In most cultures around the world, people try to stay young, but thanks to the influence of Confucius, there is great respect for elders in China! Jonathan Dugdale, a researcher, and historian at the University of Birmingham, calls in to discuss the different Chinese words for “old” with ShaoLan. It’s important to know the difference because there is both a rude way and a respectful way to describe someone who is “old.”
On top of that, ShaoLan explains the word for “old” to describes objects, perhaps an old phone, or an old book, and the word for antiques or ancient archaeological artifacts, things that Jonathan researches. He even mentions that during the period he researches, the Liao dynasty, ancient objects from China were found in Western Europe and vice versa, evidence of trade going on over 1000 years ago.
The way to describe an old person in Chinese is 老人, or to be respectful is to say 長輩/长辈. The word for an old object is 舊/旧, while to describe ancient objects you say 古.