Defining “insider trading” is already difficult enough, especially across different jurisdictions where elements and defenses can vary ever so slightly, and yet can result in very big differences. But try translating the term to your Chinese-speaking client.

The most commonly used translation for insider trading is “內幕交易” (nèimùjiāoyì) – which literally means “trading behind the curtain.” However, Hong Kong’s financial analysts, journalists and bloggers have taken to calling insiders  “春江鴨”(chūn jiāng yā), or “spring river ducks”!

What is the connection? This term actually refers to the Song dynasty poem Huì Chóng Chun Jiang Wan Jing (惠崇春江晚景), which recalls the scene of a beautiful evening on the river, just as the spring season is about to arrive. The poet, Su Shì(蘇軾), describes the sight of two to three branches of peach blossoms emerging from a thicket of bamboo and how the ducks on the river know that spring is coming, as they can feel the river water warming up underneath them.

Thus, “spring river ducks” are those who are first in the know – and therefore potentially at risk of insider trading.

The entire poem, with translation, is printed below.

Special thanks to Angela Lu, an associate in our Hong Kong Corporate & Securities Department, for inspiring this post. Reed Smith’s strong global presence means having a team of multilingual lawyers.

《惠崇春江晚景》 蘇軾

竹外桃花三兩枝,春江水暖鴨先知。 蔞蒿滿地蘆芽短,正是河豚欲上時。

Beyond the bamboo are 2-3 branches of peach blossoms, the ducks are first to know with the warm Spring river water.

Beach wormwood has grown all over and budding reeds are short, now is the time for fugu to be in the market.