Tai tai

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Tai tai (太太) is a Chinese colloquial term for a wealthy married woman who does not work.[1] It is the same as the Cantonese title for a married woman.[2] It has the same euphemistic value as "lady" in English: sometimes flattery, sometimes subtle insult. (The famous 12th-century knight and poet Walther von der Vogelweide dissected the difference between "woman" and "lady" in his untitled poem beginning "Wip muoz iemer sin der wibe hohste name" ("'Woman' will always be the highest term for a female"))

Cultural significance[edit]

The term has become well-known, and features in Western discussions in the field of Women's studies.[3] It originally referred to the wife of highest status in a polygamous marriage, many would like to believe this meaning has fallen away and that it now refers simply to a privileged, wealthy lady,[citation needed] this however is incorrect and the usage referring to the 'lead wife' continues, especially when the other women are concubines. Pearl Buck uses the term to describe Madame Liang in her novel, Three Daughters of Madame Liang.[4]


  1. ^ Sylvie Phillips (2005). Tai Tai Tales. Bangkok Books. ISBN 974-93100-3-9. 
  2. ^ Price, Fiona L. (2007). Success with Asian Names: A Practical Guide for Business and Everyday life. London: Nicholas Brealey Publishing. ISBN 1-85788-378-0. 
  3. ^ Radosh, Alice; Maglin, Nan Bauer (2003). Women confronting retirement: a nontraditional guide. New Brunswick, N.J: Rutgers University Press. ISBN 0-8135-3126-8. 
  4. ^ Buck, Three Daughters of Madame Liang. London: Moyer Bell, 1969.