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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
Immortal - Taoist sage.
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.
Kungfu - gongfu - Chinese martial art or any cultivated skill.
Kuai - colloquial term for money, yuan.
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
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.
Nan - Nan - the compass point south.
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
Qi - the flow of universal energy in the body.
Qiao - bridge.
Qigong - exercise to promote the flow of 'qi'.
Qigong - alternative word for cheongsam.
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.
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.
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.
Uigur - Turkic minority living in western China.
Wangba - internet cafe.
Waiguoren - foreigner.
Wushu - Chinese martial art focused on self-defense.
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.
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.
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.