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So, I recently learned 吸收 can be used abstractly. Looking around example sentences we have

  • 吸收知识
  • 吸收A的思想
  • 吸收B的信念
  • 吸收A的经验

Two questions: 1. How common are these collocations? How colloquial? 2. Could these collocations be used in an active way? For example

我去台湾的原因是吸收知识。 

or

这个暑假在脸书实习我计划尽量吸收这个公司的知识。 

Thanks for the guidance guys!

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  • I would say only 吸收知识 is common, but none are colloquial. Your examples are understandable but sound funny.
    – Gao
    Dec 23 '14 at 17:00
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As Gao Weiwei mentioned, only 吸收知识 is common. 吸收 - to absorb:

吸收知识 = Absorbing knowledge

(yea why not!)

吸收A的思想  = Absorbing A's mind / ideas / thought 

(think we should use 'accept' instead of 'absorb'?)

吸收 B的信念 = Absorbing B's belief 

(same as above)

吸收 A 的经验 = Absorbing A's experience

(While 吸收经验 is actually a common phase; 吸收 someone's 经验 isn't, basically we gain experience instead of absorbing someone's experience, which sounds like you're eating their brain..)

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  • Or you can say 吸取他人的经验, meaning to learn from others' experience.
    – Gao
    Dec 23 '14 at 19:43
  • ^ yes thanks Weiwei, another usage that involves another person's experience
    – Alex
    Dec 23 '14 at 21:12
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Basically anything that can be absorbed as nutrients, literally or figuratively. Yours are just a few examples, we can have more!

A plant may absorb the essence of the nature, or 吸收日月精华, and become a genie.

A political party may want to attract and invite the best people to join. Mao Zedong wanted more learned people in CCP, so he wrote 《大量吸收知识分子》. Now CCP is still trying to 吸收入党积极分子 in colleges, companies, and danweis.

Search 吸收 for book titles and you get plenty:

  • 有吸收力的心灵 A spongy heart?
  • 清末民初民間儒教對主流儒學的吸收與轉化 Absorption of mainstream Confucianism
  • 早期天台学对唯识古学的吸收与抉择 Absorption of certain academic topic
  • 三十天吸收三十年專業能力 Absorption of certain abilities
  • 人力资源吸收与选拔 Absorption of human resources
  • 技术吸收型对外贸易战略研究 Absorption of technology
  • 中国吸收外资30年 Absorption of capital investment
  • 知识的吸收与创造 Absorption of knowledge

A company may completely buy off another and it's called 吸收合并, in which case the company being bought is likely to be dissolved and will no longer function as an entity.

There is a criminal offense called "非法吸收公众存款罪". You illegally collect people's money and do your secret stuff.


I don't think I'm finished, but let's just stop for a while. Your two examples are not colloquial because, well, you wouldn't say these in English, would you:

I come to Taiwan to absorb knowledge.

I joined Facebook as a summer intern to absorb their knowledge.

Same reason, if it's personal, and if it's casual talk, the word absorb or 吸收 will sound too fancy. You usually say to learn or to study in such occasions.

Contrary to @Alex's opinion on 思想. 思想 can also be 吸收-ed. 吸收 is an active activity1. You would need to provide the specific topic for 吸收 though, as in 吸收儒家思想. On the other hand, I can't think of any example in which 信念 is 吸收-ed.

These are just my opinions. Have I mentioned that opinions can also be absorbed? 也许吸收了我和别人的意见以后,你会形成一个更完整的看法。

1. Sorry, running out of vocabs.

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  • I think people normally say plants 吸收养分 rather than 吸收日月精华, which is a phrase one often finds in (武侠)小说. Google did find some instances of the usage of 吸收信念, e.g. 思想传染,研究的不是一般人如何吸收信念, but IMO this style of writing is not good because one would want to avoid using abstract words if possible. Your writing is very good, especially the last paragraph.
    – Gao
    Dec 30 '14 at 1:05

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