Chinese Relatives

Jan 21 15:14 2005 Wong Yee Lee Print This Article

Are you interested in what differences there are in how you refer to your relatives in a Chinese context? This article may give you some hints.

It may be interesting to know that,Guest Posting unlike western system, in China, we have different appellation for different relatives in a family. This is obviously good practice in order to tell who we are referring to in a conversation though some people may think otherwise!

Father's side

Mother's side


Father's father
zufù
Mother's father
wài zufù

Father's mother
zumu
Mother's mother
wài zumu

Father's elder brother
bófù
Mother's elder brother
jiùfù

Father's younger brother
xu xu(uncle)
Mother's younger brother
same as above

Father's elder brother's wife
bómu
Mother's elder brother's wife
jiùmu

Father's younger brother's wife
shunshen
Mother's younger brother's wife
same as above

Father's elder and younger sister
gugu
Mother's elder and younger sister
yímu

Father's sister's husband
gufù
Mother's sister's husband
yífù

Father's brother's son
tángge(elder)

tángdì(younger)
Mother's brother's son
biaoge(elder)

biadì (younger)

I am sure this table can be endless knowing that one can have as big a family as possible. However, simply from the above, one can imagine how complicated it works when calling someone in your family in China. That is why it is not surprising that very often one doesn't know how to call someone when they meet in a Chinese New Year family gathering. What you need to know is that you always see this person every time you meet with your family and you can eat together at the same table.

Very often these days as well that sometimes my mother refers to someone about something in the family and she expects me to know who she is talking about. Well, the case is that I can hardly recall what this person looks like.....

In China, with the One-Child policy started over 2 decades ago, I think this system may not be as commonly used as before.

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Wong Yee Lee
Wong Yee Lee

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