All the Fish in the Sea

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).”

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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. Alternatively, you can purchase the digital version from the App Store.


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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