Nouveau riche

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"Nouveau riche" (French: 'new rich' [nuvo ʁiʃ]) is a term, usually derogatory, to describe those whose wealth has been acquired within their own generation, rather than by familial inheritance. The equivalent English term is the "new rich" or "new money" (in contrast with "old money"/"vieux riche").[1] Sociologically, "nouveau riche" refers to the man or woman who previously had belonged to a lower social class and economic stratum (rank) within that class; and that the new money, which constitutes his or her wealth, allowed upward social mobility and provided the means for conspicuous consumption, the buying of goods and services that signal membership in an upper class. As a pejorative term, "nouveau riche" affects distinctions of type, the given stratum within a social class; hence, among the rich people of a social class, "nouveau riche" describes the vulgarity and ostentation of the new-rich man and woman who lack the worldly experience and the system of values of old money, of inherited wealth, such as the patriciate, the nobility and the gentry.


The idea of nouveau riche dates at least as far back as ancient Greece (c. 8th century BC).[2] In the 6th century BC, the poet and aristocrat Theognis of Megara wrote how "in former days, there was a tribe who knew no laws nor manners ... These men are nobles, now, the gentlemen of old are now the trash".[3] In the Roman Republic, the term "novus homo" ("new man") carried similar connotations.

Social status

One can define social status in relation to wealth, and to the power granted by the wealth. It has been argued[by whom?] that the upper, ruling classes have legitimized "... their rule with claims of status and honor and moral superiority".[4] Ruling classes make claims in defense of the ascribed superiority of wealth inherited through "blood ... and the concept of proper breeding". The nouveau riche man and woman are juxtaposed against the people of the old money social class; and with trans-generational, inherited wealth, in order to highlight the cultural, value system and societal differences, between the two social groups within the class.

Old Family ties, as traditional claims of status, are not found in the nouveaux riches, which challenges and ultimately redefines social traditions and values such as the institution of debutantes and their debut to society. As seen through the rise in the number of debutantes, the social value of the debut has since shifted from the "family's elite social standing and long family traditions" to "a symbolic value as an element of upper-class life style".[5] This transition allows for high social standing to be established by the nouveau riche through the institution of the debut.[6] Social integration of these elite sects is extremely slow and sluggish, which prolongs and strengthens stereotypes. This rate of integration makes it more likely that the nouveaux riches will "retain identification with the traditional ... group of origin; this is the basis for division between the groups. Furthermore, the isolation that minority nouveaux riches experience within their own class leads them "to prioritize issues of radical justice, civil liberties, and religious tolerance over pure economic self-interest".[4]

Inter-class stereotypes

Often referred to as parvenu, members of the nouveau riche are often discriminated against by the "old money" sects of society since they "lack the proper pedigree".[4] These newcomers to economic power are subject to even greater scrutiny from their lack of historical prestige as seen through Dye's comments which reference the new rich as "uncouth" and "uncultured". The behavior of the nouveau riche is often satirized by American society by "implying that stereotyped, rather than real, behavior patterns are copied".[7] Many people have made claims to the inferiority of those with new money as compared to those with old money. Many have made claims that nouveaux riches "lack political and cultural sophistication" and others make comparisons saying that the old rich are "more sophisticated than the less cosmopolitan nouveau riche".[8][9] These assumptions further perpetuate the differences between the two and lead to even further stereotypes and have lasted for well over a century. In the 1920s, Mrs. Jerome Napoleon Bonaparte, who herself married into a family once considered parvenu and lacking in pedigree, protested that "the nouveau riche... is making places like Palm Beach no more exclusive than Coney Island. Newport, the last stronghold of the elite, has the moneyed intruder at the gates.... Undesirables are penetrating everywhere".[10] In eighteenth century Europe "Old Money" families attempted to raise themselves above the nouveau riches by sensitively renovating their ancestral residences to allude to their antiquity. Their evident ties to the families' history could not be rivaled by the new, self-made, class. In the Dutch Republic the nobility sought this as an advantage over the merchant burgers of Amsterdam and a similar trend arose in the French Court.[11] The same is true of the fashionable lairds of seventeenth century Scotland who re-worked buildings like Thirlestane Castle, Glamis Castle and Drumlanrig Castle to celebrate the lineage of their families.[12]

The prejudice can be seen to express the differences between the behaviour that keeps old money (caution, discretion) and that which gains new wealth (aggression, chance-taking).


Renminbi, the official currency of the People's Republic of China

Tuhao (Chinese: 土豪, tǔháo) is a Chinese term referring to people of wealth. In its original literary form, it refers to those of prominent and wealthy backgrounds. In modern use, the term has also became a popular slang used to describe nouveau riche. Pejoratively, the internet slang can be understood to carry on the meaning of "uncouth nouveau riche", "tacky" or "extravagant".[13]

Origin and transformation in uses

The term 'tuhao' was originally used in ancient China, dating back to the Northern and Southern Dynasties around 1500 years ago. The term originally referred to those of prominent origin, especially people of influential and wealthy backgrounds.[14] During the Republic period and the Cultural Revolution from 1920 to early 1950, it was used to describe and refer to landlords or landholders who bullied those beneath them in the social class, known as the countrymen.

Before August 2013, 'Tuhao' was a popular internet slang used to describe irrational and over-consumed online game players, who were also called "RMB warriors" as they use renminbi to purchase in-game items and suppress regular players who did not have the ability to purchase as many items. They won by their purchasing power, rather than their online game techniques or tactics. Its usage has now extended to daily life. People who purchase a large amount of figures, models and luxury goods are also given the nickname 'Tuhao'.

The word 'Tuhao' has gone viral recently since its first appearance as a joke on the Chinese social platform Weibo in 2013: A young man asks a Buddhist monk, 'I'm wealthy, but unhappy. What should I do?' The Buddhist monk says, "Define 'wealthy.' " The young man answers, 'I have millions in the bank and three apartments in central Beijing. Is that wealthy?' The Buddhist monk silently holds out a hand. The young man says: 'Master, are you telling me that I should be thankful and give back?' Instead of telling him to live a simple and happy life, the Buddhist monk replied 'Tuhao, let's be friends!" The joke implies that the tuhao's wealth was so substantial that it even made a Buddhist monk greedy.[15]

Sociology of the phenomenon/use of the word 'tuhao'

The word "tuhao" comprises two Chinese characters: one meaning "soil or earth"; the other meaning "grandeur" .

"Tuhao jin" is a word derived from "tuhao", literally meaning "tuhao gold" or "the gold of tuhao".

On September 20, 2013, Apple Inc. launched a new champagne gold iPhone 5s. The official price for the golden version of the iPhone 5s was 5,288 yuan (USD 862). But in China, the price of a golden iPhone 5s was above 8,800 yuan (USD 1,435). It had become a must-have item for many Chinese and soon sold out in China, prompting huge reactions on the Chinese internet. The media nicknamed the iPhone's gold color as "tuhao jin", denoting the lavish, garish and excessive tastes of China's emerging extravagant "tuhaos".[16]

The phrase, "tuhao jin" was then widely used to make sarcastic remarks at gold-plated luxury cars, the opulent interior of a Chongqing school to, most recently, the golden exterior of the People's Daily office tower, currently under construction in Beijing. On the Chinese social network Weibo, one user mocked the building's golden exterior, exclaiming, "Wow! What a massive 'tuhao jin'..."[17]

The fact is that Chinese has always had derogatory terms for the rich and unsophisticated. "Tu" (the same tu from tuhao) was one. Tuhao is significant not because it is another such term, but because it is a parody of such terms, and the discourse of crass, status-driven consumption which underlies these. "Tuhao" indicates fusions of rustic roots with material ambition and gaudy expressions. However, in taking this to the "nth" degree, the term also evinces a new capacity for Chinese to laugh at themselves. Cultural Sociologist Michael Griffiths tells us that, "for consumers in China's higher-tier cities (who have already been around this kind of crass materialism for a couple of decades now), tuhao represents a tongue-in cheek satire of China's breakneck pursuit of material affluence in the get-rich-quick era. It also heralds a future where face-driven materialism will be less obviously paramount in consumption."[18] Related trends can be seen all over China's consumer economy today, not least in changes to the luxury sector.

International reputation

Oxford English Dictionary is considering adding "Tuhao" into its 2014 edition since this word has become familiar among the international society.[19] Foreign media used "Tuhao" to describe Chinese tourists. In 2013, 70 percent of European luxury goods were purchased by Chinese people, and many paid with cash.[20] Moreover, the BBC has launched a programme depicting the phenomenon of "Tuhao", introducing the origin, meaning and popularity.[21] In 2015, it was also listed as one of the top "hot words" in China Daily and is now widely used to make fun of the rich who love luxurious products.[22] As a result, some people are worried about the negative reputation brought by the word "Tuhao" to China.

In 2014, South Korean drama, 'Hotel King', made an ironic depiction of a rich Chinese man in one of its episodes, triggering a huge controversy among Chinese netizens.[23]

However, some argued that since the internet slang meaning behind "Tuhao" was meant to be tongue-in-cheek and humorous, it actually shows that the Chinese people have a sense of humor about themselves. Thus, it is claimed that the spread of the word "Tuhao" shows the open-minded and lighthearted side of the Chinese people.[24]

See also


  1. ^ "Nouveau Riche". Merriam Webster. 
  2. ^ Gill, David H. 1994 "Anti-popular Rhetoric in Ancient Greece", Wealth in Western Thought, ed. Paul G. Schervish, 13-42. Westport, CT: Praeger.
  3. ^ Theognis 1973 "Elegies." Hesiod and Theognis. Harmondsworth: Penguin.
  4. ^ a b c Burris, Val. 2000 "The Myth of Old Money Liberalism: The Politics of the 'Forbes' 400 Richest Americans". Social Problems, Vol. 47, No. 3, 360–378. CA: University of California Press
  5. ^ Beth Day 1966 "After This Party She'll Be Invited Everywhere," Saturday Evening Post, 239:35.
  6. ^ Dean D. Knudsen 1968 "Socialization to Elitism: A Study of Debutantes." The Sociological Quarterly 9 (3) , 300–308.
  7. ^ Linn, Erwin L. "Reference Group: A Case Study in Conceptual Diffusion" The Sociological Quarterly, Vol. 7, No. 4. (Autumn, 1966), pp. 489-499.
  8. ^ Lipset, Seymour M. 1963 "Three decades of the Radical Right." In The Radical Right, ed. Daniel Bell, 373-446. New York: Anchor Books.
  9. ^ Szymanski, Albert 1978 "The Capitalist State and the Politics of Class." Cambridge, MA: Winthrop.
  10. ^ Amory, Cleveland 1960 "Who Killed Society?" New York, Harper.
  11. ^ C. Wemyss, "The Art of Retrospection and the Country Houses of Post-Restoration Scotland" Architectural Heritage XXVI (2015), 26.
  12. ^ Wemyss, "The Art of Retrospection", p. 26.
  13. ^ ""tuhao"(nouveau riche) become wildly popular in China". Retrieved 10 January 2015. 
  14. ^ "土豪". (1). 地方上有钱有势的家族或个人。《宋书·殷琰传》:" 叔宝 者, 杜坦 之子,既土豪乡望,内外诸军事并专之。"《南史·韦鼎传》:"州中有土豪,外修边幅,而内行不轨。" 清 顾炎武 《田功论》:"募土豪之忠义者,官为给助,随便开垦。" 
  15. ^ 李珅. "Tuhao -". Retrieved 10 January 2015. 
  16. ^ "土豪我们做朋友吧_百度百科". Retrieved 10 January 2015. 
  17. ^ Qin, Amy (15 October 2013). "Yet Another Way to Mock China's New Rich". The New York Times. 
  18. ^
  19. ^ "Oxford English Dictionary Considers Adding 'Tuhao', A Chinese Slang Term In Future Edition". International Business Times. 20 November 2013. Retrieved 10 January 2015. 
  20. ^ "CHINA'S GILDED TUHAO". Retrieved 10 January 2015. 
  21. ^ "BBC News - #BBCtrending: Tuhao and the rise of Chinese bling". BBC News. Retrieved 10 January 2015. 
  22. ^ "China has a word for its crass new rich". Retrieved 10 January 2015. 
  23. ^ "Korean Drama 'Hotel King' Makes Fun of Rich Chinese, Reactions". Retrieved 10 January 2015. 
  24. ^ ""Tuhao" and Gangnam style". Retrieved 10 January 2015. 
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