One of the things that makes the world of the Firefly TV series distinctive is the intermingling of English-speaking and Chinese cultures. All of Serenity's crew appear to be fluent in both English and Chinese, and we frequently see signs written in both languages.

However, in the film Serenity I didn't notice any Chinese being spoken at all. There were a few bilingual signs, but none of the casual Chinese cursing that's in pretty much every episode of the TV series.

Did I miss something? How much Chinese is spoken in the film Serenity?

If I'm right and there's none, why? Did the cast refuse to bother learning Chinese lines for the sake of a single film? Did this aspect of the TV series get so much criticism that they decided to exclude it? It seems strange for this distinctive Firefly gimmick not to appear in the franchise's swan song.

  • 3
    Related: 1, 2, 3, 4
    – Rogue Jedi
    Commented Sep 25, 2016 at 18:06
  • @RogueJedi Yep, already seen all those and voted on most of them.
    – Rand al'Thor
    Commented Sep 25, 2016 at 18:11
  • 2
    My cynical side says they didn't think characters speaking Chinese would sell tickets.
    – Kevin
    Commented Sep 25, 2016 at 18:12
  • 1
    @Kevin - Likely, or just that in a film format, there is definitely less time for it, and it (seemed like? to my eyes) had a pretty packed script as it was.
    – Radhil
    Commented Sep 25, 2016 at 18:14
  • 2
    @Valorum Turn that into an answer?
    – Rand al'Thor
    Commented Sep 25, 2016 at 18:48

1 Answer 1


There were at least 11 instances of Chinese pidgin that made it into the theatrical cut of Serenity. I've listed them below for ease of searching, along with what each statement actually means.

Given that the average number of Chinese phrases in each 44 minute episode is approximately 16, it would appear that there were indeed fewer Chinese phrases per minute (by almost three quarters) in the film than in the TV shows.

That being said, when you take into account the cut scenes and all the extra Chinese signage (and subtract the two extremely Chinese-heavy episodes that drag the average up from 12.1 to 16.5) it's not quite as obvious.

BAI-tuo, AN-jing-eedyen! "We will enjoy your silence now!" [Please be quiet!]

2) MAL:
"DONG-luh-MAH?" Ni cho lyen, yo may yo? "Are we clear here?" [Do you have a worried face?]

3) WASH:
"Ai-yah. Tyen-ah..." "Merciless hell..." [Ah, oh God...]

4) ZOE:
Da jee-ah tzwo sha! Everybody sit down!

5) MAL:
"Nee TZAO ss-MA? Nee-YOW wuh-KAI CHANG?" "You wanna bullet? You wanna bullet right through your throat?" [Are you looking to die? You want me to shoot?]

6) [BEAUMONDE] MAN, partially cut:
"PEOW-liang de shaojie, nee GOO wuo HUHnee SHANG-hao. Wuh HWAY wrongnee shungkai roo hua..." "Pretty lady, hire me for the night and I'll open you like a flower..." [Beautiful young lady, if you hire me to have an affair with you, I'll let you fully bloom like a flower]

Wuo hun {diou lyen}. Wuo may yo chr Fruity Oaty Bar. "I am very ashamed. I didn't eat a Fruity Oaty Bar."

"Go HWONG-TONG." "Enough of this nonsense."

9) WASH, mostly inaudible:
"Juhguh JEE HUA jun kuhPAH!" "There's nothing about this plan that isn't horrific!" [This plan is truly horrible!]

10) RIVER:
"RUNtse de SHANG-DEE, ching DAIwuhtzo" "Merciful God please take me away"

11) RIVER:
"WUOshang mayer, maysheen, BYEN shr-to" "I will close my ears and my heart and I will be a stone"

There were also a number of lines that were part of the deleted scenes found on the DVD.

TEACHER, cut line:
"Shuh-MUH?" "I'm sorry?"

MAL, cut line:
"BEE-tzway. Wrong wuomun FAH-TSAI." "Shut up and make us wealthy."

"Byen dahTAHmenduhBAY joGOluh." "A switch to those girls' backsides is just good enough." [Whipping their [female] backs is just good enough.]

[BEAUMONDE] WOMAN, cut line:
"Wuo DWAY-nee BOO-woon, boo-JEN..." "I neither see nor hear you..."

[BEAUMONDE] MAN, cut line:
"PEOW-liang de shaojie, Booleetah, GOOwo..." "Pretty lady, forget him and hire me..."

WASH, cut line:
"Wo TAI-TAI boo PEOW-liang!" "My wife is not pretty!"

INARA, cut line:
"RUNtse de FWOtzoo, ching baoYO wuomun..." "Oh merciful Buddha protect us..."

Translations courtesy of BrownCoats.com

  • You should probably introduce the quotes, I had no idea what the first quote box was and am only now guessing that it is the eleven instances of Chinese in Serenity, since there are eleven entries and I know the bit about Fruity Oaty Bars was in the movie...
    – KRyan
    Commented Sep 25, 2016 at 23:14
  • @KRyan - Better now?
    – Valorum
    Commented Sep 25, 2016 at 23:22
  • Note that the chinese part comes from the shooting script. It's not Pinyin. Therefore some of the translations are uncertain.
    – Chris
    Commented Sep 26, 2016 at 10:43
  • @Chris - Yes. Pidgin not Pinyin :-)
    – Valorum
    Commented Sep 26, 2016 at 11:42

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