"I am Chairman Mao's Bitch"

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Jeff DeMarco saw this sign in the window of a building in Hong Kong’s Sheung Wan district in 2009:

Jeff writes:

I’m not familiar with the first two hanzi, but the rest of the line seems to be “with her husbands…”.  I am curious as to how that becomes “I am Chairman Mao’s bitch!”

The Chinese says:

Jiāng Qīng hé tā de zhàngfūmen


"Jiang Qing and her husbands"

Grammar note:  men 們 is the plural suffix.

Mao had the following wives:

Luo Yixiu (m. 1907–d. 1910, Yang Kaihui (m. 1920–d.1930), He Zizhen (m. 1928 / 1930–div. 1937),  Jiang Qing (m. 1938–1976) 

Jiang Qing had the following husbands:

Pei Minglun ​(m. 1931),​ Yu Qiwei (m. 1932)​, Tang Na ​(m. 1936)​ Mao Zedong​​ (m. 1938)​

There is a historical source for the English translation that puzzled Jeff:

Jiang Qing and Her Husbands is a Chinese historical play written by Sha Yexin in 1990. The play follows Jiang Qing from a young actress in the 1930s to the most powerful Chinese woman in the 1970s, focusing on her relationships with the many men in her life including Mao Zedong. The play draws comparisons between Jiang Qing and one of her best-known acting roles, Nora in Henrik Ibsen's A Doll's House.

Owing to its highly sensitive subject, the play was banned in both mainland China and British Hong Kong. In 2010, the play was adapted by Perry Chiu Experimental Theatre and premiered in Hong Kong's Sheung Wan Civic Centre in Cantonese. Starring Perry Chiu as Jiang Qing and produced by Chiu's husband Clifton Ko, the adaptation was also successfully performed in Canada. but actually differs in content from the original. The adaptation's English title is I Am Chairman Mao's Bitch!, which derives from a famous quote by Jiang Qing during her 1980 trial (and also featured in the play): "I was Chairman Mao's dog. When he told me to bite someone, I did it."


This matches the time and place where Jeff saw the above announcement.  You would definitely not see such a sign, especially not on a municipal services building(!), after the imposition of the National Security Law in Hong Kong on June 30, 2020.

I don't know for sure what Jiang Qing actually said at the trial that got rendered in English as "I am Chairman Mao's bitch", but this (according to the subtitles) is what she said in the play, as performed in Cantonese in Canada:

Wǒ shì zhǔxí de yītiáo gǒu, zhǔxí jiào wǒ yǎo shuí jiù yǎo shuí


"I am the chairman's dog, I bite whomever the chairman tells me to bite"


According to Wikiquote and many other online sources (with minor variations), she said:

Wǒ shì Máo zhǔxí de yītiáo gǒu﹐jiào wǒ yǎo shuí jiù yǎo shuí!


"I am chairman Mao's dog, I bite whomever he tells me to bite"

How life has changed in Hong Kong!

Selected readings


  1. Bathrobe said,

    June 16, 2021 @ 11:42 pm

    And of course, 'bitch' here fits in nicely with the two main meanings of the word in English, 'female dog' and 'nasty woman'.

  2. Twill said,

    June 17, 2021 @ 12:53 am

    In this context, the first reading for me is in the sexual realm (which, rightly or wrongly, I associate more with AAVE), which is of course not at all faithful to Jiang's famous quote, but perhaps was intended here.

  3. Geoff said,

    June 17, 2021 @ 8:05 am

    "When I appear the people hang / upon my words"!

  4. J.W. Brewer said,

    June 17, 2021 @ 10:18 am

    I would generally* agree with Twill, in that the current English (not sure if it extends beyond AmEng or not?) idiom "to be so-and-so's bitch" does not at all mean the same thing as the idiom "to be so-and-so's attack dog," which seems to be more what JIang QIng (and/or the fictionalized version of her in the play) probably meant in context. In the former idiom, the relevant sense of "bitch" is the one given as number 6 for the noun here: https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/bitch

    *The idiom is certainly based on a sexual metaphor but is also used in contexts where no literal sexual acts are implied, so I might respectfully dissent from Twill's "in the sexual realm" characterization.

  5. Bloix said,

    June 17, 2021 @ 3:16 pm

    When I was a young lawyer I worked briefly at a small firm. There were two senior associates – lawyers with hopes of becoming partners – who worked mostly for one fairly evil name partner. They did what they were told, and they did it with enthusiasm. We junior lawyers called these guys the running dogs.

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