Elevated Governor of Water Division

March 9, 2010

The term 水師提督, somewhat literally translated as “Elevated Governor of Water Division”, is not actually a ceremonial title for Moses given by a Chinese dude who claimed that he was Jesus’ little brother. It’s actually a Qing Dynasty (read: last Chinese dynasty ever, so think 1700s to early 1900s) military rank. More commonly (and less epically) translated as “admiral”, 水師提督 was the rank given to the highest ranking officials in the Qing navy. There were three of them (each in charge of a fleet) and so perhaps it may be more accurate to translate the term as “fleet admiral”.

The dude in the picture was an admiral Si (though he is referred to as a general in the painting the Chinese term for general is really more a general [see what I did there?] term for “dude who leads a bunch of troops”) who accepted some kind of surrender from some other dude at what we now call Tainan in 1863 or so, when they made that painting of him. Now his badass portrait is immortalized in digital form on http://www.leek.tw/ to accompany historical facts about Taiwanese vegetables.

The characters 提督 mean “elevate” and “governor/supervisor” separately. Put together they become something like “high ranking commander” in a military context. The character 師 usually means “master” or “teacher” (it’s the first half of sifu) but here it means a military division. Since 水 means “water”, 水師 means “water division” or, since we’re referring to the armed forces, “navy”. It’s a rather archaic term that is no longer used in the Chinese military. Originally I wrote a ton here about current Chinese navy ranks but the Internet decided to eat my work so I will make that the next post.

Ironically, the only place where 水師提督 is still used is to refer to 水師提督門 (門 means “gate” or “door”), more commonly known as Admiralty Arch in London, England, which honors the very queen (give or take a generation) whose naval prowess the 水師提督 of the past had fought to keep out of the Great Qing Empire.

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One Response to “Elevated Governor of Water Division”


  1. […] the last post mentioned, the term 水師提督 is no longer used to refer to an admiral in the People’s […]

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