”Gui” (Expensive) is voted as the Chinese Character of the year for 2017



The DAB has finished its fifth “Chinese Character of the year contest” where we invited the people of Hong Kong to vote for their choice from among the 10 choices of “xin” (new), “lou” (apartment/flat), “gui” (expensive/precious), “feng” (wind), “min” (the people), “hui” (return/reunion), “chuang” (create), “gong” (public), “zhi” (wisdom), and “pan” (decision/judge) to represent their personal view of which Chinese Character represented 2017 the most. The month-long voting period ended on 20th December with a total of 17,711 voters who voted online or in person, which is almost 4,500 more than in 2016. Out of the 17,369 eligible votes, the word “gui” (expensive/precious) received the most votes at 4,246 and has been voted as the “Chinese Character of the year for 2017”.

Knowledgeable people from various sectors of society who formed the jury explained that “gui” means “very expensive, too expensive. Something that has a very high price and is hard to pay for”. At the press conference Vice Chairperson of the DAB and Legislative Councilor Horace Cheung explained that the meaning of the character “gui” has changed over the years. He explained that in ancient China, people worshipped the fertile soil, and that in the oracle bones where the first Chinese character were discovered and the original pictogram of “gui” was represented by two hands grasping some soil. The word “tu” (soil) was written as “bei” (shell: note that shells were used as crypto-currency in Ancient China) in bronze inscriptions and strongly expressed the “value” of the land. Over years of change this character became “gui” in modern Chinese.

According to the “Shuowen Jiezi” (a Han Dynasty dictionary) “gui” was explained as “goods that art not vile (cheap)”. “Gui” was the direct opposite of “jian” (“cheap” in classical Chinese) even in the 2nd century AD. As “gui” was chosen as Chinese Character of the year by many voters, Horace Cheung believes that this expresses the deep pain caused to local residents by the high price of everything. He said “everything has become really expensive over the past year. Currently a regular lunch can cost up to $50-60, a bowl of beef innards with rice vermicelli costs $30-40. Pineapple buns cost $7-8. Public transportation costs have risen to insane heights. Commuters from the New Territories who work in the urban area have to spend at least $40-50 on transport alone. He also said,” As far as housing prices and rent, I don’t need to say anything. ” Therefore the DAB will express our hopes for the coming Budget in 140 separate proposals and we hope that the government will proactively use its massive surplus to share the fruits of our economic development with the general public.”

The Chairperson of the DAB Communications & Public Relations Committee Eric Tam expressed satisfaction in the number of voters this year. He said that the number of voters broke through the 17,000 mark and this shows that the people of Hong Kong not only support activities that promote traditional Chinese culture, but also express their feelings on 2017. The 2nd place finisher was “lou” (apartment/flat) with 2,563 votes. This proves that the people of Hong Kong are deeply concerned with the housing situation and that their biggest hope is to have a secure home.

Two other jury members for the event who attended the press conference said they all had different feelings about 2017. Eric Wong said that “gui”, meaning expensive was a common problem for many places around the world. The salaries of many people have not grown and doing business has become very difficult. He hopes that the new government can provide more business opportunities for the people and enact effective policies to improve the quality of life. Clifton Ko felt that “gui” (expensive) was not only referring to the price of goods, he felt that the time of Legco was also “gui” (precious) and hoped that in the new year society can become more harmonious and that Hong Kong’s path to the future will become more smooth.

Traditional Chinese culture is full of vitality. The Mainland, Taiwan, Japan, Malaysia, Singapore and other lands all have a “Chinese Character of the Year” event. “xiang” (enjoy/sharing) was the Chinese Character of the year for the Mainland. In Taiwan, the character was “mang” (confused, in this case), as the people felt that the future development of Taiwan was “confusing”, that there was no clear direction. In Japan, the “Kanji of the year” was “bei” (North / “kita” in Japanese). This definitely had to do with the missile tests of “Kita Chosen” (North Korea) which have made Asia unstable.


Media Inquiries: Chairperson of the DAB Communications & Public Relations Committee Eric Tam (9413 9000)​