Greater China Co-Prosperity Sushi and Ramen Kitchen

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The small, thin, spindly, inconspicuous characters at the top of the sign say:

Hànzǔ Yàzhōu chúfáng


"Han heritage Asian kitchen"

Hànzǔ 汉祖 probably refers to the first emperor of the Han Dynasty (202 BC-9 AD, 25-220 AD), Hàn Gāozǔ  汉高祖 ("High Ancestor / Founder / Forebear / Progenitor of the Han", the eponymous dynasty of the Han people / nationality [Hàn mínzú 汉民族]; 256-195 BC).  It could also conceivably refer to the "origin" or "ancestry" of the Han people, as I translate above for felicity's sake, "Han heritage".

In contrast, the wording of the overwhelmingly large, thick, blockish Hànyǔ Pīnyīn ("Sinitic spelling") is simply HANZU — without tones marked.  That could be either Hànzǔ 汉祖 (i.e., Han Gaozu; Han heritage) or Hànzú 汉族 / 漢族 ("Han people / ethnicity / ethnic group / race / nationality") — Han being "the largest ethnic group indigenous to China"; the autonymHan” is derived from the Han dynasty (206 BC–220 AD).  (see here and here)

The problem is that nearly all individuals who look at the sign and have even a smidgen of knowledge about Chinese history and culture will interpret HANZU as the latter, Han people / ethnicity / etc., rather than as Han Gaozu (founding emperor of the Han).

Hànzǔ 汉祖 416,000 ghits

Hànzú 汉族 24,900,000 ghits

As Zihan Guo puts it so well:

Dire problem with relying heavily on pinyin. The overwhelmingly conspicuous “Hanzu" in the board would make every Chinese think of 汉族, like you did, nonetheless. I wonder if there is any intention therein.

You can read the English yourself and make of it what you will.

The title of this post is a takeoff on the Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere, "a concept that was developed in the Empire of Japan and propagated to Asian populations which were occupied by it from 1931 to 1945".

So many ironies!


Selected readings


[h.t. Anders Corr]


  1. Cervantes said,

    June 4, 2023 @ 1:49 pm

    There used to be a restaurant in Providence named Pan Asian Cuisine (or something like that, it closed a few years ago) that served Szechuan cuisine. Don't know what to make of that either.

  2. anon said,

    June 4, 2023 @ 2:07 pm

    The Chinese clearly says 汉祖 hánzǔ. Whether that refers to the founder of the Han dynasty or something else I'll leave up to the sinologists here.
    For reference, the restaurant is in Prague and is a "pop-up" subsidiary of SaSaZu. According to their website, the managers are Czech and the chef, Andy Tan (born Eng Gie Tan), is from Indonesia. The menu is offered in English, Czech and Hebrew — no Chinese.

  3. Victor Mair said,

    June 4, 2023 @ 3:45 pm

    The reference information provided by anon is invaluable for understanding the background of the thorny questions raised in the o.p.

  4. Pamela said,

    June 9, 2023 @ 10:56 am

    of course there are certain people who think "pan-Asian" would necessary mean汉祖

  5. B.Ma said,

    June 10, 2023 @ 3:58 am

    祖 (zou2) and 族 (zuk6) have clearly different pronunciations, so no, nobody in my family over 50 would mistakenly think of 汉族 as they don't read Pinyin :)

    I probably would though, because my eyes would be drawn to the Romanisation first, and I only really say 汉族 in Mandarin (in Cantonese I think I would be more likely to say 唐人 in the same contexts).

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