Debate Over New Gender Neutral ‘They/Them’ Chinese Character

By Rakini Bergundy, July 27, 2021

2 0

At the end of June, Zipeng Zhu, an art director based in New York, announced that he had created “The first non-binary they/them pronoun in Mandarin” via Instagram. 

He further explained in the caption, “This is a combination of the character 无 (none) 他 (he) and 她 (she). Hopefully one day this could be added to our dictionary.”

zzdesign.jpg
Screengrab via @zzdesign/Instagram

Zhu was born and raised in China and originally wanted to be a manga artist. After years of practicing, he developed his Photoshop skills and started carving an interest in poster design while studying biochemistry in college. 

He eventually switched paths and now has his own studio called Razzle, serving clients like Coca-Cola, Microsoft, Netflix, The New Yorker, Refinery29 and Chobani.  

Many were quick to praise Zhu, but of course, there were detractors. One commenter pointed out that the original Chinese pronoun 他 was “always gender-neutral and therefore inclusive.” They then suggested that the public needs to stop using the female pronoun 她 in written form, “which was only introduced 100 years ago.”

We asked Claire Jiang, a Guangdong-based Chinese teacher at AOE ChinEase, for her thoughts on the post. Jiang remarked that while the character is “creative and interesting,” it is also “necessary, [as] each [new character] represents a new ideology that can enrich humanity.” 

In 2015, a new pronoun ‘X也’ was introduced as a gender-fluid pronoun. Another commonly used pronoun by gender-fluid, gender-queer, or nonbinary people is the pinyin romanization ‘TA.’ 

The folks at Radii sum up the history and current pronouns that queer Chinese people use in this article.


[Cover image via That’s, @zzdesign/Instagram]

more news

Explainer: Why Chinese People Give Red Envelopes

Why Chinese people give red envelopes, especially during Spring Festival.

WATCH: Tips for Improving Your Chinese Language Skills Ep 3

The video series explores the elements of living in China from a foreigner's perspective and tips for learning Mandarin.

Chinese-Congolese Singer Zhong Feifei on Competing on Reality TV and New Music

From studying global security to competing in a Chinese singing reality show.

4 Essential Books for Young Chinese Language Learners

Seeking to improve your child’s Mandarin skills? Here are four educational books perfect for young language learners with curious minds!

A Journey to the Chinese Countryside with GoEast Mandarin

Robert, a student at GoEast Mandarin in Shanghai, spends two days in a rural village practicing his Chinese with his host family.

Celebrate a Traditional Oktoberfest at the Intercontinental!

Celebrate Oktoberfest at the Intercontinental Shanghai Hongqiao NECC

Better Together September: A Month of Mental Health Awareness

Better Together September, a month-long community fundraising campaign dedicated to raising awareness for mental health

0 User Comments

In Case You Missed It…

We're on WeChat!

Scan our QR Code at right or follow us at Thats_Shanghai for events, guides, giveaways and much more!

7 Days in Shanghai With thatsmags.com

Weekly updates to your email inbox every Wednesday

Subscribe

Download previous issues

Never miss an issue of That's Shanghai!

Visit the archives