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China Glossary

Chinese Culture: China Glossary

China Word Glossary

A glossary of Chinese words and phrases. Further information on many of the listed terms is available via accompanying links, plus information on related products.

A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

A

China Glossary.A-Ma - Macau's goddess of the sea.

Anhui - province of northern China.

Acupuncture - a form of traditional Chinese medicine using needles to stimulate various "points" on the body to promote healing.

Arhat - an englightened Buddhist devotee.

Avalokitshvara - the goddess of mercy, known as "Guanyin" in China and "Kannon" in Japan from the original Indian deity.

B

Badaling - the most commonly visited point on the Great Wall of China by tour groups.

Bei - the direction north on the compass.

Binguan - low-budget tourist hotels.

Bixi - mythical tortoise-dragon creatures found in Confucian temples holding up stone monuments.

Biyun tao - condoms.

BJ - abbreviation for Beijing.

Boddhisattva - a Buddhist follower who has attained englightenment but remains on earth to help others.

Bowuguan - museum.

Boxers - (Yihetuan Movement) an anti-western, anti-imperialist peasant movent in the late 19th and early 20th century.

C

Canting - restaurant.

Cheongsam - long, tight dress slit up the sides and leg that originated in Shanghai.

Chi - lake or pool.

Chinglish - Chinese-English, English written on Chinese signs, menus or documents, which can sometimes be error-prone. Read more about Chinglish

Chop - a name stamp traditional made of ivory or wood.

Chorten - stupa.

CITS - China International Travel Service.

CTS - China Travel Service.

Cultural Revolution - a movement for ideological purity begun in 1996 by the Chinese Communist Party.

Cun - village.



D

Dadao - boulevard, road.

Danwei - work unit, place of employment.

Dao - also written at Tao - the way and natural order of the universe.

Dao - island.

Dagoba - Buddhist stupa containing relics.

Dajie - avenue/street.

Dasha - building/hotel.

Daxue - college/university.

Dim Sum - light, steamed dishes served with tea.

Ditie - subway. Read more about the Beijing subway

Dong - the compass point east.

Dong - cave.

Dongwuyuan - zoo.

E

Empress Dowager Cixi - former concubine who became the de facto ruler of the Manchu Qing Dynasty.

Erhu - two string fiddle.

Eunuchs - castrated males used as palace servants.

F

Fandian - hotel or restaurant. Read more about hotels in Beijing

Fen - smallest denomination of the yuan. There are 100 fen to the yuan. Read more about Chinese currency

Feng shui - lit. 'wind+water' - geomancy to determine auspicious locations for objects and buildings. Feng Shui

Feng - peak.

G

Ganxi - dry-cleaning.

Ge - Daoist temple building.

Ger - round tent used by nomads.

Gompa - Tibetan monastery.

Gong - palace.

Gongfu - see kungfu.

Gonggong qiche - bus. Read more about buses in Beijing

Gongyuan - park. Read more about parks in Beijing

Guanxi - the notion of relationships, contacts, connections in Chinese society. Read more about guanxi

Gulou - a drum tower. Read more about Beijing's Drum Tower

Guwan - antiques.

Guzheng - classical Chinese zither. See a video of the music of the Guzheng

H

Hai - sea.

Han - the main ethnic group of the Chinese people.

He - river.

Hu - lake.

Hui - Chinese Muslims.

Hutong - narrow residential alleyway. Read more about hutong in Beijing

I

Immortal - Taoist sage.

J

Jiang - river.

Jiao - or mao - ten fen

Jie - street.

Jin - or catty - a unit of weight equal to 0.6 kilograms.

Jiuba - pub or bar.

K

Kungfu - gongfu - Chinese martial art or any cultivated skill.

Kuai - colloquial term for money, yuan.



L

Lama - high-ranking Buddhist priest, often associated with the Buddhist Tantric school.

Lamaism - Esoteric/Tantric school of Buddhism associated with Tibet, Mongolia and northern Nepal. Read more about the Lama Temple

M

Mao - colloquial word for jiao; ten jiao equals one yuan.

Men - door/gate.

Miao - temple Read more about temples in Beijing

Middle Kingdom - a transliteration of the two characters making up China's name.

Mu - a burial place/tomb.

N

Nan - Nan - the compass point south.

O

P

Pailou - ornamental gate.

Peking - the old English-language term for Beijing.

Pinyin - the official system for transliterating Chinese characters into Roman letters.

Pipa - lute-like instrument.

Piyingxi - Shadow puppet plays. Read more about Shadow puppets

PLA - the People's Liberation Army.

PRC - People's Republic of China.

PSB - Public Security Bureau.

Pubu - waterfall.

Putonghua - lit 'Common Language', Mandarin Chinese based on the Beijing dialect. Read more about Mandarin

Q

Qi - the flow of universal energy in the body.

Qiao - bridge.

Qigong - exercise to promote the flow of 'qi'.

Qigong - alternative word for cheongsam.

R

Renmimbi - RMB - lit'people's money'.

Red Guards - Maoist militia during the 1960s-1970s.

Ruan wo - soft sleeper on trains. Read more about trains in China

Ruan zuo - soft seat on trains.

S

Shan - hill, mountain.

Shangdian - store, shop. Read more about shopping in Beijing

Sheng - the Chinese term for province. Read more about China's provinces

Shi - city.

Shichang - market.

Shui - water.

Shuiku - reservoir.

Si - monastery ot temple.

Shichou - silk.

Siheyuan - traditional Beijing courtyard house, see hutong.

Spirit Wall - wall behind the main entrance to repel evil spirits.

Stele - vertical stone column inscribed with text.

T

Ta - pagoda or tower.

Taijiquan - aka tai-chi in the West, a form of slow graceful exercise. Read more about tai chi

Tan - pool.

Taoism - See Dao.

Tian - heaven.

T'ien Ming - the mandate of Heaven claimed by Chinese Emperors to justify their rule.

Ting - pavilion for tea or moon viewing.

Triad - secret society often associated with organized crime.

U

Uigur - Turkic minority living in western China.

V

W

Wangba - internet cafe.

Waiguoren - foreigner.

Wushu - Chinese martial art focused on self-defense.

X

Xi - the compass point west.

Xia - gorge.

Xian - word for a county in China.

Xiao - bamboo flute.

Xiang - a statue.

Xiyi - Chinese laundry.

Xun - circular, clay wind instrument.

Y

Yellow - Yellow movie = blue movie, read more on Beijing Yellow.

Yiching - The Book of Changes - ancient oracle.

Yuan - China's unit of currency, see Renminbi.

Yuecai - Cantonese.

Z

Zizhiqu - China's autonomous regions. Read more about China's 5 autonomous regions

Zhan - station, hence ditie zhan - 'subway station'.

Zhaodaisuo - cheap accommodation/lodging. Read more about hostels in Beijing

Zhong - middle/center, hence Zhong guo - 'Middle Kingdom'.

Zhonglou - Bell tower. Read more about Beijing's Bell Tower

Zhuang - villa or manor house.

Zongtai - Front/hotel reception.


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