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Tuhao, let’s be friends!

tuhao, learn chinese

A new word has suddenly become wildly popular in China – "tuhao" – which is loosely translated as "nouveau riche". 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.

如今,“土豪”(tǔ háo)一词风靡全中国。它的意思近似于法语中的“nouveau riche”(暴发户)。从人民日报社的新大楼、明星大腕珠光宝气的婚礼,到新款的金色苹果手机,都可以称之为“土豪”。

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", but has even more negative connotations, suggesting a certain vulgarity. 


"Tuhao" is actually an old word – dating back perhaps as far as the Southern Dynasty 1,500 years ago – meaning "a local influential person". 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.

实际上,“土豪”一词古已有之,可以追溯到约1500年前的南朝时期, 本义是指“一方名人”。在20世纪20年代至50年代的社会主义革命期间,“土豪”则用于泛指那些剥削、压迫穷人的地主及乡绅。

This new usage of the term took off in September, 2013 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. 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. 


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