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How to Say “Master” in Chinese? 师傅 & 师父 Shifu Meaning in Mandarin

How to Say Master in Chinese?

How do you say Master in Chinese? Many non-Chinese men that I have met knew the Chinese name for Master – SHIFU even when they barely understand Mandarin. Moreover, they are always enthusiastic about the title – Shifu or Sifu if they have been watching too many Martial Arts 功夫 Gōngfū films. That is how many they understand the term Master in Mandarin.

Shifu or Sifu?

Master in Chinese is 师傅 Shīfù or 师父 Shīfu? The Pinyin for  is Shi and not Si. Sifu is a Cantonese pronunciation, pronounced as “See-foo” (‘C-fool’ without the ‘L’ sound). If you are unsure of the Shi and the Si sound, check out the post on Difference between Z, C, S and ZH, CH, SH Sound to hear the intonation between Shi and Si.

The Pinyin for both “Fu” has different accent marks (父 fu is a neutral sound here) which indicate that they should have different pronunciation. However, the difference in pronunciation is not apparent and does not apply in this case. has also a Pinyin sound of .

师傅,师父(Chinese)
師傅,師父 (Cantonese)


Difference Between Shifu Chinese:
师傅 and 师父

Master in Chinese – 师傅 Shīfù

In some Chinese skilled professions, we call these artisans and craftsmen “Master 师傅 Shīfù” when they teach or work in some industries requiring craft and technical skills.

师傅 Shīfù can also be a mentor during an apprenticeship like a teacher. The apprentice is thus called 徒弟 Túdì.

The other known professions which we call 师傅 Shīfù are the chefs working in the restaurants. On the subject of occults and metaphysics, we call the mediums and fortune-tellers as 师傅 Shīfù too.

So, don’t be surprised if you hear the name called on somebody in a profession. Be it whether they are indeed a teacher or a professional master in their field of specialisation or not.

师傅 Chinese Shifu Profession

Martial Arts Master武术师傅Wǔshù shī fù
Taiji Master太极师傅Tàijí shīfù
Fengshui Master风水师傅Fēngshuǐ shīfù
Fortune Teller算命师傅Suànmìng shīfù
Tim Sum Chef点心师傅Diǎnxīn shīfù
Baker面包师傅Miànbāo shīfù
Electrician电工师傅Diàngōng shīfù
Carpenter木匠师傅Mùjiàng shīfù
Craftsman工匠师傅Gōngjiàng shīfù
Driver司机师傅Sījī shīfù

 

Master in Mandarin – 师父 Shīfu

The other Chinese term is 师父 Shīfu which also denotes Master in Chinese. The modern Chinese dictionary defines the two terms as the same as nowadays, people rarely write 师父 Shīfu anymore as compared to 师傅 Shīfù due to modernised evolution that makes 师父 Shīfu seem antiquated.

师父 Shifu Meaning

What is 师父 Shīfu meaning here? We address the Buddhist monks, nuns and Taoist priests 师父 Shīfu as a form of respect for them.

In the olden days when someone has a disciple 徒弟 Túdì or a Buddhist disciple 弟子 Dìzǐ, he would call his teacher 师父 Shīfu. The Chinese word  means father.

The teacher or the master would take care of the disciple like his own son. Therefore, there was a special bonding between the two of them which the teacher was regarded as a father to the disciple.

Such a close relationship between the teacher and disciple can go on until the end of their life. Hence, the word 师父 Shīfu which illustrates a connection more than that of a teacher and his student.

Nowadays, it is no surprise that such a close-knitted relationship is hardly in existence due to social evolution. Even the Chinese dictionary has to modernise and mould its meaning to accommodate the redundancy.

Conclusion: 师傅 VS 师父

In summary, Master in Chinese is 师父 = 师傅 and the modern word used today is 师傅 Shīfù. Hence, there should be no discrepancy between the two.

*Profile Image: Confucius 

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