A (troop / troupe of) dragon(s) tromping / flying

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This is the theme of the forthcoming CCTV Spring Festival Gala to ring in the new year of 2024:


The slogan reads:

lóngxíng dádá ,xīnxīnjiāguó


"The dragon(s) bound upward in flight, bringing joy to home and country."

Since the repeated character is extremely rare, its pronunciation would be known to almost no one, so the editors have provided a ruby pinyin phonological gloss (the Chinese equivalent of furigana, although this usage has been common in the Republic of China with bopomofo [Mandarin Phonetic Symbols] for more than half a century).  Thus the short text has simplified characters, traditional characters (the two 龘龘), and roman letters, which tells us something about what's happening with script in China.

See here for the zdic / handian treatment of the glyph and here for its account on Wiktionary.

It is pronounced dá and is said to be the onomatopoeic representation of a dragon or dragons walking / leaping / flying (different sources give slightly different definitions).  Visually, the sinoglyph looks pretty cramped and crowded, but it has only 48 strokes (!), divided into top-bottom construction.

龘 is said to be a synonym (or rather a variant form) of 龖, which has merely 32 strokes, and is divided into left-right construction.

There is a related character composed of four dragons, two side by side above and two side by side below, for a total of 64 strokes, but it is not pronounced dá and does not signify the bounding, soaring movement of a dragon.   Rather, this monstrosity, a quadruplication of lóng 龍 (“dragon”), is held to be a variant of zhé 讋 that means "loquacious; talkative" (obsolete), but also means "fear; to be afraid; to be frightened" (all literary). (source)

Selected readings

[h.t. rit malors]


  1. Victor Mair said,

    December 4, 2023 @ 7:27 pm

    Dada reminds me of one of Xi Jinping's favorite nicknames.

    Do a Google search for Xi Dada and you'll find lots of references.

  2. John Swindle said,

    December 4, 2023 @ 8:31 pm

    One might think that 龘 dá would have a simplified form, since it's a triplication of 龍 lóng, which does have a simplified form, namely 龙。But was 龘 ever officially simplified? If not, the whole slogan could reasonably be said to be in simplified characters with some pinyin added for pronunciation.

  3. Thomas said,

    December 5, 2023 @ 1:23 am

    What a monstrosity indeed. Is anyone actually able to decipher the beautiful seal on the bottom left without knowing its meaning beforehand? Also, from a Western perspective, it is conspicuous how the whole phrase is symmetrical with the dragon corresponding to country. They just needed to cramp the guó in there, didn't they. I guess we're just lucky that space constraints did not permit the party to be included as well.

  4. Andreas Johansson said,

    December 5, 2023 @ 7:14 am

    Speaking of stroke counts …

    Something that's sometimes advanced as an advantage of hanzi over alphabetic writing is that it squeezes more information into each sign. Now, this is obviously at the cost of the average complexity each sign being higher. Which got me thinking about writing speed. Even using block letters, I could write an entire sentence using 48 strokes worth of Latin letters. Using cursive, I could write several (though of course each indivudal stroke would take more time).

    Does anyone know of any data on how quick writing is with various scripts?

  5. Victor Mair said,

    December 5, 2023 @ 7:40 am

    @Andreas Johansson

    Excellent observations and questions.

    I can't answer them directly, but I will just point to a couple of Language Log posts that speak to the kinetics and esthetics of sinoglyphic writing:

    "Writing characters and writing letters" (11/7/18) — please read carefully the remarks about swype typing of letters and entering characters with one's fingertip on the glass plate of a phone

    "The esthetics of East Asian writing" (4/7/12)

  6. Andreas Johansson said,

    December 5, 2023 @ 7:56 am

    @Victor Mair


    Now I wonder if handwriting in a script like Arabic, which leaves out most vowels, is notably quicker than in fully alphabetic scripts.

  7. DS said,

    December 5, 2023 @ 11:19 am

    Well, happy family and happy country? It's a beautiful new-year wish but I'm seriously wondering whether the school students who are made to write something about this slogan and forced to learn the form of 龘, and the poor host(esse)s who must pronounce four second-tone syllables (lóng xíng dádá) in a row — which sounds so ugly — would be happy!

    Neither will Sinological scholars (like myself) feel happy about this too-much-pretentious and non-sensible quasi-couplet. ;)

    To be honest, I literally thought this 龘龘 was a joke in the first place until I realize it was really officially serious. I was also expecting much mockings and sarcasm from the netizens just like how it was for the romanization of 冰墩墩 and 雪容融 ("Bing Dwen Dwen" and "Shuey Rhon Rhon") in 2018. Of course, despite the majority of patriotism- and national pride-infused eulogies on how complex hanzi could be and how this should make every Chinese excited about their culture's uniqueness, I still found some critical comments. Ironically, they come from some pro-communist web influencers on the Chinese weibo platforms. One influencer says:


    "This dádá crap — whatever it is, there is an attitude reflected: The leitmotif artwork in China is already only for the benefit of certain interest groups instead of the public. Its end-products are not made for common people to enjoy, therefore they don't care about how common people would think."

    A second influencer says:


    "Perhaps he even swore that it should never be seen by the common people. Otherwise (even) he himself find it hard to explain (its meaning)."

    A third influencer says:


    "Perhaps the person who thought of this b*s* (i.e. dádá) were still indulging in the joy over his own success: 'Look at how "educated" the word that I found is! No one could know this character until I taught them!' "

    Let's face the reality how it's hated by all sides (who have a brain): the liberalists and even the pro-communist influencers within China, haha!

    As for the logo, which I believe to be in seal script, looks too much cramped. Chinese art values "leaving blanks" (留白) very much and this logo is clearly the opposite of leaving any blank spaces for imagination — just like this jammed-up era with simply too much information for us to calm down and read for ourselves.

  8. Chris Button said,

    December 5, 2023 @ 4:16 pm

    There appears to be an oracle-bone form that is structurally identical to 龖, although it seems that's about all that can be said there.

  9. Victor Mair said,

    December 5, 2023 @ 4:27 pm

    If you can't decipher the character Chris Button posted just above, it's two dragons next to each other, left-right.

  10. katarina said,

    December 6, 2023 @ 1:38 pm

    Congratulations to the composer of this slogan for coming up with the supreme flattery of Xi Jinping (nickname DaDa "great great") as
    soaring dragon-cum-nation !

  11. katarina said,

    December 6, 2023 @ 1:52 pm

    @Andreas Johansson:


    Thanks for the critical influencers' remarks. However, I'd
    translate "个破玩意儿" not as "dádá crap " or "this b*s* (i.e. dádá)"' but as "this dádá stuff".

  12. Jonathan Smith said,

    December 6, 2023 @ 7:06 pm

    re: "'龘龘'这个破玩意儿"

    but if "this dádá stuff", it's not 破 :D
    My choice — "this lame 'dada' gimmick"
    ChatGPT — "The broken thing 'dada'" — so humans remain superior wrt this noun phrase at least.

  13. ZZZ said,

    December 19, 2023 @ 3:00 pm

    Strangely the "victims" of this 龘龘 gimmick that pops up in my mind are the poor Chinese babies, born in 2024 (the year of dragon), whose parents would incorporate 龘 in their names…. Oh believe me, Chinese parents would do that. Professor Mair may want to write a post about the naming cult among the parents who use 小红书 ("little red book", a popular Chinese social media that promotes luxurious life of the upper-middle class and targets mostly at women in their 20s or early 30s). The more complicated a baby's name is, the more "sophisticated" or "educated" the parents, especially the mother, would be regarded as. Therefore baby names with four, even five characters, became trendy for the past 3-5 years — not to mention those names with the most numbers of strokes or the usage of historical hapax-legomena dug out from some corner of the 辞海.

    Poor babies. Can't imagine how many little newborns will face the first mishap in their lives: having dá 龘 in their names and, six years later, learning to write it in school…

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