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Tuhao and the rise of Chinese bling

2013-11-11 09:41 Ecns.cn Web Editor: Mo Hong'e

A new word has suddenly become wildly popular in China - "tuhao" - which loosely translated means "nouveau riche". There have been more than 100 million references to the word "tuhao" on social media since early September.


It's being used to describe everything from the Communist Party's new People's Daily building, to expensive celebrity weddings full of bling, and the new gold-coloured iPhone.

人民日报的新大楼,名人们的奢豪婚礼,以及新推出的金壳iPhone, 都可以用上这个词.

In Chinese "tu" means earth, and "hao" means rich. To say someone is tuhao is to imply they come from a poor peasant background, and have made it rich quick - but don't quite have the manners, or sophistication to go along with it. It's like the term "nouveau riche", says Professor Steve Tsang at the School of Contemporary Chinese Studies in Nottingham - but has even more negative connotations, suggesting a certain vulgarity.

汉语中"土"是地的意思,"豪"就是有钱.说某某是土豪,那就是这人出身低贱,突然发了大财,举止不得体,心中无城府.诺丁汉大学现代汉语研究学院的Steve Tsang教授说,土豪和暴发户差不多,但是贬义更浓,含粗鄙之意.

"Tuhao" is actually an old word - dating back perhaps as far as the Southern Dynasty 1,500 years ago - but it has always meant something rather different. During the communist revolution, from the 1920s to early 1950s, it was widely used to refer to landholders and gentry who would bully those beneath them.


This new usage of the term took off in September after a widely-shared joke about a rich, but unhappy man, who goes to a Buddhist monk for advice, expecting to be told to live a more simple life. The monk replies instead with the phrase: "Tuhao, let's be friends!"


Chinese internet users are highly creative in their use of language, and are constantly inventing, and re-inventing words as a way of getting past censorship rules, says Tsang. But in this case, its popularity seems to be down to the fact that it encapsulates China's changing society so well - many people sneer at those with wealth, but are secretly jealous, says Tsang.

中国网民们实在太有才了,把汉字用得妙趣横生,他们不断造词或者给旧词赋上新意以逃过审查,Tsang教授说.不过,具体到土豪这个词,它的流行生动地再现了中国当下变化中的社会: 很多人表面上嘲笑有钱人,心里却十分艳羡.

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