SUPERHEROES IN MANDARIN CHINESE
With the upcoming release of ‘Shang-Chi: The Legend of the Ten Rings’, Marvel’s first Asian superhero, not far away, now is a great time to look at how to talk about superheroes in Mandarin Chinese. Let’s bring that inner child out of us.
Firstly how to say superheroes - Chāojí yīngxióng (超级英雄) *Chāojí meaning super and yīngxióng meaning heroes
And now we’re going to look at some popular iconic superheroes, and for the purposes of this article, we’ll split it into two groups, of course DC’s The Justice League and Marvel’s The Avengers, and then we’ll look at some supervillains from both mighty universes.
The Justice League - Zhèngyì liánméng (正义联盟)
* Zhèngyì (正义) meaning justice, and liánméng (联盟) meaning league/alliance
Superman – Chāorén (超人)
*Literally Superman, Chāo (超) from Chāojí meaning Super, and of course rén (人) meaning person or man
Batman – Biānfúxiá (蝙蝠侠)
*Biānfú (蝙蝠) meaning bat, and xiá (侠) meaning heroic person, which you will see start to see a lot below
Wonder Woman – Shénqí nǚxiá (神奇女侠)
* Shénqí (神奇) meaning magical or mystical and nǚxiá (女侠) meaning heroic woman/female
Green Lantern - Lǜdēng xiá (绿灯侠)
* Lǜdēng (绿灯) as green light/lantern and of course xiá (侠) as heroic person
The Flash - Shǎndiàn xiá (闪电侠)
* Shǎndiàn (闪电) meaning lightning presumable because he has light speed and moves like a flash of lightning.
Aquaman – Hǎiwáng (海王)
*Hǎi (海) meaning ocean and wáng (王) meaning king, Aquaman is literally the ‘King of the Ocean’
Cyborg – Jīqìrén (机器人)
*Jīqì (机器) meaning machine, machine plus man makes robot, so Jīqìrén (机器人) literally means robot
The Avengers – Fùchóuzhě liánméng (复仇者联盟)
* Fùchóuzhě (复仇者) meaning the Avengers, and of course liánméng (联盟) we saw before means league/alliance
Iron Man - Gāngtiěxiá (钢铁侠)
*Gāngtiě (钢铁) meaning iron/steel and xiá (侠) hero
Captain America - Měiguó Duìzhǎng (美国队长)
* Měiguó (美国) meaning America and duìzhǎng (队长) meaning captain/team leader
Thor – Léishén Tuōěr (雷神托尔)
* Léishén (雷神) meaning God (神) of Thunder (雷) and Tuōěr (托尔) represents the name Thor using Chinese sounds. In short you can just call him Tuōěr.
The Incredible Hulk - Lǜ Jùrén / Hào kè (绿巨人 / 浩克)
* Lǜ (绿) meaning green and Jùrén (巨人), so in combination literally meaning green giant. But you can also just call Hulk Hào kè, again like for Thor, using Chinese sounds to closely resemble the English
Spider Man - Zhīzhū xiá (蜘蛛侠)
* Zhīzhū (蜘蛛) meaning spider and xiá (侠) hero, making up our friendly neighbourhood spiderman
Black Widow - Hēi guǎfù (黑寡妇)
* Hēi (黑) meaning black and guǎfù (寡妇) meaning widow
Hawkeye - Yīng yǎn (鹰眼)
* Yīng (鹰) meaning hawk/eagle and yǎn (眼) meaning eye
Doctor Strange - Qíyì bóshì (奇异博士)
* Qíyì (奇异) is composed of qí from qíguài meaning strange and yì from yìcháng meaning abnormal/different, so together means very strange. And bóshì (博士) means doctor, philosopher, PhD
Black Panther - Hēi bào (黑豹)
* Hēi (黑) meaning black and bào (豹) meaning leopard/panther, so together forming panther/black panther
Supervillains - Chāojí fǎnpài (超级反派)
Lex Luthor - Láikè sī • lú sè (莱克斯•卢瑟)
*The Chinese translation here is also based on the English and has no particular meaning.
Joker - Xiǎochǒu (小丑)
* xiǎochǒu (小丑) literally means clown, referencing the Joker’s clown make-up
Doctor Octopus - Zhāngyú bóshì (章鱼博士)
* Zhāngyú (章鱼) meaning Octopus and bóshì (博士) as we mentioned previously is doctor, philosopher, PhD.
Green Goblin: Lǜ mó (绿魔)
Lǜ (绿) as green and mó (魔) meaning goblin/monster
Venom - Dúyè (毒液)
* Dúyè (毒液) literally means venom or poison
Thanos - Miè Bà (灭霸)
*The big purple baddie or all baddies, Miè (灭) meaning to destroy, exterminate or ruin, and Bà (霸) meaning domineering man, ruler, chief. So Thanos in Chinese is a domineering man who destroys, which makes sense.
Loki - Luò jī (洛基)
*And finally we’re onto our favourite royal rogue and trickster whose name in Chinese is again based on the English
Are there any superheroes in Chinese culture?
Whilst many of the Chinese audience have a great appetite for superheroes, especially the DC or Marvel movies, the closest thing to superheroes in Chinese culture would be for example the following two legendary characters.
Sun Wukong aka The Monkey King
Sūn Wùkōng (孙悟空)
I’m sure if you know anything about pop Chinese culture you will have heard of ‘The Monkey King, an iconic character from the classic Chinese novel Journey to the West . It’s one of the four great classical Chinese novels of Chinese literature, published in 1592 during the Ming Dynasty. Based on real life historical accounts of Buddhist monk traveler Xuanzang, Journey to the West follows the epic adventure of monk Tang Sanzang along with his three companions, Sun Wukong aka The Monkey King, Zhu Bajie and Sha Wujing who aim to protect Tang Sanzang to atone for their sins. Together they set on a journey to retrieve Buddhist Sutras from the West, the Indian sub continent, homeland of the Buddha and his disciples. As they preserve through much suffering their pilgrimage enlightens them to the power and virtues of cooperation.
Whilst these characters all have superpowers and special abilities, it is Sun Wukong, the Monkey King who is the most powerful one, born from a magical stone and gaining his supernatural powers through Taoist practices. Sun Wukong is immortal, has immense super strength, agility and super speed. He is a skilled warrior who carries around a magical staff as his weapon, capable of defeating the best warriors in heaven. His hair contains magic and plucking one strand he is able to use it to transform into various animals, weapons and objects, and duplicate himself many times over. Of course as a monkey, he has a rebellious streak and is mischievous to the point that his backstory sees him imprisoned under a mountain by the Buddha for rebelling against heaven, after five hundred years he’s given the chance to redeem himself by accompanying Tang Sanzang.
Nǎ zhā (哪吒)
Nezha is another iconic character from a popular folk legend. Nezha’s mother actually gave birth to a big red fire ball of energy and thinking it was a demonic entity, her husband, a military general, slashed the fire ball open with a sword but instead of destroying the evil, a fully grown mischievous boy who could speak and had superhuman strength jumped out. As a result Nezha has always had a difficult relationship with his parents, being hotheaded, and symbol of rebellious youth. Even his powerful and immortal mentor who trained him couldn’t keep him in check.
According to the legend, Nezha kills Ao Bing, the Dragon King’s son who is his friend. Depending on which version of the story is adhered to, it’s an accident or an intended act of cruelty from Nezha. Ao Bing’s death incites the wrath of the Dragon King and to save his parents and village from persecution Nezha sacrifices himself. However luckily Nezha is brought back to life by his mentor who uses lotus roots to construct a new body for Nezha’s soul and gives him two new weapons, Wind Fire Wheels and Fire-Tipped Spear. This is his origin story so to speak.
Well, I certainly hope you’ve enjoyed learning about superheroes in Mandarin Chinese as much as I’ve enjoyed writing about it. For more Chinese learning, we provide more fun 1-to-1 online Chinese lessons with certified Chinese tutors, for kids and adults. Sign up for your free trial lesson through the following link: https://www.instantmandarin.com/signup