The Joy Luck Club

The Joy Luck Club Glossary


The variety of Chinese spoken in and around Guangzhou (formerly Canton), China.


In Chinese spiritual terms, the energy of life, which can be harnessed and put to good use.

chungwan chihan

The ability to predict bad things by paying attention to signs, especially in architecture and the placement of things. Ying-ying St. Clair purportedly has this power of premonition.


The Chinese Nationalist political party, organized in 1912, under the nominal leadership of Sun Yat-sen. The Kuomintang opposed the Communists throughout the Second World War, but it was defeated in 1949. It continues to exist as a political party in Taiwan.


Also called Guilin. A city on the banks of the Li River in Southeastern China. Kweilin is known for its picturesque mountains and rich cultural history.

Mah Jong

A Chinese game played with tiles and with rules similar to the card game Gin Rummy. Four players designated by East, South, West, and North take turns picking up and discarding tiles, beginning with East. Each player's goal is to complete her hand of four sets of three and a pair, thereby declaring Mah Jong.


The official national standard spoken language of China, which is based on the principal dialect spoken in and around Beijing. Also called Guoyu, Putonghua.


The power that one can do anything to which one sets one's mind. An-mei Hsu unsuccessfully tries to use her nengkan to bring her son Bing back from the dead.


Also known as Tianjin. A large city in Northeastern China. It was home to British and English settlements until 1946, when it was restored completely to Chinese power. In the novel, it is where Wu Tsing lives in luxury with his several wives, including An-Mei Hsu's mother.