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Hidden Details In Shang-Chi You'll Miss If You Don't Speak Mandarin

Warning: Contains spoilers for "Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings."

Marvel's newest movie "Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings" is more than just the next superhero flick, as it's also the first to have an Asian lead amongst a nearly all-Asian cast. With a spectacular combination of martial arts, folklore, and a heart-wrenching family tale, "Shang-Chi" brings Chinese culture to the forefront of this superhero story. It's a bilingual film; most of the movie's dialogue is in English, but many scenes are in Mandarin, with subtitles. However, fans have noted that the subtitles don't do justice to the Mandarin lines.

At the heart of the movie is Shang-Chi's (Simu Liu) grapple with his parentage. For 10 years, he's been hiding from his family, working as Shaun the valet in San Francisco, but his past comes back to attack him on a bus and drag him back to his immortal conqueror father, Wenwu (Tony Leung). Now, Wenwu is willing to tear apart the otherworldly village Ta Lo in order to bring Shang-Chi's mother Li (Fala Chen), the deceased guardian of Ta Lo, back to life. However, knowing that's impossible, Shang-Chi and the dragon scale-armored villagers stand in his way.

It's here that the subtitles don't live up to their Mandarin equivalent. When Wenwu and the Ten Rings come to confront the people of Ta Lo, he's told he's not welcome in their village. In answer, Wenwu tells Master Guang Bo (Yuen Wah) to give him more respect, as he's a thousand years old. While English speakers see a subtitle translation equivalent to "I've lived ten of your lifetimes," Mandarin speakers are treated to a different version of the line.

In Mandarin, it's the best line of the movie

In the discussion thread of "Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings" on the subreddit r/movies, Redditor u/ashiakatamaki pointed out that Wenwu's subtitled line is far from a literal translation. They translated the Mandarin "小子,你对我说话尊重一点。我吃的盐比你吃的饭多" as "Kid, show some respect when you talk to me. I've eaten more salt than you've eaten rice in your entire life." They revealed it was the best line of the movie and that their theater, which was primarily made up of Chinese-speaking people, "EXPLODED" — to quote their all caps — at the line. While they got full enjoyment out of it, they said they were "honestly a tad saddened that such a good burn was lost in translation."

In Mandarin, the line still boils down to "respect me, your elder," but with more punch than the English subtitles give it. Plus, user u/Jenzintera24 points out that it's entertaining on a meta-level, too. "The fact that he said it to the f***ing Landlord himself Yuen Wah was mad. Tony's a legend but to say that to an older veteran actor, especially for us Chinese where respect for elders is stressed upon, made it funnier." For explanation, the famous martial artist-slash-actor Yuen played the Landlord in "Kung Fu Hustle"; Tony Leung, on the other hand, is one of the most popular actors in Asia. Still, while Wenwu may be immortal, Leung is certainly younger than Yuen.

A few commenters nitpicked u/ashiakatamaki's translation: u/Iris_Sun wrote, "a better translation would be 'I have eaten more salt than you have meals in your life.' Still the sickest line in the whole movie." User u/PhiloPhocion compared hearing that line to "the same pang of guilt as being called into the principal's office."

The subtitles may have given a different impression

Although the salty line may have been the most notable change between the spoken Mandarin and subtitles, user u/Iris_Sun noted that most of the subtitles aren't exact translations and often say more information than the actors are actually speaking. They wrote, "Sometimes the translations would create different characters than what just the dialogue would portray."

In particular, they felt Tony Leung's subtitles took away some of the nuance of his acting. They offered an example: "When he arrives at the gate to save his wife, the subtitles say 'I'm here, my love,' whereas he literally only says 'I'm here' — the implied endearment baked into the brevity of his words is all but washed away with the translation. It's just two words, but it makes a world of difference. Talk about telling, not showing."

While some commenters were dismayed that the "sick burn" was lost in translation, others were happy that Mandarin-speaking audiences would take away something from the movie that others wouldn't — making it an inside joke of sorts. Overall, the commenters thought the Mandarin in "Shang-Chi" was very well-spoken, though one fan said the accents had a lot of variation. All that aside, though, fans widely agree that Leung stole the whole show, and not just because of his wicked burn.