All the Fish in the Sea
Photo Credit: (Cai Tao and Fengzheng Yisheng)

Why are players called "Sea Kings" in Chinese?

Chinese internet slang for unfaithful partners and their manipulative tactics

Look at that guy: Respectful, confident, charming, well-dressed, friendly...but DON’T be fooled by his attractive appearance. He may be a 海王 (hǎiwáng, king of the sea) in disguise, a “player” who professes to want a monogamous relationship but has hidden liaisons with multiple potential partners on the side.

海王 can be thought of as the latest incarnation of 渣男 (zhānán, scum men), an older Chinese slang term for men who are unfaithful and unsympathetic to their partners. The new term compares them to an underwater monarch, who rules over marine animals in much the same way as a philanderer who hooked all the women in his vicinity.

Continuing on the metaphor, potential Poseidons who are afraid of commitment and seek as many partners as possible (though they may say they are just looking for the “best fit”) are said to be “casting a wide net to trawl for fish (广撒网,多捕鱼 guǎng sǎwǎng, duō bǔyú).” The potential harem of a 海王 is referred to as a 鱼塘 (yútáng, fish pond), while the practice of seeking new partners is 养鱼 (yángyú, raising fish). If your partner accuses you of being a Sea King, just reassure them: “Baby, you’ve already taken over this fish pond (宝贝,这个鱼塘已经被你承包了 Bǎobèi, zhège yútáng yǐjīng bèi nǐ chéngbāo le).”

On the other hand, if you are the innocent fish who swam unwittingly into Poseidon’s net, you can mock yourself by saying: “I thought I had gotten into your heart, but actually I just entered a Sea King’s fish pond (我以为自己走进了你的心房,其实是进了海王的鱼塘 Wǒ yǐwéi zìjǐ zǒujìnle nǐ de xīnfáng, qíshí shì jìnle hǎiwáng de yútáng).”

Some men (and women), though, are not trying to become 海王 intentionally—rather, they are just overly friendly to everyone. Their pleasantries waft over everyone like a cooling breeze, whether or not they are trying to flirt, earning them the nickname “central air conditioner (中央空调 zhōngyāng kōngtiáo).” Never mistake the “friendliness” as serious affection, and nip a potential crush in the bud if friends tell you: “This person treats everyone well, like a central air conditioner (这个人对谁都好, 就是个中央空调 Zhège rén duì shéi dōu hǎo, jiùshì ge zhōngyāng kōngtiáo).” They may be amiable to everyone, a serial flirt, or looking to hook a few fish—either way, it’s best to avoid becoming attracted.

Emotional needs sometimes leave us blind, making it easy to fall for the fakers, or misread the signals of the innocently amiable. However, if you find yourself falling into the hands of a Sea King, it’s not too late to school them at their own game and warn them: “I don’t care what kind of Sea King you are, if I catch you playing around I’ll blow up your fish pond (不管你是什么海王,被我抓到就炸掉你的鱼塘 Bùguǎn nǐ shì shénme hǎiwáng, bèi wǒ zhuādào jiù zhàdiào nǐ de yútáng).”

Or just give them a wide berth. After all, there’s plenty more fish in the sea.

Why are players called "Sea Kings" in Chinese? is a story from our issue, “Call of the Wild.” To read the entire issue, become a subscriber and receive the full magazine.


author Yang Tingting (杨婷婷)

Yang Tingting is a Chinese editor at The World of Chinese. Interested in telling Chinese stories, she writes mainly about culture, language, and society.

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