What’s Up, Baby Butts?: The Chinese Split Pants Phenomenon

by Kelly on June 16, 2011

Baby's Butt

Baby butts are cute.

They’re small, pinchable and insanely adorable… that is, until they’re everywhere.

On a recent layover from Thailand, I found myself in Beijing, China for 15 hours. Though I was under the impression you needed a visa to enter China (even if just on a layover), it turns out, you don’t. Upon arrival in Beijing I was awoken by airport personnel waking me up and saying “Want to go outside? See Beijing? Beijing?”

You don’t have to ask me twice!

I was out of there, and before I knew it I found myself hiring a driver for the day and touring the sights: The Forbidden City, Tianenman Square and The Great Wall.

It was incredible, but along the way I kept noticing something peculiar:

There were baby butts everywhere … and they were pooping on everything.

Honest to God– I saw a baby, pooing and peeing on the entrance to the Great Wall like it ain’t no thang. Insane!

A bit of research revealed that “split pants,” as they’re known, are worn as an economical alternative to diapers, giving children the convenience of using the bathroom wherever they want.

They are extremely common in rural parts of China, but are just as visible in larger cities, especially with warm weather.

The trend is clearly cultural, but I’m not sure how I feel about it.

On the one hand, I think it’s awesome: a simple solution to lack of diapers that’s certainly better for the environment. On the other: how can these parents allow their babies genitals to be so on display? Does this not create an even larger mess, in the pants and in the streets?

Can everyone please stop pooping on main walking paths and national monuments?

What do you think about this curious tradition? Crazy? Or Genius?

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{ 41 comments… read them below or add one }

Christy @ Ordinary Traveler June 16, 2011 at 8:00 am

Shut the front door!! This is madness. I can definitely agree with thinking about the environment, but it’s not helping our environment to let your baby poop and pee all over the streets. I get mad when people don’t pick up their dog crap. Is this what I have to look forward to? Holy hell.

Kelly June 16, 2011 at 8:04 am

Right?? It’s the craziest thing to witness! You’re really gonna just let your kid crap wherever he wants? On the freakin’ Great Wall? Is nothing safe?? If you visit China, take this advice to heart: watch where you step.

The Dropout June 16, 2011 at 8:12 am

In Vietnam, most people can’t afford diapers/nappies, so they “train” the kids to pee and poo on demand. I don’t know that it actually works, but for the short time we were in Vietnam with a nanny, she would hold the baby a certain way and make a certain whooshing sound to try to get the baby to pee. I found it very odd.

No split pants in Vietnam that I’ve seen, though. I think they would be very cold in winter. I wouldn’t like to wear them, that’s for sure.

Nancie June 16, 2011 at 8:14 am

They don’t do the split pants here in Korea. However, it’s not uncommon to see kids doing there business just about anywhere. Parents take the kids pants down and hold them over drains. One day I say a kid about 7 standing in the front of his parents store peeing on the entrance mat…………..SO GROSS. I walked by a few weeks later and the store was out of business. Can’t say I felt bad for them. One day a woman changed her kid on the bare table of a food court in a shopping mall, stuffed the dirty diaper in an empty cup and walked off. Worse one I ever say was a mother in MacDonald’s. Instead of taking her child to the bathroom, she grabbed a dirty cup, pulled down his pants and let him go in the cup. That day I left without my food. It easily goes from cute to gross. It’s not that uncommon to see men urinating her e on the side of the road. I wonder if it stems from this childhood practice of going wherever they have the urge.

Mark Wiens June 16, 2011 at 8:38 am

Not sure about pooping all over sidewalks and monuments, but those are genius! I think I will search for the man-size version – but I’ll hide in the bush when I need to use them!

Laurel June 16, 2011 at 10:30 am

Such an interesting and practical invention, but maybe the parents should be required to carry poop bags and clean it up, just like people do after their dogs.

The Travel Chica June 16, 2011 at 11:33 am

That is the weirdest thing I have ever seen. I am anti-babies pooping everywhere. I don’t even like it when people cannot clean up after their dogs in Buenos Aires.

I am sure this makes sense in their culture. It saves money and time. You don’t have to buy diapers. You don’t have to wash cloth diapers. But wow! That’s all I can say.

adventureswithben June 16, 2011 at 12:58 pm

I don’t know what the fuss is all about. That’s what I wear everyday and it saves me so much more time in my schedule.

inka June 16, 2011 at 1:00 pm

Crazy, but so, so funny too. Loved reading this post, a true culture shock, I guess. And, by the by, thanks for the tip about the visa to China. I didn’t know you could get in without one on a lay over.

Janet Abercrombie June 16, 2011 at 4:01 pm

Yeah, it’s strange to see at first. However, if families need to choose between feeding their families and buying diapers, the choice is pretty easy. Most of my former adult students in rural China had one outfit for home and one outfit for work/school. They lived in houses with dirt floors.

Nelieta June 16, 2011 at 4:37 pm

LOL…that is so funny! I have seen these types of pants in many emails and I found it quite strange! Enjoyed reading your post.

Laura June 16, 2011 at 5:13 pm

I remember seeing this when I was in Beijing and thinking it was pretty strange as well. I agree that the parents should have to take some responsibility for cleaning up after their babies if they choose to let them use the streets as a toilet, but then again I guess it’s not really up to me… ;-)

Caanan @ No Vacation Required June 16, 2011 at 7:08 pm

I feel traumatized.

Debbie Beardsley @ European Travelista June 16, 2011 at 10:45 pm

OMG this is insane! I love babies butts but not with stuff coming out! Kind of takes the cuteness away. I agree with Lauren, poop bags should be required :)

Christy @ Technosyncratic June 17, 2011 at 11:25 pm

Baby butts are cute only when stuff isn’t coming out of them.

justness June 18, 2011 at 3:49 am

Sometimes culture difference does make things look funny. When you guys just let your kids pee and poo in the pants, Chinese start toilet training at a really early age. The split pants are easy for baby to pee by themselves.

You might think it is bad to show off the bottom. But we think it is even worse to sit or carry your own pee or poo in nappies the whole time.

Lisa June 20, 2011 at 2:34 am

I cannot imagine. I was in Beijing several years ago (in winter) thank god I never experienced that. Sometimes cultural differences are challenging.

justness June 20, 2011 at 10:13 am

The Split Pants Is easy for baby pee or poo, but not mean is easy for baby pee or poo everywhere!!! The pants also for easy to change nappy, some narrow people with limited insight only see the half way about things.
And some pool people come from countryside. They even can’t afford the nappy; they only use the old cotton cloths to make recycle nappies, and wish the nappies after used.
It’s cruel& nasty to make fun of people who is poor.

justness June 20, 2011 at 10:14 am

The Split Pants Is easy for baby pee or poo, but not mean is easy for baby pee or poo everywhere!!! The pants also for easy to change nappy, some narrow people with limited insight only see the half way about things.
And some pool people come from countryside. They even can’t afford the nappy; they only use the old cotton cloths to make recycle nappies, and wish the nappies after used.
It’s cruel& nasty to make fun of people who is poor.

Kelly June 20, 2011 at 7:43 pm

I don’t think we’re making fun of people who are poor. Hell, I’m poor myself. It’s a curious phenomenon is all.

Mark Tisdale June 21, 2011 at 10:30 am

Ewwww was my first thought, not at the bare butts but peeing and pooing everywhere! That’s not green, that’s just unsanitary! I’m not a fan of disposable diapers that will be in our landfills centuries from now, but feces running through the streets spreads disease. Surely cloth diapers that can be cleaned has got to be some happy ground. Do they at least have to pooper scooper behind the kids like pets here? ;-)

Letthemhavepoop June 23, 2011 at 7:46 am

It’s a great invention. It gives the baby freedom and independence, lol, and also a great way to save time and money for parents. What’s a little bit of baby poop and pee here and there? It’s harmless. :D Babies pooping in front of the monuments and sidewalks should be the least of your worries. lol. If anything, I’d be more worried about babies sitting on dirty surfaces, bare bottomed. Can’t be a good thing, especially for baby girls.

Carson July 8, 2011 at 9:16 am

Sounds just adorable!!!!!!!!! I wouldn’t care if I saw a baby’s vagina or a baby’s penis here and there. I mean, but it is a lot better for the environment! I mean wouldn’t you just stop in your tracks if you saw a little baby boy walking down the street letting his parts jiggle around and see his big flabby butt bounce from side to side and just say, “Awwwwww!!!!!!!!” ?!

Carrie August 15, 2011 at 3:42 pm

The Chinese have been using “split pants” on their babies for centuries. They didn’t have diapers back then and I guess today, some families can’t afford diapers. And I am sure there are still families that stick with the traditions of their elders.
Personally, I think they were ingenious!
:-)

Cheryl January 30, 2012 at 6:59 am

I live in California and I used these for my kids while potty training. I should also mention I carried a portable kiddie potty everywhere and never encourage peeing on national treasures. I found it extremely useful and my daughter was fully potty trained by 18 months (my son is nearly there at 12 months). It allows them to really feel when they gotta go, so far fewer accidents. But you gotta use split pants when they’re little; can’t imagine seeing a 3 year old in ‘em, yikes! Yeah, people actually clean poopie diapers for that long. Thank goodness split pants opened our eyes (and the flood gates) to natural potty training.

Michael Robinson April 27, 2012 at 4:36 am

At the main subway station in Shanghai I saw a woman holding her child above a rubbish bin, penis between two fingers so he could pee straight into the bin.

Environmental benefits aside, faeces & urine plastered across the ground is a health hazard. If they can’t afford disposable nappies (I can’t – we use re-usable nappies) then get some soft cotton nappies, or failing that, some old shirts.

Say no to poop on the pavement!

Kelly April 27, 2012 at 4:40 am

I said amen!

Joe May 19, 2012 at 5:30 am

My children are being raised daiper free. The pamper movement is a capitalistic hoax that creates tons of waste per each child and even now the ages that children can where diapers is over 5 years old. Children rarely crap more than once or twice a day and young children who are still nursing have very clean shit. Piss is totally sterile. Certainly if I piss my baby daughter outside I find a corner of the garden where people are not walking. Would love to have some split pants for my baby daughter who is only 10 weeks old. Anyone who is interested in having children should look into Elimination Communication and the author Ingrid Bauer. The results of our efforts with our own children goes way beyond saving money and trash, it has been an integral part of our childrens self respect, confidence, coordination, and communication, as well as the bond that is formed between child and parent.

Frank May 25, 2012 at 4:48 pm

Actually, this is MUCH better than creating Chinese sized landfills of pampers. Still, the missing component here is carrying the child “off the grid” … not on a sidewalk or historical artifacts! That can be developed culturally, too!

Inaie May 29, 2012 at 11:41 pm

If dog owners have to carry plastic bags to collect dog poo, nothing more reasonable than toddler owners obbey the same rule. Oh wait, we are talking about China here…sorry!

789 July 19, 2012 at 11:05 am

This phenomenon simply doesn’t have any excuse. If you cannot afford pampers. Use recyclable diapers, use your old shirts. I just don’t know what the parents are thinking when they let their children’s genitals to just “hang out” and rub all over the public transportation seats or anywhere else for that matter. It’s unhygenic for the kids, for the other people, for the society.

tempo_guest111111111111111111111111111 November 28, 2012 at 11:03 pm

r u sure that’s true? I’m chinese, which means i’ve been to Beijing before, and i never saw any of that. o_o

tempo_guest111111111111111111111111111 November 28, 2012 at 11:07 pm

well why don’t we invent diapers made from recycled waste or use them if they already exist?
If it’s expensive, just use a paper towel or something. or cloth.

Clover February 24, 2013 at 10:22 pm

All the people saying just use pieces of cloth or T-shirts, you forget that pieces of cloth and T-shirts are actually worth money. It’s ridiculous to think that babies all over the place pee and poop on perfectly clean fabric. I plan to do Elimination Communication when we get our daughter back, in the mean time she’s smart enough to get upset whenever she has a dirty diaper. EC with just 12 to 24 cloth diapers is a simple solution for those of us with the means, and those without have worked the split pants for thousands of years. You think we all had diapers thousands of years ago? Yeah right. I’d rather my kid go in a trash can or bush than have it stuck to her for even five minutes.

Twarner April 7, 2013 at 1:43 pm

Ok, I am in China right now and this split baby pant thing is NOT just for the poor. I am in a major city and they are everywhere. In fact while in the hotel dining room one baby with these pants on, just squatted down and peed right on the dining room carpet! What did the mother do, nothing….just picked up the baby and carried on eating. I however, could not continue. Split baby pants on babies in poor villages, I get, but if the family can afford to eat breakfast in a hotel, they can afford a freaking diaper!

Rachel April 11, 2013 at 8:29 am

I’ve lived in Asia for over a decade and traveled everywhere, but only ever seen this in China. Personally, I didn’t enjoy seeing babies pooping everywhere, it’s unhygienic and nasty.

Don’t get me wrong, I loved China and the Chinese I met were very friendly but, let’s face it, nobody in their right minds would call it a ‘clean country’ :)

Caseyorourke July 31, 2013 at 1:38 pm

Every day I wakj past the poorer Chinese or old grannies squatting and holding their babies legs apart and whistle constantly (wheeeeeeeeeeeeee) till the baby pees or poos. I saw a picture of a mainlander Chinese woman in the Tapaie airport letting her toddler ( a boy) poo on some papers she spread in the middle of the area people were walking. What was so strange is that if she went another 15 feet, she could have taken him into the bathroom (clearly visible behind her)

Caseyorourke July 31, 2013 at 1:53 pm

I also have a nine month old mixed blood daughter. Both her mother and I have said no to split pants. First I don’t want my daughters privates to be display for the perverts who get their jollies from seeing seminaked children, second our doctor friends have said they are seeing more cases of catching colds, diarrhea and even suffering urethritis in babies who only wear split pants. Finally I think it is an indication of an uncultured and completely backward society.

Darya August 15, 2013 at 1:46 pm

I grow up in soviet Russia. Our parents had nooooo diapers, and never heard about them. We had cloth diapers that our poor Moms were washing and boiling in the hot water and ironing after that so we are always clean. Also we were toilet trained by 1 year. Definitely no walking babies who would still pee their pans. That was a common practice for a whole country. Having two kids I think its very unhygienic for kids parts to be outside exposed to all the dirt. When I trained my kids, I just removed their diapers for a couple of days, carpets from the house, stayed home for a week and woa la potty tried kids. Don’t be lazy chines mom for washing diapers if you don’t have disposable.

Paul February 6, 2014 at 3:04 am

I cut the seat of every pair of pants I own after I got back from my first trip to China and never looked back.

Ronar Prefect May 23, 2014 at 5:17 pm

Looked up chinese splits because I didn’t know what kind of splits those were and saw pictures of baby butts exposed by crotchless pants. There are many diseases and parasites that you can get from being exposed to human feces and it is definitely not good to have bare baby bottoms or vaginas exposed to any kind of filthy thing they might sit on. Pretty insane, imho.

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