From Joel Martinsen's English translation of Liu Cixin's The Dark Forest (page 231 in my paperback edition):

Einstein said, "I have thought this over for a long time, and I believe that the Lord's fear of Luo Ji has only one possible reason: He is the mouthpiece of certain power."

Qin Shi Huang shut down further discussion of the subject: "Don't get into that. Instead, let's think of how to fulfill the Lord's command."

Like many other terms in Martinsen's translation, this seems to be an overly literal translation of some Chinese phrase which I don't know, and which might have been intended to be obscure in the original too. But unlike some of those other phrases (e.g. "chains of suspicion"), the characters in-universe don't seem to be puzzled by the phrase, which makes me think it was just poorly translated.

If it had said "...of a certain power," I wouldn't even ask; I'd just assume it was meant to refer to some faction implicitly known to the ETO members talking here but intentionally mysterious to the reader. Without the a, I'm puzzled.

What was the original Chinese phrase, and (to be best of your knowledge and/or wild guess) what was it intended to mean in this context?

  • 1
    Given that Chinese does not use either definite ("the") or indefinite ("a") articles, I would expect that the distinction you are looking for must be inferred from the context.
    – Ethan
    Commented Aug 24, 2020 at 20:12

2 Answers 2


On page 241 (ten pages and four in-universe years after the quoted bit), there is some discussion of God:

"... Still, so what if God exists? What's he got to do with what's right in front of us?"

"If God really exists, then he may have a mouthpiece in the mortal world."

They all stared at him for ages before the understood the implication of his words. Then one astronomer said, "General, what are you talking about? God wouldn't choose a mouthpiece from an atheist nation."

The repeated translation "mouthpiece" suggests to me that this bit of dialogue is meant as a callback to the bit on page 231, meaning that the phrase Martinsen has mistranslated as "certain power" is meant to be more like "the Most Powerful," and refer to the Abrahamic God. (See Wikipedia's list of Chinese names for God.)

Unfortunately I haven't been able to find out Liu's original phrase here, neither for "mouthpiece," nor "certain power," nor what word is being translated on page 241 as "God."

The word used by ETO members for Trisolaran high command, which Martinsen translates consistently as "the Lord," is 主 zhǔ.

On page 413, Xizi says of the droplet, "It's the tear of the blessed mother," which also seems like probably a religious expression which Martinsen has mistranslated (that is, I'm blindly guessing that the original phrase was something something 有福的母亲 yǒufú de mǔqīn, i.e. a reference to "the Blessed Mother," the Virgin Mary).

I'm not sure that any of my supposition here is right — and what is this driblet of Catholic imagery doing in a Chinese sci-fi story anyway? — but at least it's a small step that maybe someone else will build on.


Okay, according to a pirate copy I found online, the Chinese text is:

爱因斯坦说:“我考虑了很久,认为主对罗辑的恐惧只有一个可能的原因: 他是某种力量的代言人。

Àiyīnsītǎn shuō: “Wǒ kǎolǜle hěnjiǔ, rènwéi zhǔ duì luō jí de kǒngjù zhǐyǒu yīgè kěnéng de yuányīn: Tā shì mǒu zhǒng lìliàng de dàiyánrén.

According to my weak Google-fu, 代言人 dàiyánrén these days seems to carry a connotation of what we might call a "brand ambassador" or "celebrity spokesperson" — someone who carries and personifies an unspoken message — a "front man." I also found one instance of its being used in a legal context to mean "advocate" or "representative."

某种力量 mǒu zhǒng lìliàng indeed simply means 某 "some" 种 "kind of" 力量 "power," and is at least sometimes used with a supernatural connotation, as in the Chinese title of Rhonda Byrne's The Power, or this translation of a quotation attributed vaguely to philosopher William Godwin:


It is extremely unjustified to assert that, because a certain power is by us right now unobservable, therefore it is not within the limits of the human spirit. [Anyone know what the English-language original is?]

TLDR: It doesn't seem to be any well-known set phrase. So it just means literally "the public spokesman for some unknown power" (or "of a certain power"). In this context, yes, it probably refers to a religious conception of God (but not necessarily a Christian one).

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.