Why We call Our Teacher Sifu

In the past, Chinese etiquette considered it impolite to call anyone by their first name. Even family members had their own special titles. This way of addressing others also shows their family connection. Even siblings call each other “Brother” or “Sister” rather than their given names.

For the mother’s side and the father’s side, there is a different name for the same family relationship. This makes people’s relationships very clear without having to explain which side of the family is being discussed. For instance, when a grandchild calls their grandfather “Ye-Ye”, people would instantly know that this is his or her father’s father. Their maternal grandfather is called, “Gong-Gong”.

Today, this system is still used and it creates a system of courtesy and position among family, friends and society.

So when we study a Chinese skill, we call our teacher “Sifu” to show our respect. Being able to call a teacher “Sifu” in the past also meant that the teacher had accepted you to be his or her student.

Teaching Family Tree


*Pronunciation is based on Cantonese (South China dialect).


Using the family tree you can find out what you should call your teacher, Grandteacher, even your training partners etc