The obscene battle-cry of a Ming Dynasty war hero

Here’s a close-up of an image that’s been making the rounds of forums and microblogs over the past few months:


Yuan Chonghuan’s famous slogan

Yuan Chonghuan (袁崇焕) was a Ming Dynasty general famous for defeating Nurhaci at the Battle of Ningyuan, which put a temporary halt to the Manchu invasion.

Yuan’s ancestral home in Dongguan, Guanggdong, has been turned into a memorial park. Inscribed on the base of a stone statue of Yuan is his battle-cry, shown in the above photo. The text:




“Hit the hard” as the main melody of Yuan’s army when they hurried to the capital to rescue the country, And “fuck his mom” became the starting word for cursing fatuous emperors.

The translation isn’t perfect, but unlike many previous examples, the profanity is entirely appropriate.

“掉哪妈” (diu na ma) is a widely used colloquial Cantonese expression that has a variety of written forms. The character 掉 is used in place of 屌 (diu2, “penis” as a noun, and “fuck” as a verb), but is now a far less common substitute than 丢 or 刁. (In Hong Kong, the recent construction [門+小] is often used.)

Here’s how the Cantonese Profanity Research Web explains the phrase:

As written, it literally means “fuck your mother” (那 na is a fusion of 你阿 nei a: 你阿媽 nei ama, “your mother”), but it is not ordinarily meant as an insult, but is mainly used instead to express anger, displeasure, astonishment, disappointment, and so forth…the tone is similar to the Mandarin 他妈的 (tamade, “His mother’s…”) or 他奶奶的 (tanainaide, “His granny’s…”).


Yuan Chonghuan’s statue at his ancestral home

“Hit the Hard,” on the other hand, is a simply a mechanical mistranslation of an exhortation to forge stubbornly onward. The phrase has been called an encapsulation of the “Cantonese Spirit,” and it appears in a coolie chant cited in various places online:


Hi-yo, hi-yo. Go all out! No one told you to be poor!

So Yuan Chonghuan’s battle-cry, supposedly uttered when his superiors ordered a general retreat to Shanhaiguan as the Manchu armies were closing in on Ningyuan, could conceivably be translated as “Fuck that! We’ll give it all we’ve got!”

Links and Sources
This entry was posted in Language and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.