Ten thousand years
The use of the phrase "ten thousand years" in various East Asia
East Asia
East Asia or Eastern Asia is a subregion of Asia that can be defined in either geographical or cultural terms...

n languages originated in ancient China
History of China
Chinese civilization originated in various regional centers along both the Yellow River and the Yangtze River valleys in the Neolithic era, but the Yellow River is said to be the Cradle of Chinese Civilization. With thousands of years of continuous history, China is one of the world's oldest...

 as an expression used to wish long life to the Emperor
Emperor of China
The Emperor of China refers to any sovereign of Imperial China reigning between the founding of Qin Dynasty of China, united by the King of Qin in 221 BCE, and the fall of Yuan Shikai's Empire of China in 1916. When referred to as the Son of Heaven , a title that predates the Qin unification, the...

, and is typically translated as "long live" in English. Due to the political and cultural influence of China
Chinese civilization may refer to:* China for more general discussion of the country.* Chinese culture* Greater China, the transnational community of ethnic Chinese.* History of China* Sinosphere, the area historically affected by Chinese culture...

 in the area, and in particular of the Chinese language
Chinese language
The Chinese language is a language or language family consisting of varieties which are mutually intelligible to varying degrees. Originally the indigenous languages spoken by the Han Chinese in China, it forms one of the branches of Sino-Tibetan family of languages...

, cognates with similar meanings and usage patterns appeared in many East Asian languages.


The phrase wansui (萬歲; literally "ten thousand years") was once used casually. During the Tang Dynasty
Tang Dynasty
The Tang Dynasty was an imperial dynasty of China preceded by the Sui Dynasty and followed by the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms Period. It was founded by the Li family, who seized power during the decline and collapse of the Sui Empire...

, it came to be used exclusively to address the emperor as a prayer for his long life and reign. Then, during the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms period, its use was temporarily extended to include certain higher ranking members of the imperial court, but this tradition was relatively short-lived: in later imperial history, using it to address someone other than the emperor was considered an act of sedition and was consequently highly dangerous. During certain reigns of weak emperors, powerful eunuchs, such as Liu Jin
Liu Jin
Liú Jĭn was a well-known Chinese eunuch during the reign of the Chinese Ming Dynasty Zhengde Emperor . Liu was famous for being one of the most corrupt officials in Chinese history and the emperor in all but name for some time...

 and Wei Zhongxian
Wei Zhongxian
Wei Zhongxian is considered by most historians as the most powerful and notorious eunuch in Chinese history. Originally a hoodlum and gambler, his initial name was Wei Si . He took the step of becoming a eunuch and entering palace service to escape from his creditors, taking the name Li Jinzhong...

, circumvented this restriction by styling themselves with jiǔ qiān suì (九千歲, literally "9000 years") so as to display their high positions, which were close to or even exceeded the emperor's, while still remaining reverent to the title of the emperor.

Traditionally, empresses consort and empresses dowager
Empress Dowager
Empress Dowager was the title given to the mother of a Chinese, Korean, Japanese or Vietnamese emperor.The title was also given occasionally to another woman of the same generation, while a woman from the previous generation was sometimes given the title of Grand empress dowager. Numerous empress...

 were addressed with "thousand years" (千歲) rather than "ten thousand years", which was reserved for the emperor. However, Empress Dowager Cixi
Empress Dowager Cixi
Empress Dowager Cixi1 , of the Manchu Yehenara clan, was a powerful and charismatic figure who became the de facto ruler of the Manchu Qing Dynasty in China for 47 years from 1861 to her death in 1908....

, the de facto supreme ruler of China from 1861 to 1908, was addressed with "ten thousand years". Several photographs of her show a banner on her litter
Litter (vehicle)
The litter is a class of wheelless vehicles, a type of human-powered transport, for the transport of persons. Examples of litter vehicles include lectica , jiao [较] , sedan chairs , palanquin , Woh , gama...

 reading "The Incumbent Holy Mother, the Empress Dowager of the Great Qing
Qing Dynasty
The Qing Dynasty was the last dynasty of China, ruling from 1644 to 1912 with a brief, abortive restoration in 1917. It was preceded by the Ming Dynasty and followed by the Republic of China....

, [will live and reign for] ten thousand years, ten thousand years, ten thousand of ten thousand years" (大清國當今聖母皇太后萬歲萬歲萬萬歲). The Emperor was adressed by the title Wan Sui Yeh which means the "Lord of Ten Thousand Years".


Classically, the phrase wansui is repeated multiple times following a person's name or title. For example, in ancient China, the Emperor would be thus addressed with "Wú huáng wànsuì, wànsuì, wànwànsuì" (吾皇萬歲,萬歲,萬萬歲; literally "[May] my Emperor [live and reign for] ten thousand years, ten thousand years, ten thousand of ten thousand years"). An important distinction made in Chinese but not in English is the use of suì (歲) to mean year, rather than the equally common nián (年), which is also translated as year. The former is used as a counter for years of life, whereas the latter is used for periods of time and calendar years. Thus the phrase "ten thousand years" in its original sense refers to ten thousand years of life, and not a period of ten thousand years.

The significance of "ten thousand" in this context is only that "ten thousand" in Chinese and many other East Asian languages represent the largest discrete unit in the counting system, in a manner analogous to "thousand" in English. Thus 100,000 in Chinese is expressed as 10 ten-thousands; similarly, whereas a million is "a thousand thousands", the analog in Chinese is bǎiwàn , which is literally "hundred ten-thousands". Because of this, Chinese people often use wàn in a manner analogous to "thousand" – whereas an English speaker might exclaim "there are thousands of ants on the ground", the Chinese speaker would substitute it with "ten thousand" in the description. So in the context of wànsuì, a literally incorrect but culturally appropriate translation might be, "may you live for thousands of years". The number simply denotes innumerability, in a manner etymologically similar to the Greek myriad
Myriad , "numberlesscountless, infinite", is a classical Greek word for the number 10,000. In modern English, the word refers to an unspecified large quantity.-History and usage:...

 (although the current usage of that word differs).

During the Qing Dynasty
Qing Dynasty
The Qing Dynasty was the last dynasty of China, ruling from 1644 to 1912 with a brief, abortive restoration in 1917. It was preceded by the Ming Dynasty and followed by the Republic of China....

, at the entrances of mosques in China, a tablet was placed upon which the characters for "Huangdi, wansui, wansui, wanwansui" (皇帝萬歲,萬歲,萬萬歲) were enscribed, which means, "The Emperor, may he live forever". Westerners traveling in China noted the presence of these tablets at mosques in Yunnan
Yunnan is a province of the People's Republic of China, located in the far southwest of the country spanning approximately and with a population of 45.7 million . The capital of the province is Kunming. The province borders Burma, Laos, and Vietnam.Yunnan is situated in a mountainous area, with...

 and Ningbo
Ningbo is a seaport city of northeastern Zhejiang province, Eastern China. Holding sub-provincial administrative status, the municipality has a population of 7,605,700 inhabitants at the 2010 census whom 3,089,180 in the built up area made of 6 urban districts. It lies south of the Hangzhou Bay,...


In August 1945, after Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek
Chiang Kai-shek
Chiang Kai-shek was a political and military leader of 20th century China. He is known as Jiǎng Jièshí or Jiǎng Zhōngzhèng in Mandarin....

 announced the defeat of Japan in the Second Sino-Japanese War
Second Sino-Japanese War
The Second Sino-Japanese War was a military conflict fought primarily between the Republic of China and the Empire of Japan. From 1937 to 1941, China fought Japan with some economic help from Germany , the Soviet Union and the United States...

, the people exclaimed "Chiang ... Chung kuo ... wan sui ... wan wan sui!" ("Chiang ... China ... live ten thousand years ... live ten thousand ten thousand years").

Modern use

One of the most conspicuous uses of the phrase is at the Tiananmen
The Tiananmen, Tian'anmen or Gate of Heavenly Peace is a famous monument in Beijing, the capital of the People's Republic of China. It is widely used as a national symbol. First built during the Ming Dynasty in 1420, Tian'anmen is often referred to as the front entrance to the Forbidden City...

 gate in Beijing
Beijing , also known as Peking , is the capital of the People's Republic of China and one of the most populous cities in the world, with a population of 19,612,368 as of 2010. The city is the country's political, cultural, and educational center, and home to the headquarters for most of China's...

, where large placards are affixed to the gatehouse reading "Zhōnghuá Rénmín Gònghéguó wànsuì" (中华人民共和国万岁; ) and "Shìjiè rénmín dàtuánjié wànsuì" (世界人民大团结万岁; ).

During the Cultural Revolution
Cultural Revolution
The Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution, commonly known as the Cultural Revolution , was a socio-political movement that took place in the People's Republic of China from 1966 through 1976...

, the saying "Máo Zhǔxí Wànsuì" (毛主席万岁; ) was also common. After Mao's death, the phrase has never been used for any individual. Apart from these special cases, the phrase is almost never used in political slogans today. In casual conversation, however, the phrase is used simply as an exclamation of joy. For example, CCTV
China Central Television
China Central Television or Chinese Central Television, commonly abbreviated as CCTV, is the major state television broadcaster in mainland China. CCTV has a network of 19 channels broadcasting different programmes and is accessible to more than one billion viewers...

 commentator Huang Jianxiang
Huang Jianxiang
Huang Jianxiang , is one of the best-known sports commentators in China, formerly of the state-run network China Central Television . He was fairly well received in his commentating of football, particularly at the FIFA World Cup and the German Bundesliga, although he also commentated during...

 shouted "Yìdàlì wànsuì" during a game of the 2006 FIFA World Cup
2006 FIFA World Cup
The 2006 FIFA World Cup was the 18th FIFA World Cup, the quadrennial international football world championship tournament. It was held from 9 June to 9 July 2006 in Germany, which won the right to host the event in July 2000. Teams representing 198 national football associations from all six...

. Taiwan-based singer Leehom Wang's 2007 album Change Me
Change Me (album)
Change Me is the 12th album of American Taiwanese R&B artist and composer, Leehom Wang, and was released on July 13, 2007. The album sold more than one million copies within the first month of release....

contains a song called "華人萬歲" (pinyin: Húarén Wànsùi; literally "Long Live Chinese People").


The Chinese term was introduced to Japan
Japan is an island nation in East Asia. Located in the Pacific Ocean, it lies to the east of the Sea of Japan, China, North Korea, South Korea and Russia, stretching from the Sea of Okhotsk in the north to the East China Sea and Taiwan in the south...

 as banzei (Kana: ばんぜい) in the 8th century, and was used to express respect for the emperor
Emperor of Japan
The Emperor of Japan is, according to the 1947 Constitution of Japan, "the symbol of the state and of the unity of the people." He is a ceremonial figurehead under a form of constitutional monarchy and is head of the Japanese Imperial Family with functions as head of state. He is also the highest...

 in much the same manner as its Chinese cognate.

Banzei was later revived as banzai after the Meiji Restoration
Meiji Restoration
The , also known as the Meiji Ishin, Revolution, Reform or Renewal, was a chain of events that restored imperial rule to Japan in 1868...

. Banzai as a formal ritual was established in the promulgation of the Meiji Constitution
Meiji Constitution
The ', known informally as the ', was the organic law of the Japanese empire, in force from November 29, 1890 until May 2, 1947.-Outline:...

 in 1889 when university students shouted banzai in front of the emperor's carriage.

Around the same time, banzai also came to be used in contexts unrelated to the emperor. The supporters of the Freedom and People's Rights movements, for example, began to shout "Jiyū banzai" (Kanji
Kanji are the adopted logographic Chinese characters hanzi that are used in the modern Japanese writing system along with hiragana , katakana , Indo Arabic numerals, and the occasional use of the Latin alphabet...

: 自由万歳; Kana
Kana are the syllabic Japanese scripts, as opposed to the logographic Chinese characters known in Japan as kanji and the Roman alphabet known as rōmaji...

: じゆうばんざい, or, roughly, "Long Live Freedom!") in 1883.

During World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

, banzai served as a battle cry
Battle cry
A battle cry is a yell or chant taken up in battle, usually by members of the same military unit.Battle cries are not necessarily articulate, although they often aim to invoke patriotic or religious sentiment....

 of sorts for Japanese soldiers. It was believed that, ideally, kamikaze
The were suicide attacks by military aviators from the Empire of Japan against Allied naval vessels in the closing stages of the Pacific campaign of World War II, designed to destroy as many warships as possible....

pilots would shout "banzai!" as they rammed their planes into enemy ships, and although Japanese comic books have portrayed this romantisized scene, it is of course unknown if any actually did. Its confirmed use by ground troops, however, was heard in numerous battles during the Pacific Campaign
Pacific Campaign
Pacific Campaign may refer to:* Pacific Campaign , fighting between the United States and Spain during the Spanish-American War...

, when Japanese infantry units attacked Allied positions. As a result, the term "banzai charge
Banzai charge
Banzai charge was a term applied during World War II by the Allied forces to human wave attacks mounted by infantry forces of the Imperial Japanese Army...

" (or alternatively "banzai attack") gained common currency among English-speaking soldiers and remains the most widely understood context of the term in the West
Western world
The Western world, also known as the West and the Occident , is a term referring to the countries of Western Europe , the countries of the Americas, as well all countries of Northern and Central Europe, Australia and New Zealand...

 to this day.

Modern use

Traditionally, "banzai" (roughly translated as "hurrah") was an expression of enthuasiasm, and crowds shouting the word three times, arms stretched out above their heads, could be considered the traditional Japanese form of applause.

In Hawaii
Hawaii is the newest of the 50 U.S. states , and is the only U.S. state made up entirely of islands. It is the northernmost island group in Polynesia, occupying most of an archipelago in the central Pacific Ocean, southwest of the continental United States, southeast of Japan, and northeast of...

, the term has taken on new meaning amongst the Japanese American
Japanese American
are American people of Japanese heritage. Japanese Americans have historically been among the three largest Asian American communities, but in recent decades have become the sixth largest group at roughly 1,204,205, including those of mixed-race or mixed-ethnicity...

 community. It is used as a toast
Toast (honor)
A toast is a ritual in which a drink is taken as an expression of honor or goodwill. The term may be applied to the person or thing so honored, the drink taken, or the verbal expression accompanying the drink. Thus, a person could be "the toast of the evening," for whom someone "proposes a toast"...

 at celebratory events, particularly weddings. In this context, the Banzai is given twice - the first, "Shinro shimpu, banzai!" means "long life and happiness to the bride and groom." The second banzai is: "Raihin shokun, banzai!" meaning "Long life and happiness to all the guests!" After each toast, participants shout the word "banzai" three times in unison, raising their glasses each time, and drinking after the third.


The same term is pronounced manse (만세) in Korean
Korean language
Korean is the official language of the country Korea, in both South and North. It is also one of the two official languages in the Yanbian Korean Autonomous Prefecture in People's Republic of China. There are about 78 million Korean speakers worldwide. In the 15th century, a national writing...

. In Silla
Silla was one of the Three Kingdoms of Korea, and one of the longest sustained dynasties in...

 of the Three Kingdoms of Korea
Three Kingdoms of Korea
The Three Kingdoms of Korea refer to the ancient Korean kingdoms of Goguryeo, Baekje and Silla, which dominated the Korean peninsula and parts of Manchuria for much of the 1st millennium...

, it was used as a casual exclamation. It was a part of the era name of Taebong
Taebong or Later Goguryeo was a state established by Gung Ye on the Korean peninsula in 901, during the Later Three Kingdoms period.-History:...

, one of the Later Three Kingdoms
Later Three Kingdoms
The Later Three Kingdoms of Korea consisted of Silla, Hubaekje , and Hugoguryeo . The latter two were viewed as heirs to the earlier Three Kingdoms of Korea, which had been united by Silla, even though Hugoguryeo has little to do with Goguryeo...

, declared by the king Gung Ye
Gung Ye
Gung Ye was the king of the short-lived Hugoguryeo on the Korean peninsula. Although he was a member of the Silla royal family, he became a victim of the power struggle among the royal family members during the late 9th century...

 in 911. During the Joseon dynasty
Joseon Dynasty
Joseon , was a Korean state founded by Taejo Yi Seong-gye that lasted for approximately five centuries. It was founded in the aftermath of the overthrow of the Goryeo at what is today the city of Kaesong. Early on, Korea was retitled and the capital was relocated to modern-day Seoul...

, Korea used cheonse (Hanja: 千歲; Hangul: 천세, literally "one thousand years") in deference to the Chinese emperor.

In the 20th century, various protests against Japanese occupation
Korea under Japanese rule
Korea was under Japanese rule as part of Japan's 35-year imperialist expansion . Japanese rule ended in 1945 shortly after the Japanese defeat in World War II....

 used the term in their names, including a pro-independence newspaper established in 1906, the March 1st Movement
March 1st Movement
The March 1st Movement, or Samil Movement, was one of the earliest public displays of Korean resistance during the occupation of the Korean Empire by Japan. The name refers to an event that occurred on March 1, 1919, hence the movement's name, literally meaning "Three-One Movement" or "March First...

 of 1919, and the June 10th Movement of 1926.

Today, in North Korea
North Korea
The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea , , is a country in East Asia, occupying the northern half of the Korean Peninsula. Its capital and largest city is Pyongyang. The Korean Demilitarized Zone serves as the buffer zone between North Korea and South Korea...

, manse is used to wish long life for Kim Jong-il
Kim Jong-il
Kim Jong-il, also written as Kim Jong Il, birth name Yuri Irsenovich Kim born 16 February 1941 or 16 February 1942 , is the Supreme Leader of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea...

, and for the political principles of his father, Kim Il-sung
Kim Il-sung
Kim Il-sung was a Korean communist politician who led the Democratic People's Republic of Korea from its founding in 1948 until his death in 1994. He held the posts of Prime Minister from 1948 to 1972 and President from 1972 to his death...


It is also used as a casual proclamation, commonly used as the English equivalent of "Victory."


In Vietnamese, "vạn tuế" is the phrase cognate to the Chinese wàn suì and is the proper Vietnamese reading of the hán tự "萬歲". However, this word is rarely used in the modern language, appearing instead only in China-related contexts (such as in "vạn tuế, vạn tuế, vạn vạn tuế" -- compare to Chinese usage, above). In other situations, "muôn năm" is used instead, and is frequently heard in communist slogans, such as "Hồ Chí Minh muôn năm!" (Long life to Ho Chi Minh
Ho Chi Minh
Hồ Chí Minh , born Nguyễn Sinh Cung and also known as Nguyễn Ái Quốc, was a Vietnamese Marxist-Leninist revolutionary leader who was prime minister and president of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam...

) and "Đảng cộng sản muôn năm!" (Long live the Communist party).

Because "muôn năm" is from an older nativized Chinese borrowing, chữ Nôm characters were created to write it and were used before the Latin
Latin alphabet
The Latin alphabet, also called the Roman alphabet, is the most recognized alphabet used in the world today. It evolved from a western variety of the Greek alphabet called the Cumaean alphabet, which was adopted and modified by the Etruscans who ruled early Rome...

-based quốc ngữ script became standard. "Muôn" is a sound-meaning compound consisting of a gate for the sound part (its pronunciation, "môn", approximates "muôn") and the character for "ten thousand" (vạn) for the semantic part. The character for "năm", also a sound-meaning compound, uses "south" for the phonetic portion of the character and "year" (niên) for the meaning. These characters, while archaic, are nonetheless part of Unicode
Unicode is a computing industry standard for the consistent encoding, representation and handling of text expressed in most of the world's writing systems...

 and are mapped to U+28DC8 and U+221A5, respectively, and with the right fonts installed may actually display: 𨷈𢆥.

See also

  • Sto lat
    Sto lat
    "Sto lat" is a traditional Polish song that is sung to express good wishes, good health and long life to a person. The song's author and exact origin are unattributed. The song is sung both at informal gatherings or at formal events, such as weddings...

    , a similar Polish phrase and song meaning "one hundred years"
  • Mabuhay
    Mabuhay (expression)
    Mabuhay is a Tagalog word used to exclaim "long live". Comparable to the Romance language expression “Vive, Viva”, the salute associated with this exclamation; in which both arms are raised above the head in unison three times and is also similar to that used in the Japanese exclamation Banzai...

    , a traditional Philippine cheer meaning "May you live long!"
  • In saecula saeculorum
    In saecula saeculorum
    The Latin phrase expresses the idea of eternity. It is biblical, taken from the Vulgate translation of the New Testament, rendering Greek . The usual English translation is "for ever and ever", but in Ephesians 3:21, the KJV notably has "world without end"...

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