Why Does a Chinese Husband Call His Wife’s Father “岳父 (Yuèfù)?” (Intermediate)

Why Does a Chinese Husband Call His Wife’s Father “岳父 (Yuèfù)?” (Intermediate)

Key Learning Points (Preview):
称呼 (chēnghū): n./v. form of address/ to call; to address

In China, husbands often call their wives’ father “岳父 (yuèfù).” The meaning of  “父 (fù) father” is rather easy to understand, but the Chinese character “岳 (yuè)” can be confusing. The following story explains why Chinese people “称呼 (chēnghū) call” their wives’ fathers “岳父 (yuèfù)”:

In ancient China, emperors often went to the peaks of famous mountains to worship the mountains and rivers. Additionally, they also proclaimed promotions of other government officials there.

In the Tang Dynasty, Emperor “唐玄宗 (Táng Xuánzōng) Tang Xuanzong” promoted his subordinates at “泰山 (Tàishān) Mount Tai.” He raised “张说 (Zhāng Yuè) Zhang Yue” to an official position of great power. After that, “张说 (Zhāng Yuè) Zhang Yue” used his power to help his “女婿 (nǚxu) son-in-law ” “郑镒 (zhèng Yì) Zheng Yi” also get a significant government promotion. “唐玄宗 (Táng Xuánzōng) Tang Xuanzong” became aware of this and questioned “郑镒 (zhèngYì) Zheng Yi” on how he got such a good promotion in such a short time. “郑镒 (zhèngYì) Zheng Yi” remained speechless, but his colleague “黄幡绰 (Huáng Fānchuò) Huang Fanchuo”  told Emperor “唐玄宗 (Táng Xuánzōng) Tang Xuanzong”: “Thanks to the power of ‘泰山 (Tàishān) Mount Tai,’ he got the promotion.” Then “唐玄宗 (Táng Xuánzōng) Tang Xuanzong” became to understand that “张说(Zhāng Yuè) Zhang Yue” had practiced nepotism to help his “女婿 (nǚxu) son-in-law” after his own promotion atop “泰山 (Tàishān) Mount Tai.”

Many people heard of this and began to “称呼 (chēnghū) call”  their wives’ father “泰山 (Tàishān) Mount Tai.” Because “泰山 (Tàishān) Mount Tai” is the No. 1 among the “五岳 (wǔyuè)Five Famous Mountains,” people also began to call their wives’ fathers “岳父 (yuèfù).”

In modern Chinese, this “称呼 (chēnghū) form of address” is still in use. Since Chinese people call their parents “父母 (fùmǔ),” they call their wives’ mother “岳母 (yuèmǔ).”

Key Learning Points:

称呼 (chēnghū): n./v. form of address/ to call; to address


Wǒ kāishǐ xuéxí hànyǔ de shíhou, Zhōngguórén duì jiārén de gè zhǒng chēnghū
我   开始    学习 汉语   的   时候,    中国人         对 家人   的 各   种        称呼
ràng wǒ chǎnshēngle hěn dà de xìngqù.
让   我     产生了       很   大 的 兴趣。
When I started my Chinese learning, I was really interested in the various forms of address for families in China.

Zài Zhōngguó,wǒmen chēnghū bàba de bàba wéi yéye.
在   中国,           我们       称呼    爸爸 的 爸爸 为  爷爷。
In China, we call our father’s father grandpa.

Culture Note:
五岳 (wǔyuè): In China, “五岳” refers to the Five Famous Mountains, consisting of “恒山 (Héngshān) Mount Heng in Shanxi Province,” “华山(Huàshān) Mount Hua in Shaanxi Province,” “嵩山 (Sōngshān) Mount Song in Henan Province,” “泰山 (Tàishān) Mount Tai in Shandong Province,” and “衡山 (Héngshān) Mount Heng in Hunan province.” These five mountains are renowned for their beautiful scenery. Mount Tai ranked number one among the Five Famous Mountains.

New Vocabulary in Your Chinese Learning:

岳父 (yuèfù):n. father-in-law

女婿 (nǚxu):n. son-in-law

父母 (fùmǔ):n. parents

岳母 (yuèmǔ):n. mother-in-law

If you want to study more forms of address in your Chinese learning, please see below:
Chinese Learning Materials: Chinese Song for Children: Family Tree (Beginner)
Chinese Learning Materials: How to Say “Parents” and “Grandparents” in Chinese (Beginner)

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