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Ayi? Guma? Yifu? The 'Chinese relatives name game'

By Jocelyn Eikenburg | China Daily | Updated: 2019-08-14 07:40

When I married into a Chinese family, nobody ever warned me about the complicated "Chinese relatives name game "I would need to navigate - a world of completely novel terms for family members that have no exact equivalents in my native language of English.

Consider this exchange that happened a few years ago while I spent the summer living with my in-laws in their rural village in Zhejiang province.

During dinner one evening, my sister-in-law said our mother-in-law had spent the entire day planting the fields with a jiujiu, the Chinese term for uncles on the mother's side of the family. Yet as I understood, we only had two uncles we addressed with this term - Older Jiujiu and Younger Jiujiu. Neither needed help in the fields, especially the younger one, who had just begun working as the village secretary. How could our mother-in-law possibly have assisted someone called jiujiu?

Ayi? Guma? Yifu? The 'Chinese relatives name game'

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