Ambrose Li

Kung hei fat choy

(updated )

Chinese New Year is coming up in about a month.‍[Note 1] This isn’t a happy year,‍[Note 2] but if you want to use a traditional greeting when New Year comes, please say Kung hei fat choy (ˈguŋˊhei ˉfatˌtsɔi), not Gōngxĭ fācái.

I was once told by a Mandarin speaker a coworker that in Mandarin, the formula greeting for the New Year is actually Xīnnián hăo ‘New Year greetings’. Gōngxĭ fācái is unidiomatic.

Kung hei fat choy (‘May you be prosperous’) is a Southern greeting. When you say Kung hei fat choy, you acknowledge our Southern heritage.‍[Note 3] But when you say Gōngxĭ fācái you’re not only disrespecting us Southerners by saying our Southern greeting in a Northern language, you aren’t even respecting Northerners because they don’t say it like that.

So when the New Year comes, please say Kung hei fat choy.

Or you can say Xīnnián hăo.

Actually, I’m okay with Happy New Year, but I might respond: No justice, no peace.


  1. Year 38 in the current sexagenary cycle (usually known as Xīn-chŏu, the Mandarin pronunciation of a coded form of the number 38) will start February 12, 2021.
  2. The Northern curse word NMSL (pronounced nĭ mā sĭ le) means “your mom is dead” (i.e., “may your mom die”), therefore NSL is code for “you are dead” (i.e., “may you die”). Since the NSL was imposed by Northern imperialists, there’s no way the drafters of the edict didn’t notice the pun. This is further circumstantial evidence that the end goal of what happened is cultural genocide.
  3. Let’s say this used to be indeed how I felt. Given what has happened in the past year and a half, I’m not sure if I still identify as just a Southerner.


  • #Chinese languages
  • #Chinese New Year
  • #greetings
  • #NMSL (curse word)