Incredibly instructive signage

China never fails to disappoint when it comes to instructive [and entertaining] signage. Here are a couple of my favorite instructional signs.

Shenzhen recreation area

Shenzhen recreation area

“A small step close toward urinal, a big step toward civilization!”

Until I saw this sign (a male companion brought it to my attention- I did not discover it by being in the urinals myself), I would not have equated urinal usage with civilization. That being said, I totally get it. Hardly a day goes by without observing a child’s bare bum, often relieving itself in the public right-of-way. If you’ve been to China, you are likely familiar with crotchless pants that young children adorn. Also likely, you’ve observed some questionable parental judgment when it comes to excretion. While I understand many of the benefits of not diapering a small child, there’s a critical age at which public excretion just seems like a slap in the face (let’s hope not literally). And of course, not just children are to blame for human waste in the right-of-way. So yes, perhaps, a small step close toward urinal is a big step toward civilization.

Shenzhen recreation area

Shenzhen recreation area

“The slight effort to do environmental protection gives our children a beautiful earth”

Beautifully put. It may take a bit more than a “slight effort”, but stewardship, personal responsibility and trans-generational thinking are always good lessons.

All your emergency provisions in one park

This way to all of your various emergency service needs. And, just in case, please feel free to vend an emergency life jacket should the man-made pond reach one thousand year floodplain levels.

Shenzhen's Lichee Park

Shenzhen’s Lichee Park


Guangzhou MTR

Safe escalator use

I’ve always been a cautious escalator user, but I was not fully aware of the dangers and responsibilities of escalator use. Thanks to this example of incredibly instructive signage, I now am. The messages conveyed here may be too numerous by our signage standards, but, hey, this is China (“TIC”).  

Wayfinding on Hong Kong MTR

Some more incredibly instructive MTR signage (although, quite a bit more useful)…

Hong Kong MTR

Hong Kong MTR

Shenzhen performing arts center

Shenzhen performing arts center

“Dry your hands, keep away drops” Yes, while drying your hands certainly will keep away drops, I can’t help but to wonder if this is the most important message to disseminate at the sink basin. Yes, I have an agenda. So far in mainland China, I have yet to see a sign about the importance of washing hands with soap- or the oh-so-familiar signs about washing before returning to work. I’ve been conducting my own study of sorts. At my office, males and females share the sinks in an area outside of the squat toilets. Covertly, I watch the handwashing behaviors of my fellow office workers. Over the past four weeks, on only two occasions have I seen anyone use soap, despite the fact that it is conveniently placed beside each basin. I try to withhold my public health reflex of repulsion. Back to the sign at hand (pun not intended): while entertaining, for me, this sign states the obvious, but misses the point.

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4 thoughts on “Incredibly instructive signage

  1. Shirley Stirling says:

    In a another time and place (and in another country during my Peace Corps days) I once organized a village workshop regarding how to built a squat toilet and what are the benefits of using toilets anyway (instead of the mangrove swamp for adults or ‘anywhere’ for children). The village had no toilets/urinals at all at that time. So I agree with: ““A small step close toward urinal, a big step toward civilization!””


  2. Yiping says:

    I wonder whether you found the English translation of signages correct? There were many bad translation which I have read in some blogs.
    BTW, somehow connected. Urines were found to be good source of generating electricity. This should help to promote toilets in developing countries.


  3. chinaivey says:

    Great anecdote, Mom (one of my only faithful readers!). Thanks!

    Thanks, Yiping. I should have clarified in my write-up that my perspective was one of an English reader, reading their given translations without seeking outside translation myself. I chose these signs because they struck me in some way based on my experiences here. And thank you for the link; I’ve heard a bit about this and am quite interested in its prospects. Best to you!


  4. Pete says:

    Regarding the one step closer to the urinal ios one step closer to humanity.. You are correct about the general difference in toilet culture. Just look-up the child and newspaper incident on a flight from Beijing and New York. How ever the reference to the one step closer is literally the fact that men tend to urinate up to a metre from the trough making a terrible mess for the next user. It’s the I’m right Jack aspect of their culture.


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