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Hanzi of the day! 畏 the 鬼

Hey guys! It's been a while since I last did a Hanzi-of-the-day, so today I present you with the... Fear of Ghosts.

Since the dawn of time people have feared ghosts (or evil spirits). Ghosts, or as they call them in China guǐ, seem to be present in pretty much any culture since ancient times. The character is a pictogram that depicts a person with an ugly mask for face. (The "mask" is just a pictogram of a rice field, but those are details...)

So ghosts, are pretty scary, right? What would make them even more scary? You guessed it, if they are chasing after you with a stick!

Mask
Or god forbid, with a branch predictor...

The Chinese, rightfully so, thought that this was pretty fuckin scary. So this why the character for fear wèi is literally a ghost holding a stick...

hanzi
The evolution of the ghost character (bottom) and the ghost holding a stick.

In modern Chinese one of the more common uses of the word ghost is as part of a series of pejorative terms for Westeners, because we are as pale as ghosts.
Examples include:

  • 鬼佬 gwáilóu meaning ghost person used primary by Cantonese speakers
  • 西洋鬼子 xiyáng guǐzi, literally a devil from the west seas.
  • 紅毛鬼 ang mo kui, hokkien for red-haired devil, popular in Singapore, Malaysia and Taiwan.
  • 紅毛猴 ang mo kow, a variation of the above, where devil is replaced with monkey. I quite like this one. Not sure why monkey though.. Maybe because we Westeners are hairy.

That's it from me guys! Remember, if someone chases after you with a stick, it means they are probably a ghost.

law
It seems like ghosts were quite common in Soviet Russia.

Image sources: pixabay wikipedia wiktionary wiktionary pixabay

Nikolay Bogoychev

Nikolay Bogoychev

I like languages, logographic writing systems, game theory and GPUs. I (try to) make things run faster and enjoy (premature) optimization. I also learn languages, play football and hang on silks.

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Hanzi of the day! 畏 the 鬼
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