Lesson 1: 攻,受,年下,年上

Welcome to the world of Chinese BL novels! There are a lot of novels for you to explore and we hope you find ones you enjoy. 

Before you dive into the riches, here are four Chinese basic terms that will help orient you: 攻,受,年下, and 年上. 

You’ll often see 攻 and 受 together at the bottom of the synopsis for a story in a line that looks something like “[adjective]攻x[adjective]受”. If you are at all familiar with the Japanese shounen ai/yaoi community, you’ll have seen couple names written as [Name of top]x[Name of bottom], so this shouldn’t be strange to you. 

Once you know what each character stands for, it should be easy to see why the characters stand for top and bottom respectively. 攻 (gōng)typically  means “to attack” and 受 (shòu) usually means “to receive”. Side note: 攻(gōng) sounds exactly the same as 公 (gōng) in 老公 (lǎo gōng), which is why sometimes the top is referred to as 老攻. 

年上 and 年下 both refer to the age difference (if there is any) between the couple. The 年 (nián) stands for the 年 in 年龄 (nián líng) or age. 上 (shàng)  is up/above and 下 (xià) is down/below, which means that if it’s 年上, the top is older and if it’s 年下 the top is younger. 

There you go! Next time you look at the last section of the synopsis, you should be able to identify the line that characterizes the top and bottom featured in the story. Though not all authors choose to tag the story with 年上 or 年下, you now know what it means if you come across it.