What does 250 mean in Chinese

Dumb, dumber, 250 in China

The number 250 in China represents great stupidity and 250 (èrbǎiwǔ) is a grave insult. This corresponds to our “fool”. This is explained with this beautiful old story:

During the Northern and Southern Dynasties (420-589 AD), China had many different kingdoms, including the Southern Qi Dynasty (479-502). These were troubled times and more than one gruesome crime occurred. One day, Su Qin, a good friend of the ruler, was brutally murdered.

In order to find the murderer, the king came up with a clever plan. He deliberately spread the false news that his friend was an enemy of the state with rebellious intent and whose death prevented a civil war. He promised the “hero” who could prove to have eliminated him 1,000 gold pieces as a reward.

Four men then came forward, each claiming that they had killed Su Qin. Because none of them had evidence of this, they suggested that each of them should be given 250 gold pieces. The king had long since had a different plan and had the 250, as he called it, killed.

Since then, the number 250 in China has stood for something stupid, idiotic. If you want 250 RMB for a product, this is considered a gross insult in the ears of the Chinese buyer.

Another explanation: 250 in China

Coins were once combined into loops of 1000 pieces (diao) (hence the holes in ancient Chinese coins). These loops are called bàndiàozi (半弔子 or 半吊子). Literally translated, this means: half a diao, i.e. 500 coins. At that time, Chinese scholars liked to refer to themselves as bandiaozi with great modesty. That was not dishonorable, because it was a common humility in China. But to call someone 250 (Erbaiwu), or a quarter of the Diao, goes far beyond that and is considered an insult.

To simply say two hundred and fifty and mean the number, use the following numbers as an aid: 兩百 五 (lǐang bǎi wǔ): 兩 stands for “two” when it comes to a count: That's why you order “two beers!” with 兩 瓶 啤酒 lǐang píng píjiǔ (= two bottles of beer), not with 二 èr (two).

If you take a closer look, there is also a character 十 = ten missing. Without the ten, you'd think you'd translate it as 205. But something is missing for 205: 205 is correct 二 百零五.零 means zero.


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