I know that "bamboos are hollow and compartmentalized". "A bamboo rod has an empty middle". But I still cannot connect the dots! I can't think up any relation between bamboo + filch or swindling.

  1. Is this etymology related to that of 竹升?


Noun 竹槓

  1. thick bamboo pole
  2. (figurative) rip-off



extortion by taking advantage of sb's weakness ( 敲竹杠 )

2 Answers 2


"敲竹杠" is used to describe the unethical action of "bribery", "holdup for outsized reward", and "cheating by escalating selling price on unsophisticated customers".

@Tang Ho has provided the story for the "bribery" aspect of the term, the two short stories cover the aspects of "holdup" and "cheat".

  • 四川山区,有钱人进山烧香时乘坐着一种用竹杆做的滑杆,滑杆由人抬着。走到半山腰抬滑杆的人就敲着滑杠,要求加工钱,否则就不抬人,乘坐滑杆的只好加钱。

  • 清朝末年上海城里有家店铺,老板很不老实,陌生顾客进门,往往随意提价。每当伙计在接待顾客时,店主就敲竹杠一下,示意提价.


竹槓 literally means "bamboo rod"

槓 in Cantonese sounds like 降 (down) which reminds people of 降職 (demote). Some superstitious people changed 槓 to 昇 (rise) and called it 竹昇

敲竹槓 is common slang for 'extort' or 'blackmail'

There are four different explanations of how this term came to be. The most believable one is the following because it fits the modern usage of the term 敲竹槓 (extort/ blackmai) the most



(Opium smugglers hid their goods in bamboo rods. Someone saw through it and tapped on their bamboo rods in front of the inspectors to extort the smugglers who then pulled him aside and paid him for his silence)

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