The essay by Lu Xun on the Chinese national curse, mentioned in this post and the comments to this one, has been translated by Huichieh Loy of From a Singapore Angle; you can read it here. It begins:

Those who live in China will often have occasion to hear the swear: tamade (他妈的) and others like it. I think the geographical distribution of this phrase is probably as wide as the lands upon which the Chinese have set foot; and I’m afraid the frequency of its use may not be less than that of the polite nin hao ya (您好呀). If, as some have put it, the peony is China’s “national flower”, then this has to be considered China’s “national swear” (guoma 国骂).

It’s funny and interesting; Huichieh Loy says “The language used—earlier twentieth century (‘May Fourth’) Chinese, plus the many learned classical citations, make the piece not that easy for me to translate. I have not been literal in all instances, and suggestions for improvements are most welcome.”


  1. My apologies: there is a type–should be guoma, not huoma. Also editing “I’m afraid the frequency of its use may not be less frequent than the polite…” to “I’m afraid the frequency of its use may not be less than that of the polite…”

  2. Fixed it — thanks!

  3. David F. says

    Joss Whedon’s sci-fi western Firefly used Chinese insults extensively, to help portray a universe ruled by the ‘Anglo-Sino Alliance’ and also to get around network rules on swearing. Tamade was used several times — details are at the Firefly-Serenity Chinese Pinyinary. (I don’t speak a word of Chinese, so I can’t comment on the accuracy or lack thereof of the translations on that site.)

  4. I have wanted to ask someone this forever and maybe here there will be somone who can help – how is the Cantonese curse “ham ga chang” written? Is it used anywhere else in the country. It is may favorite curse in the world – such ruthless evil, so straightforward. It may be unique in that it seems never to be used jokingly. Maybe someone can confirm or deny that bit too.

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