Saturday, July 25, 2009

A Chinese paper trail

The Chinese invented paper, so it's only fair that we should use it. And say it.

In Mandarin, the basic hanzi for paper is 纸 (zhǐ). And using the WordPack concept, there are a whole bunch of types of paper (specifically words ending in 纸) that you ought to know.

If you're a beginner, learn the first three. Everyone else ought to know all of them.

newspaper: 报纸 (bào zhǐ)
facial tissue: 薄纸 (báo zhǐ) or 纸巾 (zhǐ jīn)
toilet paper: 手纸 (shǒu zhǐ)

paper napkin: 餐巾纸 (cān jīn zhǐ)
wallpaper: 壁纸 (bì zhǐ)
wrapping paper: 包装纸 (bāo zhuāng zhǐ)
recycled paper: 还魂纸 (huán hún zhǐ)
cardboard / stiff paper: 硬纸 (yìng zhǐ)

If it makes it easier for you to memorise some of these words, note that three of them begin with 'bao' (1st, 2nd and 4th tones).

And if there are other 'zhǐ' words that you use relatively often, drop us a note in the comments below.


  1. Nobody I know says 薄纸 for that kind of tissue.

    纸巾 is fine, but you can also say 面纸 (a google image search gives you a hint as to usage). 面纸:putting the 'face' in 'facial tissue'. :)

  2. Ah - thanks for the clarification Kevin. Very useful.

  3. Haha,this is interesting!
    Speaking as a native speaker in Mandarin:
    纸巾is a common way to call facial tissues or the tissues in small packages that people usually carry. For example, ladies often use 纸巾to wipe off the extra oil emerging on their faces. If I sneeze, I will try to get myself some 纸巾.
    It was mentioned in your post "recycled paper: 还魂纸 (huán hún zhǐ)". Well,this seems a little big frightening given that 还魂means "revive from death". I would call the recycled paper再生纸 which is less frightening.
    Hope this helps.

  4. Revive-from-death paper? Cool!

    Thanks for the updates - that's really useful!