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I encountered 背着 thrice in quick succession in the novel 活着 (pages 10 through 12):

我年轻时吃喝嫖赌,什么浪荡的事都干过。我常去的那家妓院是单名,叫青楼。里面有个胖胖的妓女很招我喜爱,她走路时两片大屁股就像挂在楼前的两只灯笼,晃来晃去。她躺到床上一动一动时,压在上面的我就像睡在船上,在河水里摇呀摇呀。我经常让她背着我去逛街,我骑在她身上像是骑在一匹马上。...

... 我就把那个胖大妓女从床上拖起来,让她背着我回家,叫了抬轿子跟在后面,我到了家好让她坐轿子回青楼。 ...

... 那妓女嘟嘟哝哝背着我往城门走,说什么雷公不打睡觉人 ...

... 在两旁人群的哄笑里,妓女呼哧呼哧背着我小跑起来,嘴里骂道: ...

In each case, the 妓女 (sex worker) is doing 背着 to the main character "我" ("me").

None of the verb definitions of 背 seem to fit these sentences: to be burdened, to carry on one's back, to turn one's back, to hide something from, to learn by heart, to recite from memory. Perhaps it's grammatically possible she's physically carrying him or her back (?), which seems implausible.

Question: What does 背着 mean above?

  • The 妓女 is conscious in the first sentence, right? – Axel Tong Jan 30 at 12:00
  • Also what is the setting in the section of text – Axel Tong Jan 30 at 12:02
  • I added a bit more to give context. Maybe she is physically carrying him after all (?). – Becky 李蓓 Jan 30 at 12:06
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    The dictionary has defined this use of 背 clearly. "(用脊背驮) carry on the back: carry a bundle of straw on the back 背一捆草 " – dan Jan 30 at 12:56
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我年轻时吃喝嫖赌,什么浪荡的事都干过。我常去的那家妓院是单名,叫青楼。里面有个胖胖的妓女很招我喜爱,她走路时两片大屁股就像挂在楼前的两只灯笼,晃来晃去。她躺到床上一动一动时,压在上面的我就像睡在船上,在河水里摇呀摇呀。我经常让她背着我去逛街,我骑在她身上像是骑在一匹马上。...

The first section of text already makes it clear that 背着 refers to the 妓女 carrying the narrator on her back. (because she was fat enough and the narrator felt like he was riding a horse)

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  • That is why backpack is called 背包 – Wayne Cheah Jan 30 at 12:20
  • In 背着, the 着 in this context is read as "with" So 背着 = "back-with", or "with your back" So, 背着, carry "with your back" You can also say 背上, (carry "on your back") – Wayne Cheah Jan 30 at 12:32
  • @WayneCheah you should comment on question – Axel Tong Jan 30 at 12:57
  • I thought both you and fefe have already answered the question. So I just made some side comments to round up the topic. – Wayne Cheah Jan 30 at 13:57
  • I see; I thought you were trying to answer the OP – Axel Tong Jan 30 at 13:59
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Perhaps it's grammatically possible she's physically carrying him or her back (?), which seems implausible.

You're correct. She is physically carrying him on her back.

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