms this month because the phrase "wo kao Chongqing" can also be read as "I **** Chongqing".

Lichuan tourism bureau chief Sun Fumin told reporters last week that the advertisement was meant to say that Lichuan relied on Chongqing residents for their tourism revenue, but angry netizens would have none of it, the report said.

Wrote one netizen: "Lichuan's tourism authorities would be too naive if they dare to say they didn't know that the words, 'I rely on', are obscene words in spoken language and cyberspace."

Costly humour

"Using a crude sense of humour in advertisements may be eye-catching, but it'll also cost Lichuan its reputation."

Another netizen wrote that it makes no sense to offend Chongqing residents if Lichuan wants to attract them.

But Mr Sun's argument was that at least the public would now remember Lichuan, regardless of how they reacted to the advertisement.

Chongqing's industry and commerce administration told Lichuan tourism authorities to remove the controversial advertisement from the buses, but Lichuan authorities declined to comply until Tuesday.

Said the Lichuan authorities: "To respond to Chongqing authorities' request, Lichuan's tourism bureau agreed to revise the advertisement 'I rely on Chongqing; Lichuan a pleasantly cool city' to 'Neighbouring Chongqing; Lichuan a pleasantly cool city'.

"The amendment is proof that we don't want to promote the city by sensationalising news´┐Ż and try to bring out a healthy and positive public image."

The Chongqing Morning Post reported that the advertisements had been carried by buses in the municipality since last month.

It is not the first time that a mainland city has used a double entendre to promote tourism.

Two years ago in Jiangxi province, an advertisement triggered online debate after an advertisement that translated literally as "Yichun, a city called spring" was published on its official tourism website.

The words "called spring" - jiao chun in pinyin - are widely understood as "horny" in common usage.

This article was first published in The New Paper.

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