Glossary of Terms

This is a translation of Chinese terms that I have decided to keep untranslated / or I felt needed to be explained in order to convey the Chinese flavor in the story.

For a more complete NIF glossary, visit Lang Ya Scribe’s Glossary.


In Chinese culture, Terms of Address play a very important part in reflecting respect and deference to elders and people of different social status. In those times, the use of “I” and “You” in conversations with your elders or superiors / people of higher rank is considered impolite, and when “You” is used, there is also a polite version vs less polite version e.g. “nin” (polite) vs. “ni” (less polite). So, as far as possible, where appropriate, I will try not to use “I” and “You” unless it totally messes up readability.

My explanations below are mostly my understanding and interpretation of them, to equip you for the purposes of reading, but it probably bears more in-depth research for accuracy.

  • ‘er – this is not quite a term of address, but added as a suffix to the last name to form a sort of pet name for someone younger e.g. Yan Yujin becomes “Jin’er” or Xiao Jingrui becomes “Rui’er”, or for an apprentice e.g. Xia Jiang calls Xia Dong “Dong’er”
  • da ren – literally translates to “big person”. Title of respect used for superiors.
  • die (pronounced tee-yeh) vs. fuqin – both are terms for “father”, but the former I find to be the more informal affectionate term, while the latter is more formal. To differentiate, I use “Dad” for die and “Father” for fuqin.
  • gege – big brother, informal and (sometimes) affectionate term applied to older males not necessarily of the same family e.g. Su gege, Lin Shu gege.
  • hai’er – “your son”, a deferential way of referring to one’s self when speaking to parents
  • jiejie – big sister, applied to older females not necessarily of the same family e.g. Xia Dong jiejie.
  • niang niang – form of address for Empress & Imperial Concubine (also used for Goddess, and other similar ranking females)
  • xian sheng – “Mister” or “Sir”. In olden China, it is equivalent to “lao shi” or teacher. Prince Jing called Mei Changsu xian sheng almost all the time in conversation, unless he was upset with MCS, then he would call him Mister Su! This form of address had always sounded too respectful to me to be merely a “Mister” – I suppose it’s because as his advisor, MCS was also his teacher in navigating court politics. But I think most of us will find “teacher” too strange in view of the social divide so I have used either “Sir” or the less polite “you” for the sake of easier reading.
  • xiong – brother, more formal term of respect e.g. Su xiong = Brother Su

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