3 Things in Marvel's Shang-Chi That You’ll Miss If You Don’t Speak Chinese
Marvel Cinematic Universe’s latest installment, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, has been received with incredible enthusiasm; breaking previous Labor Day weekend records by raking in over $71 million! Not only is it filled with thrilling fights, heart-wrenching backstories, and side-splitting comedic relief; it’s also permeated with Chinese culture, art, and language. Members of the Yoyo Chinese team have thoroughly enjoyed it (being Chinese speakers ourselves), so we wanted to share some insight into 3 things that only Chinese speakers would catch and appreciate.
*Don’t worry, we won’t share any spoilers!
1 - The Symbols of the Ten Rings
Throughout the film you’ll catch a few glimpses of murals or flags depicting the Ten Rings, each enclosing its own unique Chinese character. Not only are they really cool looking - especially since they are written in the ancient 篆書 (zhuàn shū) form - but they also carry special meaning that only those familiar with them can recognize. Below we've listed them out in their original two-character words, followed by their English meanings and 篆书 (zhuàn shū) characters.
*See if you can map these characters onto the image and figure out the pattern of how they are connected into words!
威力 (wēi lì) - power; might; force
强壮 (qiáng zhuàng) - strong; robust
雄伟 (xióng wěi) - grand; imposing
宏杰 (hóng jié) - great hero
权势 (quán shì) - power and influence
Unlike many names in English, Chinese names are imbued with profound meanings. So while the Shang-Chi's English name, Shaun, doesn’t convey any special message; his Chinese name does! Below we've listed out the Chinese characters and meanings for 6 names you'll here throughout the movie.
Shang-Chi: 尚气 (shàng qì)
- 尚 (shàng) - esteemed
- 气 (qì) - breath; energy; life
*Many other sites have used the character 上 instead of 尚, but 尚 seems to be the one used by Marvel in the Chinese region and it just makes a lot more sense as a name.
Katy: 瑞雯 (ruì wén)
- 瑞 (ruì) - auspicious
- 雯 (wén) - multicolored clouds
Xialing: 夏灵 (xià líng)
- 夏 (xià) - summer
- 灵 (líng) - spirit; mind; fairy
Wenwu: 文武 (wén wǔ)
- 文 (wén) - literature; language; culture
- 武 (wǔ) - valiant; fierce
Li: 丽 (lì)
- 丽 (lì) - beautiful; pretty
Wong: 王 (wáng)
- 王 (wáng) - king; emperor
*Fun fact: The Marvel character, Wong, is played by the actor Benedict Wong!
3 - The Best Line in the Movie
At one point in the movie, Wenwu approaches an old Chinese village and is met by the village elder who tries to turn him away. Wenwu replies by saying:
wǒ chī de yán bǐ nǐ chī de fàn duō
The English subtitles display the translation: “I’ve lived ten of your lifetimes, young man.” But this completely loses the true impact and wit of the original Chinese line. A more direct translation would be, “I’ve eaten more salt than you have rice.” The clever use of this figurative language carries a powerful punch in Chinese and has a much more "salty" flavor to it! In fact, if you were ever to watch this movie with both Chinese and non-Chinese speakers, the Chinese speakers will probably laugh noticeably harder at this line than the non-Chinese speakers.
We loved this movie, and think that you will too! And hopefully you'll enjoy it even more now that you've read this blog post and understand some of the Chinese language tidbits that will go right over the heads of most viewers!
*Special Note for Chinese Learners: The Chinese dialogue in Shang-Chi is especially fun & enjoyable if you're learning Chinese and working to developing your listening skills. If you've ever tried to watch films that are completely in Chinese, you probably felt like you were trying to drink from a firehose, unable to keep up with the fast-paced dialogue. But in Shang-Chi, the Chinese dialogue comes in smaller chunks, and is spoken a bit more slowly and clearly than in regular Chinese films. So we definitely encourage you to watch this awesome movie and practice your listening & comprehension skills!
If you enjoy Chinese movies and want to learn how to understand, read, write or speak the language yourself; come check out our online Chinese learning platform at YoyoChinese.com! We have 6 comprehensive courses, with over 1,000 video lessons, that can take you from absolute zero all the way to actual Chinese fluency - guaranteed! The first 45 lessons are completely FREE, so come try it yourself!