No Japanese, South Koreans, or dogs

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Here we go again.  Image trending on WeChat, a sign on a Beijing bus:

The sign at the bottom right reads:

Hánguó rén
Rìběn rén
yǔ gǒu
jìn shàng chē


South Koreans
and dogs
are forbidden to board

Relevant Language Log posts:

The last post explains the current hatred of South Koreans; Japanese are (officially) hated all the time.


  1. Mara K said,

    March 8, 2017 @ 10:41 pm

    This reminds me of a story my grandmother tells occasionally, about signs in US shop windows in that said "No dogs or Jews allowed."

  2. John Rohsenow said,

    March 8, 2017 @ 10:54 pm

    It looks so official. But is it just put up by some individual? Interesting that it was not taken down by the authorities.

  3. David Smegmer said,

    March 9, 2017 @ 1:49 am

    What is the opinion of the average Chinese person toward this sort of childish behavior? I can't read Chinese or use the Chinese half of the internet quite well enough to find out, but I would wonder whether the comments and reason behind the popularity of this image on the Chinese internet is that readers are shocked by the image, rather than amused.

    Professor Mair's other post today, about the poem satirizing China's international pouts, would seem to imply that recent (and ancient, of course) distastes are perhaps less genuinely believed and held than the government's saber-rattling might suggest to a casual observer.

  4. boynamedsue said,

    March 9, 2017 @ 3:07 am

    The "no x, no y, no dogs" thing is often traced back to the probably apocryphal "no no blacks, no dogs, no Irish" signs which are "remembered" in London in the '50s and '60s, but which don't seem to have been mentioned until the '80s.

    Unfortunately it seems the formula is very much alive in China.

  5. John said,

    March 9, 2017 @ 3:33 am

    boynamedsue: In China the apocryphal tracing of the formula goes much further back. It's often (incorrectly) believed that a park in a foreign "concession" in Shanghai in the early 20th century had the sign "No Chinese or dogs allowed." You can read about the myth in the Wikipedia page for the park:

    Though the sign did not ever exist, it is true that Chinese people were banned from the park, which explains signs like this remain so potent in China nowadays.

  6. David Marjanović said,

    March 9, 2017 @ 5:48 am

    I'm surprised 韩国 has come to mean specifically South Korea, specifically enough that it can be officially hated on. How did this happen? What is North Korea popularly called?

  7. Thomas Rees said,

    March 9, 2017 @ 5:58 am

    I believe North Korea is 朝鲜.

  8. Victor Mair said,

    March 9, 2017 @ 6:08 am

    Cháoxiǎn 朝鲜 for North Korea.

    From the Wikipedia article on "Korea":


    In South Korea, Korea as a whole is referred to as Hanguk (한국, [haːnɡuk], lit. "country of the Han"). The name references the Samhan—Ma, Jin, and Byeon—who preceded the Three Kingdoms in the southern and central end of the peninsula during the 1st centuries BC and AD. Although written in Hanja as 韓, 幹, or 刊, this Han has no relation to the Chinese place names or peoples who used those characters but was a phonetic transcription (OC: *Gar, MC Han[12] or Gan) of a native Korean word that seems to have had the meaning "big" or "great", particularly in reference to leaders. It has been tentatively linked with the title khan used by the nomads of Manchuria and Central Asia.

    In North Korea, China, Japan, Vietnam, and Chinese and Vietnamese-speaking areas, Korea as a whole is referred to as Chosŏn (조선, Joseon, [tɕosʰʌn],, (朝鲜), Cháoxiǎn, (朝鮮), Chōsen, Triều Tiên (朝鮮) lit. "[land of the] Morning Calm"). "Great Joseon" was the name of the kingdom ruled by the Joseon dynasty from 1393 until their declaration of the short-lived Great Korean Empire in 1897. King Taejo had named them for the earlier Kojoseon (고조선), who ruled northern Korea from its legendary prehistory until their conquest in 108 BC by China's Han Empire. This go is the Hanja 古 and simply means "ancient" or "old"; it is a modern usage to distinguish the ancient Joseon from the later dynasty. Joseon itself is the modern Korean pronunciation of the Hanja 朝鮮 but it is unclear whether this was a transcription of a native Korean name (OC *T[r]awser, MC Trjewsjen[12]) or a partial translation into Chinese of the Korean capital Asadal (아사달), [14] whose meaning has been reconstructed as "Morning Land" or "Mountain".

    In the PRC they refer to North Korea as Cháoxiǎn 朝鲜 and South Korea as Hánguó 韩国. In Taiwan, South Korea is Nánhán 南韩 and North Korea is Běihán 北韩.

  9. John said,

    March 9, 2017 @ 6:09 am

    These signs show up in Japan occasionally and it is usually any sort of gaijin who are the object of hatred. Sometimes it is specifically directed at Koreans / Chinese / Russians.

    And of course in Korea there are places you only know exist if a Korean tells you, removing the need for any sign. On my last trip to Korea I noted that PRC visitors were expecting everyone to speak Mandarin, even people running street stalls, yet apart from shop assistants catering specifically to PRC shoppers, the average person was more proficient in English than Mandarin.

    @DM, I can only really speak for Chinese used in Hong Kong however, even in English I would just say Korea (韩国) when I really mean South Korea e.g. "I'm going to Korea next week, do you have any Korean money from your last trip?" If I meant North Korea I would have to mention it specifically and I would say 北韩.

    I would only say or write 南韩 when mentioning NK in the same conversation/website comment. 朝鲜人/族 to me means ethnic Koreans in the PRC.

  10. Lugubert said,

    March 9, 2017 @ 6:58 am

    An alleged Swedish version of the sign mentions a lady offering a room for rent. Last line: "Circus artists and Chalmers [University of technology] students, don't bother."

  11. richardelguru said,

    March 9, 2017 @ 7:08 am

    Does the 'circle with the bar sinister' meaning 'forbidden' over the text constitute a double negative?

  12. Victor Mair said,

    March 9, 2017 @ 7:41 am



  13. ajay said,

    March 9, 2017 @ 11:11 am

    Clearly the actual meaning of the sign is "no racist restrictions allowed on this bus".

  14. Jonfrum said,

    March 9, 2017 @ 12:44 pm

    The 'No Dogs, no X' signs have been reported from so many places over so many years, that I have to suspect that, while they may have existed somewhere at some time, most claims of such are probably bogus victim-grasping. Now, of course, it's been picked up, meme-style. I seem to remember reading that the claims of 'no Irish' signs in Boston, USA are not verified in any contemporary sources.

  15. J.W. Brewer said,

    March 9, 2017 @ 1:31 pm

    The standard debunking of the historicity of "No Irish Need Apply" signs in the U.S. is the 2002 article by Jensen referenced at I have not read the 2015 article by Fried mentioned in the same place purporting (appparently via digging deeper with the recent expansion of searchable online corpora of old texts) to debunk the debunking. Of course there are lots of intermediate points between "X never existed at all" and "not only are there more than zero attested examples of X, X was common-to-ubiquitous."

  16. boynamedsue said,

    March 9, 2017 @ 2:08 pm


    Thanks for the info, I wonder when and where the first example of "no x, no dogs" comes from, and whether it was genuine. Similarly to the Huangpu park situation, there were certainly lodging houses that wouldn't accept Irish lodgers, and I'm sure some may have occasionally put up signs saying "No Irish", but I suspect such deliberate provocations would be rare.

  17. Levantine said,

    March 9, 2017 @ 2:42 pm

    boynamedsue, it's simply not true that such signs are an invention of the 1980s. Kevin O'Connor wrote of them in 1972:…123542.135340.0.135517.….0…1c.1.64.serp..10.0.0.mUniMk4J49I

    And given that "No Irish Need Apply" goes all the way back to the nineteenth century, I see no reason to doubt personal testimonies such as the following:

  18. Levantine said,

    March 9, 2017 @ 2:44 pm

    And here's a reference from 1969:…6207.11478.0.11831.….0…1c.1.64.serp..14.1.481…30i10k1.xEpjI7ucFlM

  19. BasJ said,

    March 9, 2017 @ 5:09 pm

    Why is there a picture of a dog on the sign? Because dogs can't read Chinese?

  20. Anonymous Coward said,

    March 9, 2017 @ 6:09 pm

    David Smegmer: On this particular aspect, China (and the Chinese internet) is divided into two camps that passionately hate each other more than they could ever hate any foreign country.

  21. Eidolon said,

    March 9, 2017 @ 7:17 pm

    "What is the opinion of the average Chinese person toward this sort of childish behavior? I can't read Chinese or use the Chinese half of the internet quite well enough to find out, but I would wonder whether the comments and reason behind the popularity of this image on the Chinese internet is that readers are shocked by the image, rather than amused."

    It would be a mistake to believe that the "average" Chinese person is any less diverse in their views than, say, the average American. There are certainly many Chinese whose views align with official media & the government. But there are also many Chinese who oppose such extremes. The "patriotic" sentiment is probably more popular in traditional political centers, such as Beijing and Nanjing. At least people from these urban centers seem more active on social media. The opinions of China's rural half are much less known, and much harder to measure.

  22. ryan said,

    March 9, 2017 @ 10:45 pm

    I had a girlfriend who sometimes claimed that the No Dogs Allowed sign on her apartment applied to me. I guess that's a different thing though.

  23. Rodger C said,

    March 10, 2017 @ 12:12 pm

    "No Irish need apply" is used, and implied to be a commonly seen catchphrase, in Mark Twain's Roughing It (1872).

  24. David Marjanović said,

    March 11, 2017 @ 6:57 am

    Ah, two synonyms for Korea have become segregated… interesting!

  25. Jonfrum said,

    March 11, 2017 @ 4:16 pm

    My point in questioning the 'no dogs, no Irish' sign meme is less on the possibility that such signs could have existed – obviously, yes – but that claims of such signs have been used in recent history for less than legitimate reasons. The former President of the Massachusetts Senate, William Bugler, is one person who has played the 'no dogs, no Irish' sign card. The suggestion is that Sen. Bugler, from the at one time (at least) notoriously parochial (and unfriendly to African Americans) South Boston, was using the claim to buffer himself and 'his people' from accusations of racism. As in 'They Did It To Us, So We're Victims Too.' Sen. Bulger never gave a citation for his claim. Call it playing the identity politics card.

  26. Ross Bender said,

    March 11, 2017 @ 6:05 pm

    When we first visited Seoul in 1996, my family and I spent weekends visiting the old royal palaces. Most sites had three signboards explaining briefly the history. Two of them, in Korean and English, were about eye-level for the average North American. The third, quite low, was in Japanese.

    That summer the Korean government was in the process of dismantling the old Japanese administration building that stood between the great gate Namdaemun and the old Gyeongbok Royal Palace. One thing I learned was that the Japanese colonial administration had purposely placed the building there to strategically block the good Confucian vibes that flowed south from the throne through the gate to the city.

    The following summer the building was completely gone. I was told it was to be reassembled somewhere as a museum.

  27. J.W. Brewer said,

    March 11, 2017 @ 7:06 pm

    "And the sign said 'Long-haired freaky people need not apply.'" If you take that lyric as strong evidence that signs with that specific wording were ubiquitous in Canada circa 1971, you should probably take the 1862 song "No Irish Need Apply" as plausible evidence that signs with that specific wording were ubiquitous in London around that time. If instead you take the song from '71 as somewhat vaguer evidence of significant social prevalence of anti-hippie attitudes, with the specific sign and its wording being a poetic conceit of the songwriter, you should consider generalizing that insight.

  28. Levantine said,

    March 11, 2017 @ 7:27 pm

    J. W. Brewer, does your scepticisim relate only to signs? The following link from the New York Times makes it abundantly clear that, in the press at least, "No Irish Need Apply" was no mere conceit:

    One can turn your example on its head and argue that "Long-haired freaky people need not apply" came about precisely because actual "No X need apply" signs were widely used and known about.

    I find it curious that the non-survival of signs bearing such messages should be taken to mean that they were not very common. Why would anyone have kept them? What's to say that the majority weren't handwritten on paper and have simply perished? There are many categories of signage in its broadest sense that have left no trace of evidence — posters for certain very famous films, for example.

  29. J.W. Brewer said,

    March 11, 2017 @ 8:03 pm

    I'm not sure what denominator the numerator (36 instances located in what may have been literally millions of NYT want ads, depending on the total range of years considered) applies to, but my point is that once something like a well-known song picks a particular thing (such as a sign or ad with particular wording) as emblematic of a broader phenomenon, it is likely to distort people's perceptions of how common that particular thing (as opposed to the broader phenomenon it may have become a synecdoche for) actually is or was. More generally as to Levantine's question of what my skepticism does or doesn't relate to, when it comes to historical claims that serve a present-day political agenda involving nationalism and/or ethnocentric chauvinism of any kind, my skepticism is quite wide-ranging.

  30. Levantine said,

    March 11, 2017 @ 8:17 pm

    Historical claims serving a present-day agenda? Anti-Black and anti-Irish discrimination are well enough attested without the need to invent signs. What do you think people stand to gain by demonstrating the historical forerunners of the kinds of bigotry and prejudice that abound today?

    Here, if you prefer, are a few thousand examples of the same sort of thing:

  31. boynamedsue said,

    March 13, 2017 @ 3:01 am


    Nobody has doubted that "No Irish" signs existed. I do think they were rare enough in the 1960's to be noteworthy, which is why the authors you link to draw attention to them, but they almost certainly existed. Also the NINA apply signs are very well documented, but part of the 19th century rather than the 1950's wave of fugitives from de Valera's hellhole.

    What I am questioning is the now famous "No blacks, no dogs, no Irish" signs, which are not mentioned till the 80's, and are now common knowledge, despite there only being one purported photo of such which again only surfaced in the 80's.

  32. Levantine said,

    March 13, 2017 @ 3:44 am

    boynamedsue, the book from 1969 for which I provided a link refers to a sign stating "No coloureds. No Irish. No children. No dogs." The reference itself does not prove the sign's existence, much less that signs of this kind were common, but it does show that the trope was around long before the 1980s, even if the wording is different from the now iconic version.

  33. Jens said,

    March 13, 2017 @ 10:39 am

    In the Wikipedia on Korea quoted by Professor Mair, Cháoxiǎn 朝鲜 is interpreted as "the [land of the] Morning Calm." That didn't ring true to me, but I have found that it is true, in a sense, because this is the meaning stipulated by Yi Seong-gye 李成桂, the founder of the Joseon Dynasty (1392 to 1897). In the geographical work Tongguk yŏji sŭngnam 東國輿地勝覽 this meaning is related when it says that “this country is in the east and receives the light of the morning sun first, so it is called '朝鲜'." (This of course resembles the meaning of Japan, 日本 being “the origin of the sun.”)

    This definition requires 朝 to be pronounced zhāo “morning,” so somewhere along the line 朝 must have changed pronunciation. The Korean pronunciation is tɕo.sʌn, tɕo resembling cháo – it that the explanation?

    鲜 means “fresh,” especially of fish and game, but has “bright, clear” as a (rare) extended meaning, making the whole definition plausible, if somewhat farfetched.

    Now, that is far from the whole story, for 朝鲜 was the name of a people or a minor state long before that, so it would probably be fair to say that this ancient name was adopted and favourably reinterpreted by Yi Seong-gye.

    As far as I am able to judge, it is only in popular Japanese blogs on language that another – unfavourable – interpretation is proposed: 朝 means “to bear tribute” and 鲜 is “few, rare,” so 朝鲜 is said to refer to the poor country which seldom offers tribute (presumably to China). (To complicate matters, I find that 鲜 can also be a loan for 獻 “to present tribute,” and if read in this way, 朝鲜 would simply mean “to present tribute.”)

    Incidentally, the name of the country is often pronounced Cháoxiān in Taiwan, with a first tone on the last syllable.

    – I have only used sources readily found on the Internet and claim no special knowledge about Korea and Korean or ancient Asian toponyms – I was only hopeful that a more enlightened answer may be found.

  34. Jongseong Park said,

    March 18, 2017 @ 3:29 pm

    @Jens, if you're still reading: 朝 has two pronunciations in Chinese ('zhāo' and 'cháo' in Mandarin), but has only the reading 조 jo in Korean.

    朝鮮 was the name of an ancient state (which is traditionally regarded as the first Korean state), probably the rendering into Chinese characters of an indigenous name which is now long forgotten. Quite possibly, the rendering was only meant to evoke the sounds of the original name, not the meaning. So I think the speculation based on the Chinese meanings of the characters 朝 and 鮮 isn't likely to be fruitful.

  35. Jens said,

    March 22, 2017 @ 11:45 am

    Thanks, Jongseong – I also felt that these "explanations" were a bit farfetched. There appears to be a certain slur in "the country that seldom presents tribute" – do you know where this reading comes from or when it has arisen? – Jens

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