I was watching Raise the Red Lantern (which is an excellent movie by the way) and saw this phrase come up on the subtitles, but wasn't able to catch what the actual Mandarin behind it was. Does anyone know what it translates to?

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    Hello Squazic, and welcome to CL&U! :) You might want to describe the scene, I think it would help a lot! Also any detail that at first might seem not useful, could help as well. :) And if you managed to "hear" something, you can write the pinyin too.
    – Alenanno
    Commented Apr 16, 2012 at 11:11
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    Maybe the "scorpion" part is 心如蛇蝎 (heart like a snake and a scorpion).
    – gonnastop
    Commented Apr 16, 2012 at 23:59

5 Answers 5


I didn't see this film, so I am not sure if this is the original one used in the film. From your description, I guess the idiom is "人面兽心", which literally means "a human's face and a beast's heart", actually is used to describe a man who looks kind, but really is vicious, evil or wicked.

By the way, I think you can show us the time point or the scene when this line appears so we can easily catch it for you.

Update: The original word in the film is "菩萨脸,蝎子心". I don't think it's an idiom. I'll treat it as an analogy, a figure of speech. Actually, "菩萨" isn't Buddha, but Bodhisattva, an image in Buddhism. The subtitle translated the meaning well and I think it's easy for you to understand.

  • It's the scene where the main character, Songlian, and the third wife are talking about the second wife, right after Songlian discovers her servant has a voodoo doll of her with a bunch of pins in it.
    – Squazic
    Commented Apr 17, 2012 at 7:56
  • @Squazic Ok, I just watched this film, and I found that sentence, however, I think it's not an idiom. I edited my answer, please read it.
    – Huang
    Commented Apr 17, 2012 at 12:00

If you insist to have it translated into the idiom, I think 佛口蛇心is the most suitable. It is the closest in meaning, and really is an idiom.

  • This may be the most suitable answer.
    – Stan
    Commented Aug 25, 2013 at 12:58

面如桃李 心如蛇蝎。I think this idiom should be appropriate, although buddha is 佛陀 in Chinese, but 桃李 means the flowers of peach and plum.


The face of a Buddha, the heart of a scorpion means someone who appears to be kind and gentle but who in an instant will deliver a mortal wound by word or by action after another trusted them. In the film it is clearly to see why the warning comes to the young bride.

I had a Chinese friend in Hawaii who used to tell me "beware of those who smile at you to gain your trust, before you give them your trust make sure their hands are in front of you" which she explained it was her Grandmother's way of saying that before you trust someone you need to know them well to make sure they are worthy of your friendship. The hands in front of you meant that they would not be able to hide a dagger to later stabbed you with.

By the way, I saw that movie many years ago when it came in and promptly bought it for my collection. A real treasure of Chinese films.


笑面虎 may be what you are looking for

EDIT 佛面蛇心 may be another term for what you are looking for

  • It'd be better to be a 四字成語. But nice try!
    – George
    Commented Aug 25, 2013 at 10:13
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    @congliu,okay,then it should be 佛面蛇心 Commented Aug 25, 2013 at 10:20
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    明 梅鼎祚《玉合记 焚修》:“师父不要骂,动了嗔心,要变白蟒哩。好两个佛口蛇心。” 佛口蛇心?
    – Stan
    Commented Aug 25, 2013 at 12:56

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