Historically, Chinese people had the image of its borders continuously breached by "uncivilized tribes" given to mayhem and destruction. Within the southern parts of China, the term Gwai lo was used. In Northern parts of China, the term (Western) ocean ghost ((西)洋 鬼子 (Xi) Yang Guizi) was used, Europe being West of China.
The term gui (鬼) in guizi (鬼子) is an adjective that can be used to express hate and deprecation, an example being the local's expression of their hatred towards the Japanese during their occupation of China in WWII with the same gui (鬼). It conveys a general bad and negative feeling and is a somewhat obsolete and archaic/old-fashioned term nowadays and other more modern terms have largely replaced gui (鬼) for similarly negative meanings.
The character gui (鬼) itself can have negative connotations, even without the word si (死), for example when it was attached to the Westerners in the term Westerners Yang Guizi (洋鬼子) during Boxer rebellion, Japanese military in the term devil soldiers "Guizi Bing" (鬼子兵) during the Second Sino-Japanese War and the Korean military with the term Second Devil "Er Guizi" (二鬼子). However, the same term can also be applied derogatorily to any foreign military which was an enemy to China. In Taiwan, anti-Japanese demonstrators hoisted signs with "Guizi! Get out (鬼子! 快滾)" during the 2012 China anti-Japanese demonstrations.
Guizi can be used to refer to either Japanese (Chinese: 日本鬼子; pinyin: rìběn guǐzi; literally "Japanese devil", or Chinese: 東洋鬼子; pinyin: dōngyáng guǐzi; literally "east ocean devil"), Korean soldiers who were a part of the Japanese army during the Sino-Japanese war in World War II (Chinese: 二鬼子; pinyin: èr guǐzi; literally "second devils") or Westerners (Chinese: 洋鬼子; pinyin: yáng guǐzi; literally "Western devil, overseas devil, (west) ocean devil"), or Ang Mo (Chinese: 紅毛; pinyin: hóng máo; POJ: âng-mo) meaning 'red hair' (Hokkien). In 2010 Japanese internet users on 2channel created the fictional moe anthropomorphism character Hinomoto Oniko (日本鬼子) which refers to the ethnic term, with Hinomoto Oniko being the Japanese kun'yomi reading of the kanji "日本鬼子".
- "台湾民间团体发起保钓游行". Voice of America. September 23, 2012. Retrieved 2012-09-28.
- Lafayette De Mente, Boyé (2000). The Chinese Have a Word for It: The Complete Guide to Chinese Thought and Culture. McGraw-Hill. p. 145. ISBN 978-0-658-01078-1.
- 第一滴血──從日方史料還原平型關之戰日軍損失 (6) News of the Communist Party of China December 16, 2011
- "萌系日本鬼子 反攻中國". Liberty Times. November 1, 2010. Retrieved 2012-09-29.
- The dictionary definition of guizi at Wiktionary