A French Japanese Chinese restaurant

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From Victor Steinbok:

This is the entrance to a restaurant in Paris. Taken all together, the writing is a bit of a mishmash. It will require some effort to sort things out clearly.

Starting with the noren 暖簾 ("door hanging"), we have 中華料理 ("Chinese cuisine / cooking"). Although this particular instance has something of a Chinese look to it, the noren is an unmistakable feature of Japanese shops. The four characters are traditional forms, which would be used in Japan, Taiwan, or Hong Kong; the simplified version is 中华料理, which would be used on the Mainland. Since this is a Japanese restaurant and the characters are in the traditional form, we may assume that they should be read à la japonaise, i.e., Chūka ryōri, not in Mandarin, which would be Zhōnghuá liàolǐ.

Let us make a short digression on 華. In Mandarin, it has the following pronunciations and basic meanings:

huá — splendid; florescent; prosperous; flourishing; essence; China

huà — name of a sacred mountain in Shaanxi; a surname

huā — flower = huā 花

In Japanese, 華 may be pronounced ka, ke, ge, hana.

Although it only has 12 strokes, which is about the average number of strokes for a Chinese character, 華 is difficult to write, so I'm surprised that the Japanese didn't simplify it. Not only will people argue over the total number of strokes in the character, they will disagree over the order of the strokes.

We have several times touched upon differences of opinion concerning stroke order of characters, e.g., here and here.

華 is used in a number of other Japanese compounds beside Chūka 中華 ("China; Chinese"), too, but of them only the set phrase gōka kenran 豪華絢爛 ("gorgeous; resplendent") seems to be used with any frequency.

As an aside, hanayaka 華(はな)やか ("gorgeous") is part of a class of adjectives ending in 〜やか that mostly, but not all, have positive meanings:

sawayaka 爽(さわ)やか — refreshing
shinayaka 靭(しな)やか — supple
adeyaka / tsuyayaka 艶(あで/つや)やか — glossy; lustrous
karoyaka 軽(かろ)やか — light (not heavy)
azayaka 鮮(あざ)やか — vivid
maroyaka 円(まろ)やか — mild; circular
kirabiyaka 綺羅(きら)びやか — gorgeous; gaudy; dazzling
taoyaka 嫋(たお)やか — graceful; willowy; slender
yuruyaka 緩(ゆる)やか — lenient; lax; gentle; generous
sumiyaka 速(すみ)やか — swift
sukoyaka 健(すこ)やか — healthy; sound; vigorous
makotoshiyaka 真(まこと)しやか — plausible; deceiving
tsutsumashiyaka 慎(つつ)ましやか — moderate; humble
suzuyaka 涼(すず)やか — cool
hisoyaka 密(ひそ)やか — secretive
odayaka 穏(おだ)やか — calm; gentle; quiet; sober
shitoyaka 淑(しと)やか — gentle; graceful
nobiyaka 伸(の)びやか — carefree; comfortable; relaxed
miyabiyaka 雅(みやび)やか — elegant
mutsumajiyaka 睦(むつま)じやか — close, intimate
hiyayaka 冷(ひ)ややか — chilly
hareyaka 晴(は)れやか — clear; beaming; without shadow / concern
sasayaka 細(ささ)やか — of small amount; meager; modest
komayaka 細(こま)やか — delicate, detailed

(Although the last two items share the same kanji and kana (細やか), the pronunciation and meaning are different.)

nikoyaka にこやか — smiling (no kanji)
shimeyaka しめやか (no kanji, but related to shizuka 静か ["quiet; peaceful; silent; calm; serene"]) — quiet; lonely; lonesome; soft (as of rain)
nagoyaka 和(なご)やか — harmonious; mild; calm; gentle; quiet (could be Nagoya's motto: "Nagoya-ka")

This webpage has more examples of -yaka, but not all of them are commonly used in modern Japanese.

I've always wondered about the origin of this word grouping. The -yaka やか ending seems comparable in some ways to the -yàng 樣 ("kind type; manner; appearance") or -fēng 風 ("wind; style") adjectival endings in Chinese. Anyway, all of these words have a certain cachet of elegance and refinement about them, suggesting a connection with court parlance.

A Japanese colleague observes: "Most interesting – I have never noticed or thought about this. It takes foreigners to notice such things."

All right, enough on huá, huà, huā / ka, ke, ge, hana 華 and Chūka ryōri 中華料理 ("Chinese cuisine / cooking").

Let us move on now to 来々軒. Perhaps not all of those who are literate in Chinese and / or Japanese will know that 々 is the sign of repetition in both languages, so it's no help in determining whether 来々軒 is meant to be read in Chinese or in Japanese.

来 is the simplified form of 來 in both languages. Simplified 来 is now standard in Japan and on the Chinese mainland, whereas the traditional form 來 is still used in Taiwan and Hong Kong. No matter whether simplified or traditional, 来 / 來 is pronounced lái in Mandarin and rai in Japanese. (I think you can see the problem that is arising.)

The reduplicated character, 来 / 來, means "come". (For a brief discussion on the deep history of the character and the word, see here.)

轩 is the simplified form of 軒 that is used on the mainland; in this case, Japan decided to stick with the traditional form, and naturally Taiwan and Hong Kong also adhere to the full form. 轩 / 軒 is pronounced xuān in Mandarin and ken (measure word [i.e., counter] for houses) or noki ("eaves") in Japanese.

Here are some of the meanings for 軒 that can be found in Chinese character dictionaries: "a high-fronted, curtained carriage used in ancient times; high; wide; balcony; a small room or veranda with windows; surname of the Yellow Emperor".

Since the name of the restaurant is written as 来来軒 (simplified-simplified-traditional), the characters must be Japanese, but this clashes with the romanization, which is "laï-laï ken" (Chinese-Chinese-Japanese). Because of the forms of the characters, we have determined that they are Japanese, in which case the pronunciation should be "rairai ken". Who was responsible for this mix of Chinese and Japanese pronunciation? Could it be a Japanese who couldn't distinguish between "l" and "r"?

But the actual pronunciation of Japanese "l" lies somewhere between "r" and "l". As a Japanese friend (a highly experienced master teacher of Japanese) explained, "Although we use 'r' in Romaji, 'l' is closer to the Japanese pronunciation, so I guess the proprietor intentionally used 'l' for the romanization."

It's very interesting that the same Japanese friend wrote: "Lai-lai ken (or Rai-rai ken) is a quintessential name, though a little old fashioned, for a Japanese (gleasy spoon type of) Chinese restaurant." !!!

It's not just a question of "l" being "misread" as "r" (the famous "Prease crean toiret" joke told by American soldiers returning from the Pacific theater after WWII that I heard as a little boy), as "gleasy spoon" attests, we also have "r" being "mispronounced" as "l". And now we have "laï-laï" instead of "rairai". (Remember, this is supposed to be Japanese.)

Yet another puzzle is why "laï-laï" instead of just "lai-lai".

Normally, in French, 'ai' is pronounced as in 'j'ai', the monophthong /ɛ/. When you want to indicate a diphthong, i.e., keep the sounds respectively intended for <a> and <i>, you put the 'trema' over the <i>.

As explained in Wikipedia: "Diaeresis or tréma (ë, ï, ü, ÿ): Over e, i, u or y, indicates that a vowel is to be pronounced separately from the preceding one: naïve, Noël."

I don't think it's used in any established French romanization for Chinese in current use, such as that of the École française d'Extrême-Orient, so I suppose this is an ad hoc arrangement to capture the actual sound for a French speaker.

There are, however, two obscure systems — both French, as it turns out — that utilize "laï" with a trema for Chinese and Japanese:

Léon de Rosny, Dictionnaire des signes idéographiques de la Chine: avec leur prononciation usitée au Japon, accompagné de la liste des signes idéographiques particuliers aux Japonais (listed as 1873 in Guide to transliterated Chinese in the modern Peking dialect [1968-69], by Ireneus László Legeza, but other dates are given elsewhere).

Stanislas Julien, Exercices pratiques d'analyse de syntaxe et de lexigraphie chinoise (1842)

But that's not the end of 来々! This website says that it is pronounced as "Kiki" and is a girl's name. It seems that anybody can attach any pronunciation they wish to kanji.

And this online dictionary states that it means "lowly; inferior" (in Chinese xiàxià 下下).

And here we are told that it means "next next" as in weeks, years, etc.

All of that may well be (!), but here it just seems to be an old, traditional name for an unpretentious restaurant, perhaps meaning something like "Come on in" or "Y'all come", but that's just my guess. Incidentally, we have cafes with names like that in the United States.

Well, now that we've thoroughly investigated the name of this eating establishment in Paris, let's take a walk inside and see what they serve.

It is indeed a Japanese restaurant, serving Japanese-style Chinese food as I thought.

One of my Japanese students declared, "I want this type of restaurant of Japanese-style Chinese food more in the U.S. I miss their fried rice." (I have heard that pronounced as "flied lice".)

Another student remarks, "I agree that it's something like a Chinese-style Japanese-style restaurant. Photos of the food are pretty unequivocal."

This we can see from the interesting "Blog de Julien Gouesse", which offers a different photograph of the front of the restaurant, views of some of the artwork inside, clear closeups of many dishes, and a nice bilingual ( Français and English) review.

So it's an Orientalist fusion restaurant?

[Thanks to Mark Swofford, Cecilia Segawa Seigle, Nathan Hopson, Hiroko Sherry, Linda Chance, and Miki Morita]


  1. Richard W said,

    November 8, 2014 @ 4:13 pm

    Webpage "Why are there so many adjectives ending in yaka?"

  2. Richard W said,

    November 8, 2014 @ 4:53 pm

    If you liked those -yaka adjectives, you might like these -raka ones too.

    なだらか (nadaraka) gently sloping (c.f. nadameru: to mollify)
    やすらか (yasuraka) tranquil (c.f. yasumeru: to ease somebody's mind)
    あきらか clear; obvious
    きよらか clean and clear (water, air, eyes); platonic (relationship)
    なめらか smooth

    何らか in any way; of some kind
    幾らか somewhat

    There is a Wikipedia article that comments on -yaka and -raka adjectives:

  3. Confused said,

    November 8, 2014 @ 8:15 pm

    The French "r" is, of course, completely different from the Japanese. I'm not surprised in the slightest that a restaurant in France would choose to use "l" instead, as it's the only French sound that's close to correct.

  4. Richard W said,

    November 8, 2014 @ 8:49 pm

    Japanese words borrowed from French are normally romanized with an R rather than an L.

    プロフィール (purofīru: profile)
    レジュメ (rejume: résumé)
    ルポ (rupo: repo(rtage))
    ピエロ (piero: pierrot — clown)
    ルー (ru: roux)
    バリカン (barikan: Bariquand & Marre — hair trimmer)
    マロン (maron: marron — chestnut)
    オードブル (ōdoburu: hors-d'œuvre)

    … not to mention Pari (Paris) and the word for restaurant itself: resutoran.

  5. Richard W said,

    November 8, 2014 @ 9:06 pm

    *normally* romanized with an R?

    I'm amazed that I wrote that just now — there's no L in any Japanese romanization system that I'm aware of anyway!

    Maybe I got confused by Confused's comment! :-)

  6. Ethan said,

    November 8, 2014 @ 10:45 pm

    @Richard W: Romanization is not always systematic. For example so far as I know ロリコン is always romanized as "lolicon", acknowledging its origin as a borrowing from "Lolita"+"com[plex]". Or here is the home page for an inn in Ouchi called ぽぽろっこ that styles itself in romaji as "Popolocco" (found by looking at random for an "l"-containing name in a Japanese directory).

    I was taken aback by Victor's comment that "anybody can attach any pronunciation they wish to kanji" in response to a note that 来来 as a name can be read "Kiki" rather than "Rairai". Japanese name readings can be obscure to say the least, but in this case there's nothing particularly strange going on. Although the "sound reading" of 来 is "rai", the verb 来る is "kuru" and its stem (来) is "ki". So 来来=Kiki is plausible, although the only Japanese Kiki I can recall off the top of my head, the heroine of a Miyazaki film, had her name written as キキ.

  7. John Swindle said,

    November 8, 2014 @ 11:58 pm

    Certainly the repetition mark 々 is used in Chinese too, but does it appear in Chinese in the names of shops or businesses?

  8. Richard W said,

    November 9, 2014 @ 12:01 am

    "Romanization is not always systematic." That's a good point. Using the system is normal, formal, functional, and bland, whereas Lolicon (for example) is much more vivid, punchy, and memorable.

  9. Chas Belov said,

    November 9, 2014 @ 12:11 am

    I notice the French and English reviews refers to the soups as "lamens" as of this post as opposed to "ramens." I wonder whether that is the Romanization used on the menu or in France in general. Although Wiktionary says "ramen" comes from Mandarin "la mien."

  10. maidhc said,

    November 9, 2014 @ 12:20 am

    Here's an example in the USA:

    This is a Chinese restaurant in the Korean neighborhood of Santa Clara. I believe the proprietors are Korean. There are a few of these Korean-Chinese places there.

    Their Chinese name looks to be 來來村 lái lái cūn, which Google Translate tells me means "come to the village". Their Korean name seems to have a reduplication too.

    Here's a photo of the outside of the place showing the trilingual signage:

    I don't know any of these languages so that's as far as I can go, but it seems to be related.

  11. Victor Mair said,

    November 9, 2014 @ 1:16 am


    I'm not one to use emoticons, but it must have been evident that I made that remark tongue in cheek — though not entirely.

    Certainly, one can come up with the reading "kiki" for 来来 (reduplication of the classical verb stem ki), but how often is 来来 read that way in real life today?

    As for the assignment of arbitrary pronunciations to kanji in personal names, see the discussion here:


    E.g., Parcerier: …But as for "can one assign any arbitrary reading to a kanji (in a name)", the answer is a clear and resounding yes. This is true for Japanese as well as foreigners. I believe it is explicitly stated in the naming rules that, as long as you are using kanji from the accepted set, you can assign any pronunciation you want. It is done by parents who want their child to have a quirky name (and endless headaches dealing with administration officials later on)

    I also recall reading Japanese texts with ruby phonetic glosses that were completely unrelated to any traditional on or kun readings, e.g., kā カー ("car") for kuruma 車 ("vehicle").

  12. Ethan said,

    November 9, 2014 @ 2:02 am

    @Victor: Sorry if I missed an implicit smiley. As to phonetic glosses related to the kanji they are represented by only in the sense of related meaning rather than traditional pronunciation, the last time this came up I contributed links to several extreme cases.

    Anyhow, here's a streetview of a Tokyo restaurant with the same name.

  13. Simon P said,

    November 9, 2014 @ 3:06 am

    Also worth noting: in my mind 料理 is an explicitly Japanese word. I've seen it in China, but only on Japanese restaurants. It's possible it's used in Taiwan, which has a more pronounced Japanese influence, but in HK and the mainland it's associated with Japanese cuisine, I believe.

    Also, the repetition sign 々 is surely more common in Japanese than in Chinese? I've never seen it in Chinese writing in my life. I'm assuming it's something that's mostly used in handwriting?

  14. Richard W said,

    November 9, 2014 @ 5:13 am

    料理 is Japanese word, but I don't know what an *explicitly* Japanese word is. 料理 is also a Chinese word. It can mean "to attend to; to take care of" in Chinese, and it can have a similar meaning in Japanese as well. There is this example in Kenkyusha's J-E dictionary:
    この作家が深刻なテーマを軽妙に料理してみせる手腕は, 見事だ.
    The skill with which this writer handles a serious theme with finesse is amazing.

    In Chinese, it seems it's quite common for 料理店 to be applied to Korean restaurants as well as Japanese ones: there are lots of Google hits for 韩国料理店 on Chinese webpages.

    Also, there is the Chinese term 分子料理 (molecular gastronomy).

  15. languagehat said,

    November 9, 2014 @ 9:43 am

    Although it only has 12 strokes, which is about the average number of strokes for a Chinese character, 華 is difficult to write, so I'm surprised that the Japanese didn't simplify it. Not only will people argue over the total number of strokes in the character, they will disagree over the order of the strokes.

    I would write it with ten strokes (though my Chinese writing skills have almost four decades worth of dust on them by now), and looking it up in P.G. O'Neill's Essential Kanji I see he gives ten strokes (drawn in the order one would expect, left to right and top to bottom). I'm prepared to accept that people argue over the number and order of strokes, but I'm at a loss to see how you could get twelve out of it.

  16. Coby Lubliner said,

    November 9, 2014 @ 9:43 am

    In Berkeley there is a Japanese restaurant named Kirala; the kana on the sign is キ ラ ラ, and I have never understood why the second and third syllables are romanized differently (or, for that matter, what the name means).

  17. Victor Mair said,

    November 9, 2014 @ 10:16 am


    Thanks for reminding us of that earlier discussion, and for your contributions both there and here. I especially appreciate the street view of that Tokyo restaurant. Boy, they sure do love their generic name, Rairai ken 来来軒 ("Come on in" or "Y'all come" [?]), and type, Chūka ryōri 中華料理 ("Chinese cuisine / cooking")! They're plastered all over the front and sides of the building! Unfortunately, even though I zoomed in as many places as I could spot them, I didn't see any furigana or katakana for 来来軒. It sure does look as though it's a bit of a gleasy spoon (implied smiley)!

    @Richard W

    Please explain what "molecular gastronomy" means *in English*.

    I think that liàolǐ 料理 in the sense of "cuisine; cooking" in Chinese is used only with reference to Japanese styles, including Chūka ryōri 中華料理 ("Chinese cuisine / cooking").

    Here are a couple of examples from zdic:

    Xīméndīng de Rìběn liàolǐ shì wǒ měitiān dōu guānggù de
    "I patronize the Japanese restaurants at Ximending every day."

    Guō Mòruò, “Tuōlí Jiǎng Jièshí yǐhòu”, shíyī: “Tā tīng shuō wǒ zǎofàn, wǔfàn dōu méiyǒu chī, biàn gǎnkuài yòu jiàole xiē Rìběn liàolǐ lái.”
    郭沫若 《脱离蒋介石以后》十一:“她听说我早饭、午饭都没有吃,便赶快又叫了些 日本料理来。”
    Guo Moruo, "After Departing from Chiang Kai-shek", 11: "When she heard that I hadn't eaten breakfast or lunch, she right away ordered some Japanese dishes."

    Here's an interesting bilingual essay in English and Chinese that uses the expression "Chinese food" opposite the Chinese term
    Zhōnghuá liàolǐ 中华料理
    where the English is the source language:




    "In Chinese, it seems it's quite common for 料理店 to be applied to Korean restaurants as well as Japanese ones…." I suspect, though, that this usage was probably picked up by the Koreans from the Japanese during the occupation. The Láilái cūn 來來村 that maidhc helpfully scouted up in Santa Clara has been run by Koreans for at least 35 years.

    Here's a testimonial from Roy S.:


    This is my favorite korean-chinese restautant. Their black bean sauce noodles (jja jjang myun) is the best I've ever had. Its noodles are hand-made, fresh and nicely chewy. It is not easy to find a korean-chinese restautant serving this quality of taste even in Korea. Both thumbs up.



    The current chef has been a "3rd Generation Cook for 35 Years".



    The English name of this establishment is the very boring China Way Restaurant. They probably didn't know what to do with their Japanesey Sino-Korean name, which — as we've seen — is pretty much of a given for this style of restaurant. Google Translate didn't either when they rendered it as "come to the village" for maidhc — not bad, but not quite right either. This morning Google Translate returned "Come Village" for me. That's better, but still not spot on. The cūn 村 of this Sino-Korean name literally means "village; hamlet", but in this case it connotes an eating establishment, in the same way that ken 軒 signifies "balcony; veranda" but connotes "restaurant" in the name Rairai ken 来来軒, the difference being that the cūn 村 of Láilái cūn 來來村 implies rusticity, whereas the ken 軒 of Rairai ken 来来軒 aspires to elegance.

    Bob Ramsey explains the Korean name of the Santa Clara restaurant:


    It’s just the Korean reading of the characters (written raeraechon, but pronounced rerechon). A typical name. Such Korean-Chinese places are distinctively Korean, and Koreans love them. Me, too.


    @Victor Mair

    I don't know whether what Parcerier says about totally weird readings of characters for personal names is actually true, but I've heard such claims made many a time.

  18. Victor Mair said,

    November 9, 2014 @ 11:18 am


    There you go! People do argue over the number of strokes in 華, and when you read what I write below you'll understand why.

    zdic gives 10 strokes for the character when it has a simplified radical (3 for the radical and 7 for the residual strokes) and 14 (!!) strokes when it has the full form of the radical (6 for the radical 艸 and 8 for the residual strokes).


    MDBG also gives 14 strokes:


    Sheik gives 12 strokes:


    Check out the radical here:


    If you want to get really obsessive about how to write this character, you can follow all of the links here:


    But I'm sure that would take many more hours / days than you'd want to spend on it.

    The Unicode Han Database (Unihan) is managed by my colleagues John H. Jenkins, Richard Cook, and Ken Lunde, so if you have any specific questions about the way this character is analyzed and classified, I could ask them for you.

    I still write the character the way I was taught to write it nearly fifty years ago, with two 十 next to each other for the radical, i.e., 4 strokes, and the same 8 strokes that zdic and MDBG advocate for the rest of the character.

    I could leave you to puzzle for a long time over how to get 8 residual strokes from the bottom part, but that would be cruel, so I'll explain it briefly the way my teachers taught me to write it. Basically, instead of two short vertical strokes and one horizontal stroke for the central part of the character, I write another two 十 next to each other. If you don't do it that way, you won't get 8 residual strokes. But if you don't come up with 8 residual strokes under radical 140 (the "grass" radical), you won't find this in traditional dictionaries arranged by radical + residual strokes. That's the way it is in Goodrich, in Mathews', and in all the other dictionaries arranged by radicals I grew up with before the advent of the PRC, when all hell broke loose.

    Of course, the really simple form of the character, as it is written on the Mainland, is 华, with only 6 strokes.

  19. languagehat said,

    November 9, 2014 @ 11:59 am

    Good lord! Thanks very much for that explanation, and I'm starting to remember why I didn't continue on with Chinese.

  20. Richard W said,

    November 9, 2014 @ 2:38 pm

    The reason why MDBG's count is so high as 14 seems to be that they are treating the radical as if it were written 艸 rather than its simpler forms 艹 or "+ +" . If you go to MDBG's webpage for 華 and click on the ">>" button to its right, you can click on either
    – the brush icon, to see the animated stroke order diagram (rendered as 12 strokes)
    – the magnifying glass icon, to see extra information such as "stroke count = 艸艹 + 8"

    I must say the animated stroke order diagram shows a stroke order that I would not have guessed as the correct order. The stroke order in Wenlin (see link below) is very different, and closer to what I would have supposed. Wenlin says "3 radical strokes, and 7 residual strokes" (total of 10 strokes).

  21. Richard W said,

    November 9, 2014 @ 2:57 pm

    @ Victor Mair
    Regarding "molecular gastronomy", I'll admit to throwing that comment in for the sake of provoking discussion. I had never heard of the term until a few weeks ago when someone submitted 分子料理 to CC-CEDICT after having heard the (Chinese) term on TV (possibly in Taiwan). I had nothing to do with processing the submission, but it was accepted into the dictionary.

    So I don't know what molecular gastronomy is from personal experience, but I find that it has an entry in the OED:

    molecular gastronomy n. a scientific approach to cookery, which typically involves subjecting particular recipes or techniques to experimental scrutiny; cooking which uses innovative techniques and novel combinations of flavour and texture developed through or inspired by this approach.

    There are citations that go back to 1993, including
    2006 Maclean's (Electronic ed.) 13 Feb. 45 With their thyme-oil-producing centrifuge and vacuum-microwaved Savourants, the Dubys are in the vanguard of molecular gastronomy,..revolutionizing the flavour, appearance—even the perception—of cuisine.

    The Wikipedia article on Peter Barham says that he is visiting Professor of Molecular Gastronomy at the University in Copenhagen.

  22. Richard W said,

    November 9, 2014 @ 3:09 pm

    @Coby Lubliner: "why [are] the second and third syllables [of Kirala] … romanized differently[?]"

    I wouldn't assume that Kirala is a romanization of キララ. It could be the other way around: maybe キララ is a Japanese rendering of a Kirala.

    "ra" and "la" would both be rendered in Japanese as ラ, normally.

  23. Richard W said,

    November 9, 2014 @ 3:31 pm

    "maybe キララ is a Japanese rendering of a Kirala"

    Oops! I meant:
    maybe キララ is a Japanese rendering of "Kirala".

  24. Richard W said,

    November 9, 2014 @ 3:40 pm

    Oops again!
    Here is the correct link for the CC-CEDICT submission for 分子料理 (molecular gastronomy)

  25. Richard W said,

    November 9, 2014 @ 5:16 pm

    @ Victor Mair: I think that liàolǐ 料理 in the sense of "cuisine; cooking" in Chinese is used only with reference to Japanese styles.

    I have no doubt that the Chinese word 料理 in the sense of "cuisine; cooking" is strongly associated with Japan, but I wonder if that has started to change, so that it can now be sometimes used to refer to cooking in general. The Liang'an Cidian Chinese dictionary, which is normally very thorough in noting distinctions between Taiwan and mainland usage, defines 料理 as follows:
    1. to handle; to look after; to take care of
    2. dishes; cooked food
    3. culinary skill
    (my translation of the Chinese definition)

    There is nothing in that definition to indicate a necessary association with Japan, although there is one usage example 日式料理 (Japanese cuisine) that hints at the connection; and there is no indication that mainland usage of 料理 is different from Taiwan usage.

    There are lots of Google hits for 意式料理, for example, and one can find other references where 料理 seems to mean "cuisine" without any connection to Japan.

  26. Victor Mair said,

    November 9, 2014 @ 7:59 pm

    From Haewon Cho:

    래래촌: Raeraechon (RR), Raeraech'on (MR)
    Meaning: come, come (to the) village?

    Usually these kinds of Korean-Chinese restaurants are owned by Chinese-Koreans who speak both languages. The Korea ㄹ is pronounced as [ɾ] in the syllable initial position and as [l] the syllable final position. Also, according to the "word-initial" Korean pronunciation rule (word-initial ㄹ is pronounced n or zero; this "word initial law" is practiced in South Korea only), word-initial ㄹshould be written as ㄴ [n] but the name of the restaurant is written as 래래촌, not 내래촌(naeraechon, RR), perhaps trying to sound more Chinese? My Google search came up with a long list of restaurants with the name 래래원 (來 來苑, Raeraewon, RR) but not 래래촌 in Korea.

  27. John said,

    November 9, 2014 @ 9:50 pm

    In Taiwan there's definitely nothing preventing people from using 料理 anywhere that the word cuisine may be used in English. I was originally going to say that it would be a bit odd for people to use it to describe the varieties of Chinese cuisine, but a quick Google search reveals plenty of hits for 上海料理 and 四川料理:


    Then there's this blog post that begins with this doozy:



  28. Richard W said,

    November 9, 2014 @ 10:54 pm

    I would say you can also include the verb "to cook; to prepare (food)" in the definition of 料理 in Chinese, and the food doesn't seem to need to be Japanese.
    Here, I think 善于料理海鲜 (shànyú liàolǐ hǎixiān) means "good at cooking seafood".

    The definition of 料理 at the following site includes both the noun "cuisine" and the verb "cook, prepare food".

  29. John Chew said,

    November 9, 2014 @ 11:07 pm

    Google thinks that 豪華 (gōka = extravagant) is much more common in Japanese use than the yojijukugo 豪華絢爛 that you cite; this matches my personal experience/intuition.

  30. Sjiveru said,

    November 9, 2014 @ 11:56 pm

    The Japanese actually have simplified 華, it's 花 in most contexts (just like in Simplified Chinese). It's preserved in the traditional form specifically in words like 中華 that refer to China rather than flowers – you'd only see something like 華束 (hanataba, 'bouquet') instead of 花束 when the writer's trying to deliberately evoke a sense of old-fashionedness.

  31. Victor Mair said,

    November 10, 2014 @ 9:51 am

    It's not unexpected that Taiwan would adopt the Japanese usage of liàolǐ 料理 to refer to "cooking; cuisine" in a general way, since Japanese influence there was very strong during the first half of the 20th century.I Nor is it surprising that this usage would gradually spread from Taiwan to the Mainland, since this is a pattern that many other Taiwanisms have taken in the last few decades after the post-Nixon opening of China.

    However, I'd like to reiterate that this gradual expansion of the Japanese usage of liàolǐ 料理 to refer to "cooking; cuisine" into more general usage in Taiwan, and from Taiwan to the Mainland, is a recent phenomenon. I cited zdic above which lists the definition of liàolǐ 料理 as "cooking; cuisine" as a Japanese usage. And zdic's set of nine definitions for liàolǐ 料理 is based on Hanyu da cidian, 7.333B, where the ninth definition lists the meaning of "cooking; cuisine" as a Japanese usage. Hanyu da cidian is China's most authoritative large-scale dictionary of words, and it is not all that old, so we should take seriously its characterization of the "cooking; cuisine" definition of liàolǐ 料理 as a Japanese usage.

    Ditto for the adoption of the Japanese kana の to stand for the Taiwanese genitive particle ê [e], and hence to be transferred to other Sinitic topolects to serve a similar purpose, as we have been discussing in another recent post:

    "cactus wawa: the strange tale of a strange character" (11/1/14)


  32. John Swindle said,

    November 10, 2014 @ 7:18 pm

    @Sjiveru: Actually, in the currently official simplified Chinese script 華 becomes 华 and is distinct from 花。

  33. Nathan said,

    November 12, 2014 @ 7:13 am

    I always thought it was cute that ラーメン is "ramen" in English, but "lamen" in Portuguese. Different language traditions, different ways that the transliteration fell out.

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