In the first episode of the Chinese-Japanese anime collaboration 一人之下, we see Zhang Chulan (张楚岚) in a classroom at his university. Just prior to this, we see a still of a university building, with a plague that appears to read (left to right) 南不海大学.

This struck me, at first glance, as an implausible combination of characters: I could not think of any reasonable reading for them. Moreover, my sense is that 不 only makes sense attached to a verb (他不说德语) or adjective (这份功课不难), unless it is attached to 是, in which case a noun can follow (这本书不是罪与罚).

Is my intuition correct, or is there actually a plausible reading for this sequence of characters?

  • It's a fictitious name.
    – ElpieKay
    Jul 13, 2016 at 2:02

3 Answers 3


It's just a wordplay, in the original edition, the name of the university is 南不开大学 which is derived from 南开大学 that is famous university in China.

Some people add a "不" in the name of their favouries for fun or to show their likes or respects.

I have met these nickname in social website:

李不白(if you google 李不白 you can see his poems, this guy must be a big fan of 李白, no comments for his poems XD)


张小忌(张无忌, sometimes they use 小)



I think the university name you saw is simply a translation from Japanese. Anyway Chinese is an interesting language where sentences are often compressed to the smallest possible form with words of different parts of speech are mixed, such as nouns being used as adjective. It is also possible in ancient Chinese, as the meaning of 非, but very rarely used that way in modern Chinese.

Also note that ancient Chinese is often unconsciously used in written Chinese for some scholars or people who get in touch with ancient texts too much.


一人之下 is an original Chinese anime, and reworked as animated TV plays in Japan, so it shouldn't be the literal translation from the pronunciation of Japanese language, and 不 here is more likely to be used for pure naming, just like I name my child with any Chinese character.

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