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10 Useful Chinese Chengyu and Idioms

for Beginners
On August 7, 2015 By Hollie In Blog, Culture Lessons 0 Comments

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What are Chinese Chengyu?


Chengyu (chng y) are idioms, usually made up of four Chinese
characters. An idiom is a group of words that have a meaning not obviously
made through the individual words. Most languages have their own idioms.
For example, in English when it rains heavily we commonly say its raining cats
and dogs. It is not literally raining animals, but it reflects the nature of the rain as
falling heavily, such as if cats and dogs were to fall.
In Spanish Abrir la caja de los truenos is the equivalent of to open a can of
worms which is used when a situation is created that will cause trouble or
upset.

Idioms in any language are often interesting and sometimes even amusing.
Whilst learning idioms is not essential, Chinese Chengyu will certainly improve
your fluency and understanding of the Chinese language.
Below is a simple introduction to some useful Chinese Chengyu to whet your
appetite. To learn more Chengyu you can check out the Useful Chengyu
flashcard sets in the Written Chinese Dictionary mobile app!

1. (m ma h h)

is probably one of most well known Chengyu because the literal


translation is horse horse, tiger tiger. This is somewhat amusing, but the most
common meaning is something like so-so or not bad.
Example:
(n chng g ho tng ma?) = Are you a good singer?
. (m ma h h) = Just so-so.

2. (q shng b xi)

Similar to the English expression all sixes and sevens, the literal translation of
the idiom is Seven Up, Eight Down. This Chengyu refers to a person whose
mind is a mess and cannot think straight.
Example:
, (w xn li q shng b xi, b zh gi zn me
bn.) = Im all at sixes and sevens about what to do.

3. (b k s y)

The meaning behind this Chengyu is that something is inconceivable or truly


amazing. The characters literally translate to = cannot and which
means to comprehend.
Example:
(j rn sh t yng le, zhn sh b k s y) = It is
unbelievable that he won the game.

4. (ji ni y mo)

The translation of this idiom is 1 hair from 9 oxen and means to be a small
thing amongst a huge quantity, like 1 hair amongst 9 cows. A similar idiom in
English might be a drop in the ocean.
Example:
, (zh din sn sh du t li shu, zh bu
gu sh ji ni y mo.) = For him the loss was only a drop in the ocean.

5. (shn q z rn)

This Chengyu means let nature take its course. The first bigram means to
allow something to be, whilst means natural or naturally. The idea
behind this chengyu is that something should not be forced, but allowed to
happen of its own accord, whether that be love or forging new relationships.
Example:
(shn q z rn b dng y fng q.) = Letting go is not
the same as giving up.

6. (z yu z zi)

Meaning to be free and easy, this idiom translates as meaning freedom or


liberty and which is to be unrestrained.
Example:
(w zu d de yun wng ji sh k y
z yu z zi de shng hu.) = My greatest wish is to live as free as a bird.

7. (p ci min zi)

This meaning of this idiom is a financial loss could prevent further disaster or
more poetically A loss of wealth is a gain of health. Basically, this idiom
suggests that we should take solace when we lose something of value, as
something worse could have happened. means to lose property, is to
escape disaster.
Example:
(shu j di le mi gun xi, ji dng sh p
ci min zi ba.) Its OK to lose your mobile phone, just regard this as buying
peace.

8. (fi p hu) (z q
mi wng)

This idiom is what is known as a (xi hu y), in which the second half of
the saying holds the actual allegorical meaning. Sometimes the second
meaning can be completely left out.
In this case, the first part of the idiom, means a moth flies into the
flame which refers to fatal attraction. However, the second half ,
actually holds the real meaning, which is to court disaster, or to dig your own
grave.
Example:
(t men zh yng zu w y y fi p hu.) =
What they did was no different to being suicidal.

9. (gu n ho zi) (du


gun xin sh)

This is another example of . The first half translates as a dog who


catches mice. whilst the second half, means to be meddlesome or
interfere with others business.
Example:
(w gun xn t, t qu ju de w sh gu
n ho zi.) = I was concerned about her, but she thought I was interfering in her
business.

10. (wng yng b lo)

literally means to repair the pen after the sheep is dead, but its
allegorical meaning is to act belatedly or like the English phrase, better late
than never.
Example:
(wi shn me b gi t d
g din hu do qin? wng yng b lo, wi sh wi wn.) = Why dont you call
him up and apologize? Better later than never.
This is just a short introduction to Chengyu and Chinese idioms. If youre
interested in learning more Chengyu, check out the Chengyu flashcard sets in
the Written Chinese Dictionary!

You can also click on the links below to download the Written Chinese
Dictionary app for your iOS and Android devices!

Click Here to Download 10 Useful Chinese Chengyu and Idioms PDF

About Hollie
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