Chinese Middle Finger – What is it, it’s significance, and use

By: Belu Di Lorenzo

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Showing or pointing a middle finger is considered disrespectful and obscene in most countries including the United States of America and Canada. A middle finger is shown to a person by extending the middle finger and pointing it towards a person with your hand backward. 

In countries like China, the middle finger has both good and bad significance. For some reasons, such as during meditation and in medicine, showing a middle finger is not considered a rude gesture at all. However, if a middle finger is pointed toward someone otherwise, it is treated as a sign of offense and disrespect in China. 

In countries like Japan, showing a middle finger means “an older brother”. At times, people also point to a middle finger as a playful sign, but the Chinese consider it a clear sign of boredom and disrespect. A single finger is pointed by Chinese towards animals, hence they think of it as an offensive sign. 

Since showing the middle finger is considered an insult in most countries, it is always better to use your hand or all the fingers while pointing toward someone. It might prevent you from unwanted trouble easily.

Chinese Middle Finger Significance

China is not exclusive of using the middle finger as a commonly used hand gesture. However, the Chinese middle finger has different meanings and gestures accordingly. Let us understand each of them.

Middle Finger as a Hand Gesture

First and foremost, the middle finger is shown as a hand gesture in many countries including China. Showing a middle finger is considered a direct insult and very offensive if the intentions of the person are that way. Mostly, the Chinese use fingers to point toward animals. Hence, if humans are pointed out the same way, it is often taken as a sign of disrespect by the Chinese people.

Middle Finger in the Five Elements Theory

As per the Shaman Kings of China, the five fingers of nature symbolize the five elements of nature in which the thumb represents the Earth, the index finger stands for Metal, the middle finger is therefore compared to fire, and simsimilarlye ring finger and the pink finger respectively symbolize Wood and Water. 

It is believed that all the five elements of nature are interconnected just like the five fingers of a human hand. If considered this way, then the middle fingers hold an important significance in Chinese culture. The Fire element means prosperity of matter, and so, it is not to be taken as a sign of offense or disrespect. 

Religious Significance

The middle finger in China has a religious significance too. In the Taoism religion, the middle finger is believed to have special magical powers. In this regard, the middle finger is often used by Chinese people during meditation or to transfer energy from one person to another. The middle finger is also used to know the intentions of the other person in China.

Medicinal Importance

As per the traditional Chinese medical theory, the middle finger resembles the head, neck, and trunk of a body. To cure body pain, needles are therefore inserted in the middle finger of a person and it is also believed that inserting needles in the pressure points of the middle finger is useful in preserving the flow of energy. 

Is the Chinese Middle Finger Offensive?

No doubt the middle finger is treated as a hand gesture, but that is not the entire case. In Chinese culture, the middle finger has equal importance on the positive side as it has on the negative front. While it could be disrespectful to point a middle finger towards someone, many times people also use the middle finger to convey a welcome to someone in a playful manner.

Adding onto this, the middle finger is a major part of the Five Elements Theory in China wherein the middle finger is represented as a Fire element. Ancient Chinese culture also believes in preserving energy by pointing needles in the middle finger as in that manner, the finger represents the entire human body. Many people in China often bring the middle finger into use during meditation to know their intentions. 

Thus, the meaning of the middle finger in China entirely depends on the way you perceive it. It can be offensive and contemptible for one, while it could be useful and religious to the other. The Chinese middle finger has a medicinal history as well as a religious belief associated with it. Hence, it is not always the case that the middle finger in China can be considered bad.

Which Finger is Considered Disrespectful in China?

While the middle finger is considered obscure in western culture, the Chinese believe it to be among the five elements of nature and that the middle finger can preserve energy as well. However, certain other gestures can be a sign of disrespect in China. 

The Fig Sign

The Fig Sign is the most disrespectful in China. It is the sign wherein the thumb is placed between the index finger and the middle finger. It is obscene to point this sign to someone in China. The Chinese people consider it as a big disrespect and doing so to someone can lead you into trouble unnecessarily. 

The Pinky Finger

However, the pinky finger is not much offensive, yet giving a pinky finger in China to someone indicates that you are showing a little dislike towards the person to whom you show the pinky finger, or that you are not liking what the person has to show or offer.

Pointing with the Index Finger

The Chinese use the Index Finger to point at animals. Thus, if you point an index finger toward anyone in China, it is treated as a bad sign. It means you have little or no respect for the person and it can also mean that the person is being compared to an animal. Hence, it is always advised to point with all the fingers and the hand toward anyone.


Although the use of the middle finger in China can be related to disrespect, it is mostly shown as a playful sign. In China, the middle finger is used by ancient people to cure someone and examine a person’s personality and intentions as well. Moreover, the middle finger is one of the five elements of the ancient Chinese theory. Thus, it can not be entirely treated as a sign of disrespect.

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