"Revlon" in Chinese

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We've been through a lot of atrocious Chinglish (check the archives under "Lost in translation"), so we should acknowledge, and even revel in, translational equivalents that are outstandingly good.

It suddenly occurs to me that the Chinese translation of the American cosmetic brand Revlon is so beautiful that it deserves to be highlighted here:

lù huá nóng 露華濃 ("dew [that is] splendid [and] dense")

On the one hand, "Luhuanong" serves as a sound transcription of "Revlon".  On the other hand, the translation of these three syllables provides an apt meaning for the brand name.

These three characters come from the end of the second line of this celebrated quatrain by the Tang poet Li Bo (701-762):


Qīng Píng Diào Sān Shǒu Qí Yī


[pure] [peace] [tune] [three] [poem] ['s] [one]

Song of Purity and Peace, 1 of 3



Yún xiǎng yīshang huā xiǎng róng


[cloud] [think of] [clothes] [garments] [flowers] [think of] [countenance]

Clouds, one thinks of her clothes; flowers, one thinks of her countenance;



Chūnfēng fú kǎn lù huá nóng


[spring] [wind] [brush away] [balustrade] [dew] [splendid] [dense]

the spring wind sweeps dew from her balustrade, splendid and dense.



Ruòfēi qún yùshān tóu jiàn


[if] [not] [group] [jade] [mountain] [top] [see]

If not seen at the peak of the Jade Mountain,



Huì xiàng yáo tái yuè xià féng.


[will] [to] [gemstone] [terrace] [moon] [under] [encounter]

then she will be encountered under the moon on the gemstone terrace.


Tr. Hugh Grigg

In this instance, Revlon's advertising agency certainly earned its salt.

[Thanks to Yijie Zhang]


  1. ycx said,

    October 19, 2019 @ 7:57 am

    I can think of a couple more excellent Chinese translated brand names:

    Coca-Cola: 可口可乐 ke kou ke le "delicious fun"

    Simmons (mattress brand): 席梦思 xi meng si "mat dream thoughts"

    Jaguar (car brand): 捷豹 jie bao "fast leopard"

    Colgate: 高露洁 gao lu jie "high dew clean"

    BMW: 宝马 bao ma "treasure horse"

    Tide (detergent): 汰渍 tai zi "remove dirt"

  2. Steve Jones said,

    October 19, 2019 @ 9:48 am

    Moving on to personal names, two of my faves, also well-chosen, are 帅克 (Švejk) and 圣桑 (Saint-Saëns), which I combined into a fantasy headline along with 兔子不拉屎 (toothbrush) here:


  3. Victor Mair said,

    October 19, 2019 @ 11:49 am

    From Chenfeng Wang:

    I'm so excited that you wrote about this, because I noticed this phenomenon long before and I'm really interested in it. Many American and European cosmetic brand names, the meanings of which are very plain and ordinary in their original languages, are translated beautifully in Chinese. Here are some more examples that I noticed, although they are not as poetic as Revlon that you mentioned:

    Head and Shoulders, 海飞丝
    Fresh, 馥蕾诗
    Benefit, 贝玲妃
    Origins, 悦木之源/品木宣言
    La Mer (French, means the sea), 海蓝之谜
    Makeup Forever, 浮生若梦

  4. David Marjanović said,

    October 19, 2019 @ 6:10 pm

    Coca-Cola: 可口可乐 ke kou ke le "delicious fun"

    [can] [mouth] [can] [joy]
    "you can taste it; you can enjoy it"
    "Taste and Enjoy™"

  5. liuyao said,

    October 19, 2019 @ 10:13 pm

    Not sure what other sense "dense" has, I doubt if it adequately translates 濃. Maybe it's similar to 香 in that it doesn't have a good English translation; instead one has to list the range of things it can be used to describe.

    (Wish it had a brief translation for each compound word.)

  6. Calvin said,

    October 19, 2019 @ 10:13 pm

    The 露華濃 translation came from 黃霑, a legendary Hong Kong lyricist and songwriter. He was well-educated in both Chinese and English. Lesser know is that he was also an adman, where he did copywriting and branding for many well-known brands.

  7. loonquawl said,

    October 21, 2019 @ 1:20 am

    Can somebody clue in the non-native-speaker? Is there actual meaning in the (english?) word "Revlon"? Is it a pun? Or is the Chinese 'translation' simply something that sounds kinda sorta like it and additionally combines words that a marketeer would like to see associated with the brand?

    Wikipedia has it as founded by the Revson brothers ("Rev…") and Lachman ("RevL…")

  8. Jenny Chu said,

    October 22, 2019 @ 12:10 am

    A truly excellent translation would be one that works in multiple topolects. Alas, I can't think of any at the moment; I only recall that the Chinese name for Schroders (mutual fund company) "施羅德" was introduced to the media in Hong Kong some years back … and while the meaning is fine, the sound doesn't work quite as well in Cantonese as in Mandarin. Does anyone know any good ones?

  9. tzk said,

    October 22, 2019 @ 1:40 am

    I always sort of wished Best Buy had cheekily used a direct word-for-word translation of their English name: 最好買 [best / you'd better] [buy]. Obviously that's not a very authentic-sounding Chinese name, but given how they ended up faring in China they may as well have named themselves 沒人買.

    It's interesting that a lot of foreign companies — at least ones that entered the market a long while back — seem to choose classical or poetic Chinese names, which you don't see very much with actual Chinese companies. One of the most striking is the IT company Oracle, whose Chinese name 甲骨文 refers to the oracle bone inscriptions that were the first (?) examples of written Chinese. I feel like a Chinese company trying to register the same name would have been told it was off limits and that they should just call themselves Shenzhen City Futian District [two arbitrary characters, of which at least one is 恒, 盛, 华, or 博] Information Technology Development Environmental Protection Energy Saving Real Estate Group Stock Holding Co. Ltd.

  10. Rodger C said,

    October 23, 2019 @ 6:46 am

    Nobody's answered Loonquawl. Yes, L, as far as I can make out, your second alternative is the fact of the matter.

  11. Victor Mair said,

    October 23, 2019 @ 3:34 pm

    From Qing Liao:

    I first came to know Revlon through Eileen Zhang 张爱玲, the great novelist, who translated her favorite lipstick brand into 露华浓 in her novel. And she went so far as to translate Max Factor, another beauty brand, into 蜜丝佛陀, such a sweet name for teenage girls.

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