Chinese Names of the Planets in the Solar System

The planet Jupiter as seen from the Hubble Telescope

Here are the Chinese names of the planets in the Solar System:

水星

water-star

Mercury

金星

metal-star

Venus

地球

earth-ball/globe

Earth

火星

fire-star

Mars

木星

wood-star

Jupiter

土星

earth-star

Saturn

天王星

Star of the God of the Sky

Uranus

海王星

Star of the God of the Ocean

Neptune

And here’s the Chinese name of Pluto:

冥王星

Star of the God of the Underworld

Pluto

Notice that for the inner planets, along with Jupiter and Saturn, they have classical Chinese names except for Earth. The Chinese names for Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn are derived from the Chinese concept of the Five Elements (五行), being fire (火), water (水), wood (木), metal (金), and earth (土).

The Chinese names for Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto are derived from Greek mythology, as in English.

What is the primary reason for this naming split in Chinese? One group of planets can be seen with the naked eye while the other group requires the use of telescopes to be viewed. The fact that the telescope was invented in Europe has influenced the Chinese names of objects in the Solar System.

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Shay Chu

Shay Chu

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Product Designer | Multilingual | Fan of the Oxford Comma & Oxford Spelling | LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/shaychu Portfolio: https://shaychu.com