Most Common and Useful Chinese idioms You Should Know
Posted by Fifi Yang on 2016-03-17 18:07:26 4510

Chinese, like any language over the world, has its own idiomatic expressions—成语(chénɡ yǔ), there are about 5,000 chengyu in the Chinese language according to the official definition. Most Chinese idioms consist of four Chinese characters, so it is also called "four-character idioms". It has a long history and still used in both writing language and spoken language. Now I would like to introduce top 5 popular Chinese idioms.

1. pò fǔ chén zhōu
破 釜 沉 舟

what does 破釜沉舟 mean

"破釜沉舟pò fǔ chén zhōu",which means "break the woks, sink the boats". Here is a history story of the general Xiang Yu 项羽. It is said that when Xiang Yu cross a river into his enemy's territory, he ordered the army to destroy all cauldrons and boats and at last, he won the battle.

Example:

miànduì kùnnɑn, wǒ mén yào yǒu pò fǔ chén zhōu de yǒnɡqì
面对困难,我们要有破釜沉舟的勇气。

2. qǐ rén yōu tiān
杞 人 忧 天
In case the sky should fall

what does 杞人忧天 mean

"杞人忧天qǐ rén yōu tiān", which refers to unnecessary or groundless worries and anxieties. There is joke talks about a man lived in Qi (杞国) worried about the sky would fall down everyday, he was bothered by this impossible idea constantly.

Example:

tāde shìyīnɡ nénɡlì hěn qiánɡ, dàn tāde fùmǔ hái shì dānxīn tā chūɡuó de shìqínɡ, zhè zhēn shì qǐ rén yōu tiān
他的 适应 能力 很强,但他的父母还是担心他出国的事情,这真是杞人忧天。

3. shì wài táo yuán
世 外 桃 源

what does 世外桃源 mean

"世外桃源 shì wài táo yuán", which means a quiet and peaceful place and can also refer to a idealistic world. This idiom come from a very famous prose named "桃花源记 táo huā yuán jì "(The Peach Garden) by 陶渊明táo yuān mínɡ, in this prose, he describes an ideal state of living peacefully in isolation from real society.

Example:

zhèlǐ shānqīnɡshuǐxiù, duì wǒmen dūshì lǐ de rén lái shuō, jiǎn zhí jiù shì shì wài táo yuán.
这里山清水秀,对我们都市里的人来说, 简直就是世外桃源。

4. yè ɡōnɡ hào lónɡ
叶公好龙

what does 叶公好龙 mean

"叶公好龙yè ɡōnɡ hào lónɡ",which used to ridicule those who claim their liking for something but actually they know nothing about it. It is said that there is a person named "叶公" who was always proud to say that he likes dragon, however when a real dragon came to visit him, he was frighten to death.

Example:

hěnduō nián qīnɡ rén xǐhuān wài ɡuó wénhuà, dàn hěnduō shíhou , tāmen zhī shì yè ɡōnɡ hào lónɡ.
很多年轻人喜欢外国文化,但很多时候,他们只是叶公好龙。

5. ài wū jí wū
爱 屋 及 乌

what does 爱屋及乌 mean

"爱屋及乌ài wū jí wū", which means "love me, love my dog". We all know that Chinese have a lot of superstitions, one of these is that Chinese believe a crow is unlucky, once a crow lands upon a house, the family living in that house will suffer bad luck. However, if someone truly loves another, he even loves the crow on the house, and raises no objection.

Example:

tā duì wǒde jiārén tèbié hǎo, pénɡyoumen dōu kuājiǎnɡ tā shì ài wū jí wū 。
他对我的家人特别好,朋友们都夸奖他是爱屋及乌。

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