Finance, environment and racy photos dominate Chinese media’s evolving lexicon

Karen Cheng


Major issues in China and around the world have again topped the 2008 LIVAC PAN-CHINESE NEW WORD ROSTERS released today.


The list was compiled by the Language Information Sciences Research Centre (LISRC) of City University of Hong Kong based upon systematic surveys and rigorous analysis of the Chinese news media in Beijing, Shanghai, Hong Kong and Taipei. Among the thousands of new printed Chinese words, the following were the most prolific:


1. 金融海嘯 Financial Tsunami -the global financial crisis originated in the US broke in the latter part of 2008 affecting almost everyone in the world. The subsequent recession and other implications are still unfolding.

2. 五一二 China 512 Earthquake - The magnitude 8.0 earthquake struck Sichuan on 12 May 2008.

3. 聖火燈(火種燈) Holy Olympic Torch - Lantern housing the source flame for the 2008 Beijing Olympic Torch Relay, whose sacred status has been often commented on by the Western press.

4. 限塑(限塑令) Ban on Plastic Bags - The Chinese Government banned the free distribution of plastic bags by retailers from 1 June 2008, to save energy and prevent pollution.

5. 艷照門 Racy Photogate - Referring to local pop and film stars and their sexual escapades, as seen in photographs illegally distributed over the internet in early 2008.


“These new words in the major Chinese communities reflect the most significant global and local events of collective concern last year, including the global financial tsunami, environment, Sichuan earthquake, as well as the sanctity of the first Chinese Olympics and the racy private lives of public figures. They are all memorable, whether in a positive or negative sense,” said Professor Benjamin T’sou Ka-yin, Director of LISRC.


The full New Word rosters for individual communities can also be found at


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Communications and Institutional Research Office

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