What does "Fangcang" literally mean in "Fangcang hospital" where China relocated those infected with Covid-19, but who had only mild (or no) symptoms?

Somewhat "close but no cigar", a Lancet paper explains

The term Fangcang, which sounds similar to Noah's Ark in Chinese, was borrowed from military field hospitals [...]

But it's still not clear to me what the word actually means.


3 Answers 3



After reading fefe's comment, I did more search and found this 方舱医院是什么


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So "方舱" is obviously referring to those rectangular mobile units.

方舱医院 should be translated as "mobile cabins hospital"

As for the relationship between 方 and 方舟, may just be a coincidence

It is easy for people who never heard of 方舱 to link 方 with 方舟, due to the current crisis. If 方舱医院 didn't exist before this pandemic, my previous theory would be a fitting one

Previous theory:

"Noah's Ark" in Chinese is 「諾亞方舟」 or 「方舟」 (literally mean 'square ship') 「方艙」(Fangcang) is made up of 「方舟」and 「艙」(cabin) "Fangcang hospital" literally mean "Cabins of Noah's Ark hospital" We all know what the term 'Noah's Ark' implies

  • Do you have a source that show this theory?
    – fefe
    Commented Apr 6, 2020 at 12:46
  • 「方艙」 is mentioned here takungpao.com.hk/news/232108/2020/0207/413521.html. Notice 艙 Radical is 舟, Which mean 艙 is referring to ship cabin
    – Tang Ho
    Commented Apr 6, 2020 at 12:48
  • 1
    I mean, the link between 方舱 and 诺亚方舟
    – fefe
    Commented Apr 6, 2020 at 12:50
  • Notice 艙 Radical is 舟, Which mean 艙 is originally referring to ship cabin
    – Tang Ho
    Commented Apr 6, 2020 at 12:52
  • 1
    It seems that "方舱" is not limited to be used for hospitals. It has a lot of other use in the military. here a lot of different 方舱 are listed: "军、民用方舱、防弹方舱、通讯方舱、移动方舱、监测方舱、气象方舱、医疗方舱"
    – fefe
    Commented Apr 6, 2020 at 13:18

Literally, "Fang" means "square". "Cang" means "cabin". So it just means square cabin hospital. The Chinese Army call it this name just for imaginary and brevity.


方舱医院 = field hospital. The London Edexcel Hospital (the temporary one made in the previous exhibition centre/olympics venue) is called, in Mandarin news reports, a 方舱医院。 so in current usage, i'd say "field hospital" is the best translation; (it's not made of square modular cabins, and it's not military, so i would drop the "military" out of our usual phrase of a military field hospital.)

  • field hospital is translated as 野战医院. they can be just a bunch of tents. 方舱医院 is a kind of field hospital , but it is more specific on how it is constructed
    – Tang Ho
    Commented Jun 20, 2020 at 23:51

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