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Traditional Chinese
Simplified Chinese
Literal meaningChinese traitor

In Chinese culture, a hanjian (simplified Chinese: 汉奸; traditional Chinese: 漢奸; pinyin: Hànjiān; Wade–Giles: han-chien) is a derogatory and pejorative term for a national traitor to the Han Chinese 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".


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 Reorganized National Government of the Republic of China from 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 (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]

Several Taiwanese were prosecuted by the Nationalist government as hanjian, despite a Judicial Yuan interpretation issued in January 1946 that advised against such action.[6] China (PRC) ratified 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.[citation needed]

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.[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]

  • 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.
  • Wang Jingwei (1883–1944), a Kuomintang politician and former close aide of Sun Yat-sen, who advocated peace negotiations during the Second Sino-Japanese War. He set up the pro-Japan Reorganized National Government of China in 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.
  • Yoshiko Kawashima (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.

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]

In popular culture[edit]

Popularly, most hanjian in Chinese films and drama series, skits, Hanjian are mostly the translators. Sometimes they are also called the er guizi (Chinese: 二鬼子, lit. second devils) or jia yang guizi (Chinese: 假洋鬼子, lit. fake foreign devils). For example, Chinese actor Chen Peisi's famous skit Zhujue yu Peijue (主角与配角, lit. the main actor and the supportive actor), Chen is acting as the supportive actor who is in a film that the character is the translator leading the way for Japanese Imperial Army. The translator represents the Army officer to send a message to the Eighth Route Army officer whose actor would be Zhu Shimao that if he surrenders, the Japanese officer will have a great offer for him.[7]

See also[edit]


  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. ^ Han Cheung (13 January 2019). "Taiwan in Time: The Taiwanese 'hanjian' problem". Taipei Times. Retrieved 13 January 2019.
  7. ^ http://www.5ixiaosong.com/zhushimao/5454.html


  • 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. doi:10.1353/jowh.2013.0006.