When I studied Mandarin Chinese in the early 1990's my teacher told me that there is no word for "liberation" because it is not a concept in Chinese culture. She thought for a minute, tried a few Chinese possible words [ I have forgotten them] and said "no, it's not a concept in China". I think that we were talking about mainly political liberation rather than other types.

Was that true then? Is it the case now?

  • 2
    Of course there is a word: 解放
    – user58955
    Commented Jul 30, 2014 at 9:16
  • But the meaning of the word "解放" has been twisted in China since 1945. Same fate to "普選" (universal suffrage) since 2013.
    – Henry HO
    Commented Jul 30, 2014 at 9:58
  • Another sample usage of "解放" in China: There is a wiki subject called "西藏和平解放" (Peaceful Liberation of Tibet). Its English version is titled as "Incorporation of Tibet into the People's Republic of China".
    – Henry HO
    Commented Jul 31, 2014 at 3:21
  • How was 普选 twisted? Well, that's just a different political perspective. From the CCP perspective, they liberated the serfs in Tibet.
    – user58955
    Commented Jul 31, 2014 at 6:30
  • [1] CCP liberated serfs in Tibet but also "incorporated" the whole Tibet; and they said they liberated Tibet. -- This is not merely "difference in political perspective". [2] CCP says all HK people will be allowed to vote for the Chief Executive but they will be imposing strict control on the candidate list through manipulation of the nominating committee; and they say it is "universal suffrage" -- This is not merely "difference in political perspective" either.
    – Henry HO
    Commented Aug 1, 2014 at 0:37

1 Answer 1


Your teacher was probably not very good.

The typical Chinese word for "liberation" is 解放, and it has been used in the same sense of political liberation for many years. Apart from its use in Communist Chinese apparatus (i.e. People's Liberation Army), you also have examples like:

Alternatively, "liberation" can, and has, sometimes been translated using 自由 ("freedom"), depending on the context. Examples include the French newspaper Libération, which has occasionally been translated as 自由報 or 自由人報. Similarly, the video game Assassin's Creed III: Liberation has been translated in Taiwan as 刺客教條3:自由使命.

This might be because the word 解放 may be perceived as carrying revolutionary connotations (which some might want to avoid), which is not altogether dissimilar from the situation in English. This works because often the meaning of "liberation" can be expressed as 爭取自由/平等 or equivalent.

  • I think using 自由 for liberation is more to do with the link to "liberty", which is often translated as 自由. Commented Jul 31, 2014 at 1:00

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