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骠骑, meaning "very fast horse", was also the name of a general rank in ancient China (骠骑将军, roughly meaning "General of the Flying Cavalry"). How is it correctly pronounced?

Both 骠 and 骑 have two different pronunciations, piào/biāo and qí/jì. Interestingly, I've seen and heard all sorts of different pronunciations for 骠骑:

biāo qí

piào qí

piào jì

So then the question comes: which one is right? Are there regional differences? Are there different correct versions? Are they all correct?

  • 2
    Entry 骑 in Mainland's 现代汉语词典 only has one pronunciation , it merges the meanings "riding" and "horse" into one pronunciation, but in Taiwan they are still separated. IMO, piào jì is the most correct one. – Stan Feb 26 '16 at 14:34
  • Btw liang'an says 【臺拼】piàojì 【陸拼】piàoqí – user3306356 Feb 26 '16 at 15:54
  • I heard people say biāo jì, no one say X qi, that's weird. And 车骑将军, che ji, no one say che qi. and 马军小骠(biao)将, – wolfrevo Feb 28 '16 at 18:41
  • @Jacob if you can find a dictionary or authoritative entry for biāo jì then feel free to edit it into the question, it completes the collection :) – congusbongus Feb 29 '16 at 0:26
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Interesting, I saw reasons for several pronunciations.

(Sorry for leaving some 文言(ancient Chinese)because I don't know how to properly translate from ancient Chinese to English)

The origin of this word:《史记·卫将军骠骑列传》:

冠军霍去病既侯三岁,元狩二年春,以冠军霍去病为骠骑将军,将万骑出陇西,有功。

【集解】徐广曰:“骠,一作‘剽’” :骠 can be also written as '剽' piāo

【正义】《说文》云:“骠(biāo),黄马鬣白色,一曰白髦尾” 骠 is yellow horse with write hair on head or neck, also said has a write tail

(Both 集解 and 正义 are famous comments on 史记)

And after looking up my dictionary, initially I think the answer is piào which means brave.

For 骑, qí means riding, jì means the person who rides horse.

以霍去病为骠骑将军,将万骑 (I simplified the sentence here)

means assigned 霍去病 as 骠骑将军, then commanded ten thousands of 骑(cavalryman)

I can't infer a certain conclusion which one should be chosen:

qí : the name is saying something about the person's riding

jì : it's 骑将军 who commands 骑(cavalryman)

Personally speaking, I think the later is more reasonable and the former is a bit meaningful.

In fact this question is somehow opinion-based because answering it requires interpreting ancient articles which is debatable.

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骠骑: The correct one is piào jì

骠: piào for adjective(being brave and fast) and biāo for noun(a kind of horse).

骑: jì for noun(a horse or other ridable animal) and qí for verb(to ride) (modern Chinese only keeps qí after 1985).

You should use the old time standard when reading an ancient poetry or something. e.g. 一骑(jì)红尘妃子笑

(骠骑 is an ancient word, so use jì instead of qí)

  • FYI, mainland's 《普通话异读词审音表》(released in Dec 1985) marked 骑 as "统读" (merged to one pronunciation), but today people pronounce it as for "cavalryman" just because of the habit. And for other "pronunciation divergences" referred to ancient works, people also do not follow the 审音表 well. – Stan Feb 27 '16 at 1:16

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