In Taipei or Beijing, a book launch is often a "sa ching" affair

With more and more Western publishers (and writers) looking forward to doing business in China and Taiwan, a special Chinese-language term, “sa ching,” might be useful for folks in New York and London to know. Of course, in the West, we speak of a “wrap party” for movies when they wrap up principal shooting. When writers finish a novel or a book series, there are also book parties, sometimes to celebrate the completion of a major work or the ”launch” of a new book.

A “sa ching” is a kind of launch party or publisher’s party for a book in Beijing or Taipei.

In Taiwan and China, a launch party or a Hollywood wrap party is called “sa ching” in the Chinese language, with two characters taking the bows. “Sa” means ”to end or complete something,” and ”ching” means “green.” How this connects with a launch party or a wrap party is a long story, but to make a long story short, here’s the gist of it:

A Taiwanese film director who lived in Manhattan for ten years in the 1980s, and who has attended his share of “sa ching” parties in Taiwan over the years for his own films and books, told me that the term “sa ching” comes from an ancient production technique of slowly warming green bamboo in order to turn it into material suitable for a book (see illustration above).

He also told me that “sa ching” could be spelled in English either as “sa ching” or “sha qing,” with the same pronunication, of course.

So there you have it: A book party in some parts of Asia is called a “sa ching”—and it is often also called a “sa ching jyo” with the “jyo” standing for “liquor”  and thus you get the picture of a lot of happy toasts with champagne and other things “flowing like good wine.”

So if you’re ever headed to Taipei or Beijing for a book event or a meeting with a publisher, it’s good to know this term in Chinese: “sa ching,” sha qing,” or maybe even the very liquidy “sa ching jyo.”

Cheers! Bottoms up! Congratuatlions! Mazel tov! Ganbei! Gongshi-gongshi!

Dan Bloom is a freelance writer based in Taiwan.

5 Comments on In Taipei or Beijing, a book launch is often a "sa ching" affair

  1. How do you pronounce it properly? What are the tones?

    If you don’t know you could wind up saying something that means toilet tissue, or mummy patty. For example.

  2. As opposed to what it often is in the West — a ‘Ka-ching!’ affair.

  3. The Chinese characters for sa ching are ”殺青” and how to pronounce it correctly so that it does not come out sounding like some other “rude” term is for some Mandarin speaking expert to sound off on here in the comments. If you build it they will come. Waiting.
    Because yes there are 4 tones in Mandarin and getting the tone wrong is like playing Beethoven in the wrong key completely. Good point, MRW, above. Smile.

    One of my sources in Taiwan, Mr Lin, told me “Dan, i wiki it, ‘殺青’ means ”the Final Process”.
    it’s original from the OLD OLD people use fire to dry the bamboo, used to avoid worms to bite it~ klong ago in ancient china.
    so it seems it is a final process for the bamboo for produce to write~ and today in modern Taiwan and China it is an idiom used to mean a final party, or something like that, so a launch party or a movie wrap party.”

    @jon yes KA CHING came to mind, too. LOL.

  4. Dr Deune at Johns Hopkins asks re all this: “How do you pronounce the “sa” character in Taiwanese (hoklo ?). I’m trying to think of the Taiwanese word for “sa”. As a 2nd generation Taiwanese American, I don’t speak Mandarin and speak only Taiwanese and am trying to think of an equivalent Taiwanese sounds that would have the same meaning.

    The Taiwanese pronounciation for green would be similar (chee (n)) with a rising tone.”

    Gene Deune (張怡正)

    E. Gene Deune, MD
    Associate Professor,
    Johns Hopkins

  5. A Taiwanese woman living in south Taiwan writes via email, and she makes some good and important points as a native speaker of Chinese, and I stand by her corrections and clarifications and amplifications:

    ”Dear Sir, according to your article that you posted on the teleread..
    i have some questions

    though my english is not well, but i think some main point might be like that ..
    what does the really mean as ‘sa ching ” nowadays??

    if your word “launch” means release or publish ..
    then i dont think it is the really meaning of ” sa ching ”

    i think the sa-ching point when the author completed his work but it has not been published
    or the movie finished shooting and was not released yet …
    it calls sa-ching..

    and as i said sa-ching not connect with “sa-ching jyo”..which means “sa-ching party ” in chinese character meaning..
    maybe you said ” wrap up ” including party….i don’t know ??…but here sa-ching is not the same with sa-ching party ..

    do you think every author of the books, who completed his work and will hold a party to celebrate it ?
    no, almost not ..

    but when his book is completed, we can say it ” the book has been sa-ching”
    and wait for the publisher to buy its copyright and publish it ..

    that’s my opinion about sa-ching…”

    — Miss Hu

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