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Not to be confused with Han jian 汗簡, the paleographic dictionary by Guo Zhongshu (d. 977)
Traditional Chinese
Simplified Chinese
Literal meaning Chinese traitor

In Chinese culture, a hanjian (also romanised 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 character for "Han" and "traitor".


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 Qing dynasty, the Han Chinese formed the majority of the population but the rulers were the Manchus. The Qing government initially used hanjian to refer to Han Chinese who rebelled against them. In the late Qing period, hanjian became a common term used by anti-Manchu nationalists to refer to Han Chinese who collaborated with the Qing government.[1] Hanjian was often used retroactively for historical Han traitors, such as Qin Hui and Wu Sangui.

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.[2] 4,000 were arrested in Shanghai[3] and 2,000 in Nanjing.[4] 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.[5]

Wang Jingwei, who led the pro-Japan collaborationist government in Nanjing during the war, as well as his supporters, are regarded as hanjians in China,[citation needed] as are Taiwanese soldiers who fought in the Japanese military against Chinese forces and the Allies.[citation needed] The word also came to be used in the legal systems of modern China and Taiwan: the Republic of China (ROC) enacted Regulations Regarding Punishment of Hanjian (1938) and Regulations [on] Dealing with Hanjian (1945).[citation needed] The People's Republic of China (PRC) ratified a Direction for the Confiscation of Properties of War Criminals, Hanjian, Bureaucratic Capitalists and Anti-Revolutionaries.[citation needed]

After the Sook Ching Massacre took place in Singapore and Malaya in February–March 1942, Tan Kah Kee, a prominent Chinese industrialist and philanthropist in Southeast Asia, proposed to the provisional ROC government to treat all Chinese who attempted to negotiate with the Japanese as hanjians.[citation needed] His proposal was adopted by the Second Legislative Yuan,[citation needed] 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.[citation needed]

Notable persons deemed to be hanjians[edit]

  • 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.
  • 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[edit]

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.[citation needed] During the Chinese Civil War (1927–1950), the Nationalists and Communists accused each other of being hanjians collaborating with the Americans and Soviets respectively.[citation needed]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Pamela Kyle Crossley, A Translucent Mirror: History and Identity in Qing Imperial Ideology (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1999), 337.
  2. ^ Yomiuri Shimbun, September 14, 1937 page 7
  3. ^ Yomiuri Shimbun, September 15, 1937 second evening issue, page 1
  4. ^ Gahō Yakushin no Nippon, December 1, 1937
  5. ^ The New York Times August 30, 1937 page 3
  6. ^ Lindy Yeh. The Koo family: a century in Taiwan. Taipei Times, April 15, 2002.