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


... 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, 2020 at 12:00
  • Also what is the setting in the section of text
    – Axel Tong
    Jan 30, 2020 at 12:02
  • I added a bit more to give context. Maybe she is physically carrying him after all (?).
    – Becky 李蓓
    Jan 30, 2020 at 12:06
  • 1
    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, 2020 at 12:56

2 Answers 2



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)

  • That is why backpack is called 背包 Jan 30, 2020 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") Jan 30, 2020 at 12:32
  • @WayneCheah you should comment on question
    – Axel Tong
    Jan 30, 2020 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. Jan 30, 2020 at 13:57
  • I see; I thought you were trying to answer the OP
    – Axel Tong
    Jan 30, 2020 at 13:59

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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