A Chinese word for “nouveau riche”: Tuhao


This blog lacks some discussion about Chinese words, and there is one that has become quite popular this year: Tuhao, or, if you can read Chinese 土豪. Actually, this is not a new word at all, it was used in ancient times to describe some low level nobility that gained its title through a small amount of land, and was quite depreciative. The first character means soil or land, it is a very basic character that depicts anything with a strong relation with the ground. Hao, the second character Hao refers to a knd of nobility, and kind of means “knight”.


There is a renewal of Tuhao currently, it is used to describe the new money crowd, these people, and they are numerous in contemporary China, whi ahve gained a lot of money in the last decade and are still not very used to it and tend to display their wealth with a maximum of bad taste.


There has been a wave of Tuhao jokes on the Chinese social media recently because of the new iphone which is available with a golden color, it has been nicknamed the Tubao iphone. This usage is now evaluated at one million Tuhao entries everyday on the social networks. The trend is so strong that it has become a world phenomenon, and that the world counlt be inculded in an english dictionnary. The Oxford English dictionnary has stated that the word reminds of another new word in english, bling. Oxford University Press decided to include it in the next edition if the trend keeps on rising in 2014.


The iconic entence associated with Tuhao is “Tuhao, let’s be friends”. This sums up the attitude towards nouveau riche people, they are object of sarcasm but kind of attractive as well, in the sense there is some jealousy about them. This would be a fast addition in an English dictionnary, linked with the rythm of new words appearing in the dictionnary. The other reason to include it in a dictionnary is the fact that the irony attached to this kind of word is lost in translation.


The Chinese internet is very creative about new words and sometime with great irony. The traditional Changyu, those sentences who originate often from the Chinese litterature are used again in modrn Chinese to make jokes, express ideas that are difficult to express directly for a whole range of reasons and as widespread jokes. This is something very popular in Chinese culture that loves creating new words and new usage of ancient words. This is the case of the Tuhao, but this word testify of another trend, the rising maturity of Chinese society that is now able to spot some kind of behaviour and bad taste relating to luxury. This might really be a sign that the Chinese society is changing.



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