Chinese Word of the Day – 革命


Noun: revolution

Verb: to revolt

Adjective: revolutionary

工業革命 (gohng yeh guh ming) – Industrial Revolution
革命性 (guh ming ssing) – revolutionary


Medieval Chinese: gak-myeng

Mandarin: ge ming (pronounced guh-ming)

Hokkien: gek beng, giak beng

Vietnamese: cách mệnh (pronounced gak meng)

Korean: hyeok myeong

Japanese: kaku mei

Chinese dynastic cycle theory

Although the word 革命 means revolution today, the word meant something else in antiquity. Originally 革命 was a truncation of the term 革除天命, which meant to change the Mandate of Heaven. When the Japanese decided to look for a kanji equivalent to the Western notion of “revolution”, they figured 革命 was the closest Eastern translation. The earliest use of the two-character word 革命 is found in the Confucian commentary of the I-Ching.


The Heavens and the Earth change amidst the four seasons, [king] Tang and [king] Wu change the Mandate, in accordance to the Heavens and the people.

King Tang is the founder of the Shang dynasty (c. 1650 – 1050 BCE).
King Wu is the founder of the Zhou dynasty (c. 1050 – 256 BCE).

King Tang of Shang (c. 1675 – 1646 BCE)