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"May you live in interesting times" is well-known to be a Chinese curse (and this may even be true).

The English translation is interesting because, at least in the culture I was raised in, 'interesting' usually has a positive connotation, and so the phrase sounds like a blessing if you don't know what it's getting at.

I'm curious if the same is true in the original Chinese.


For those unfamiliar with the phrase, "interesting times" are times where interesting things happen like war, famine, unrest, et cetera.

  • Do you have the Chinese that this expression comes from? – haksayng Aug 4 '17 at 16:50
  • @haksayng: No clue; I've only ever heard the phrase in English (and do not actually know Chinese). – user17638 Aug 4 '17 at 16:51
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It appears that while this phrase may have been called a "well-known Chinese curse", nobody has ever been able to find a Chinese source confirming this.

Fred R. Shapiro who is the editor of “The Yale Book of Quotations” has noted that: “No authentic Chinese saying to this effect has ever been found”. In addition, Ralph Keyes stated in “The Quote Verifier” that nobody has ever been able to confirm the Chinese origin claim.

Quote Investigator has a piece on this phrase (found via sources on English Wikipedia).

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May you live in interesting time wiki. Wiki clearly explains everything. From my point of view, someone loved around 17~ 19 century tried to be a swagger, pretend he knew Chinese culture well and then he created saying. (Unlikely to be a She)

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I am a native chinese,and I had never ever heard or read this before you typed it.I cant get it...what does it mean?I mean there is on chinese would say that,it make no sense at all