Readers of Sax Rohmer’s Fu Manchu stories will remember that pulp fiction’s greatest mastermind was president of the Si-fan…at first, seemingly an Chinese group dedicated to world domination but later a multi-racial and international conspiracy with vague but ominous goals.
Does Si-Fan have any real meaning in Chinese or was it something Rohmer just pulled out of the air as he sat at his desk ninety years ago? I seem to recall it was explained once as meaning the Seven but can't find any reference.
Any Straight Dopers with knowledge of Cantonese or Mandarin, your help would be much appreciated. With all the apprehension about the Illuminati and SPECTRE, it's time to start worrying about what the Si-Fan have been up to lately.
Well, my understanding (admittedly imperfect) about the Fu Manchu books was that Sax Rohmer basically just made it all up out of whole cloth, and that “Si Fan” would mean “Se–ven” in Late Victorian pseudo-heathen-Chinese-speak, the same people who brought you “me velly solly”.
According to this, “seven” in Mandarin is “qi1”, the “1” standing for a certain kind of inflection.
Need more to go on than “si-fan”. I’m guessing that “Si” would be “death” or the number “four” in this case. But there are several other characters with the “si” pronunciation. I couldn’t find any common terms for “si-fan” in my Chinese dictionary.