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Title: Hanjian  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Treason, Wang Jingwei, Yoshiko Kawashima, Yan Xishan, Jash (term)
Collection: Chinese Words and Phrases, Pejorative Terms for People, Qing Dynasty, Treason
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia


Traditional Chinese 漢奸
Simplified Chinese 汉奸
Literal meaning Chinese traitor

In Chinese culture, a hanjian (simplified Chinese: ; traditional Chinese: 漢奸; pinyin: Hànjiān; Wade–Giles: han-chien) is a derogatory and pejorative term for a race traitor to the Han Chinese nation or state, and to a lesser extent, Han ethnicity. The word hanjian is distinct from the general word for traitor, which could be used for any race or country. As a Chinese term, it is a digraph of the Chinese characters for "Han" and "traitor".


  • History 1
  • Notable persons deemed to be hanjians 2
  • Modern use of the term 3
  • See also 4
  • Footnotes 5
    • Bibliography 5.1


A poster titled "Fate of hanjians", published by the Capital City Resistance War Supporters Association of All Citizens, was posted throughout Nanjing soon after the Battle of Nanking. Clockwise from top right: a hanjian being beaten by a mob; a hanjian who sends a signal to enemy aircraft will die in an air raid; the severed head of a hanjian put on display as a warning to others; a hanjian will be arrested and shot.

During the Second Sino-Japanese War, the National Revolutionary Army was defeated in various battles by the Imperial Japanese Army. Chiang Kai-shek explained that hanjian espionage helped the Japanese and ordered CC Clique commander Chen Lifu to arrest the hanjians.[1] 4,000 were arrested in Shanghai[2] and 2,000 in Nanjing.[3] Because martial law was enforced, formal trials were not necessary, and the condemned were executed swiftly, while thousands of men, women and children watched with evident approval.[4]

Wang Jingwei

, who led the collaborationist Allies. The word also came to be used in the legal systems of modern China and Taiwan. The Republic of China (1912–49) issued an important law in 1937:

The centerpiece of anti hanjian laws, “Regulations on Handling Hanjian Cases (chuli hanjian anjian tiaoli),” promulgated in August 1937, identified collaborators based on their wartime conduct and stipulated punishments regardless of their age, gender, or ethnicity. Popular anti-hanjian discourse, however, paid particular attention to “female collaborators” and deployed a highly gendered vocabulary to attack hanjian suspects of both sexes. Complementing the legal purge of collaborators, such literature brought extreme pressure on individuals targeted as hanjian and influenced how political crimes should be exposed and transposed onto other aspects of social life.[5]

The China (PRC) ratified a Instructions on the confiscation of war criminals, traitors, bureaucrat capitalists and counterrevolutionary property (Chinese: 關於沒收戰犯, 漢奸, 官僚資本家及反革命份子財產的指示; pinyin: Guānyú mòshōu zhànfàn, hànjiān, guānliáo zīběnjiā jí fǎngémìng fènzi cáichǎn de zhǐshì in 1951.

After the Sook Ching (Chinese: 肅清; pinyin: Sùqīng) or ethnic cleansing by mass murder of Chinese opposed to the Japanese occupation of Singapore and Malaya in February–March 1942, Tan Kah Kee, a prominent Chinese industrialist and philanthropist in Southeast Asia, proposed to the provisional Republic of China government to treat all Chinese who attempted to negotiate with the Japanese as hanjians. His proposal was adopted by the Second Legislative Yuan, and was praised by Chinese resistance fighters.

During the Cold War, the Chinese government classified citizens who collaborated with a hostile foreign power as hanjians.

Notable persons deemed to be hanjians

  • Qin Hui (1090–1155), a premier of the Southern Song dynasty who preached appeasement towards aggression from the Jurchen-ruled Jin dynasty. He also played an important role in the death of the general Yue Fei, who is highly regarded as a patriot in Chinese culture.
  • Wu Sangui (1612–1678), a Ming dynasty general who guarded Shanhai Pass. The Ming dynasty was overthrown by a peasant revolt led by Li Zicheng, and the rebels seized Wu's family and his concubine Chen Yuanyuan (who were in the capital Beijing) and mistreated them. Wu was angered and he decided to ally with the Manchus against Li Zicheng – he opened Shanhai Pass and guided the Manchus into former Ming territory, allowing the Manchus to swiftly overrun China and establish the Qing dynasty. Wu later led Qing forces to attack the Southern Ming dynasty (a short-lived state founded by Ming remnants) and personally executed Southern Ming's Yongli Emperor.
  • Wang Kemin (1879–1945), who collaborated with the Japanese during World War II and helped to establish the pro-Japan Provisional Government of the Republic of China (or North China Autonomous Government). After the war, he was arrested by the ROC government and tried for treason but committed suicide before his trial ended.
  • Demchugdongrub (1902–1966), commonly known as Prince De, a Mongol leader who collaborated with the Japanese. He was installed by the Japanese as the head of state of Mengjiang, a Japanese puppet state in Inner Mongolia. He was arrested by the PRC government in 1949 and charged with treason but was pardoned later. As he was an ethnic Mongol and not a Han Chinese, some feel that he should not be deemed as a hanjian.
  • Nanjing with the help of the Japanese.
  • Zhou Fohai (1897–1948), the second-in-command of the Wang Jingwei government Executive Yuan. He was convicted of treason after the war and sentenced to death, but Chiang Kai-shek commuted his sentence to life imprisonment. He died of heart and stomach problems in jail.
  • Chen Gongbo (1892–1946), who served as the head of the Legislative Yuan of the Wang Jingwei government. He fled to Japan after the war but was extradited back to China, where he was convicted of treason and executed.
  • Kawashima Yoshiko (1907–1948), also known as the "Eastern Jewel", was a Manchu princess raised in Japan, who spied for the Japanese in Manchuria. After the war, she was arrested and convicted of treason and executed. She has been featured in numerous Chinese and Japanese novels, films, television programs, and video games, with the Chinese frequently depicting her as a wanton villain and seductress while the Japanese portrayed her as a tragic heroine. Due to her Manchu ethnicity and Japanese background, some feel that she should not be considered a hanjian.
  • Koo Hsien-jung (Gu Xianrong; 1866–1937), a Taiwanese businessman who led the Japanese forces into Taipei after the Qing officials fled and the Formosan garrison began looting the city during Japanese Invasion of Taiwan. His family became wealthy and influential under Japanese rule, and continues to be prominent in business and political circles in Taiwan, with members living and operating in both Taiwan and Japan.[6]

Modern use of the term

Hanjian is a more specific term than the generic "traitor" because a hanjian collaborates with an external power which is neither Han nor Chinese, whereas a traitor collaborates with any enemy. During the Chinese Civil War (1927–1950), the Nationalists and Communists accused each other of being hanjians collaborating with the Americans and Soviets respectively.

See also


  1. ^ Yomiuri Shimbun, September 14, 1937 page 7
  2. ^ Yomiuri Shimbun, September 15, 1937 second evening issue, page 1
  3. ^ Gahō Yakushin no Nippon, December 1, 1937
  4. ^ The New York Times August 30, 1937 page 3
  5. ^ Xia 2013, p. 111.
  6. ^ Lindy Yeh. The Koo family: a century in Taiwan. Taipei Times, April 15, 2002.


  • Xia, Yun (2013). "Engendering Contempt for Collaborators: Anti-Hanjian Discourse Following the Sino-Japanese War of 1937–1945". Journal of Women's History 25 (1): 111–134.  
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