It's used to describe an expression so I guess it's close to being shocked or frightened from the context it's used in but I don't really understand why it means that.

So a detailed explanation will be much appreciated.

  • 1
    三魂去了两魂半 is too specific. I've never heard it before. It don't think it is a common phrase.
    – Tang Ho
    Sep 15, 2018 at 12:23
  • @TangHo, Maybe it's regional. To me, it's common and it's not something I have to think and understand. It's a common figurative speech though.
    – dan
    Sep 15, 2018 at 23:36

2 Answers 2


The expression is somewhat similar to English scare the living daylights out of somebody, with many variations. A quick Google search shows

  • 三魂[少/去/嚇飛]了二魂
  • 三魂剩下半魂
  • 三魂去二

and other similar constructions.

三魂 refers to the three hun in Chinese philosophy/folk religion or Daoist belief. The three hun make up a person's "essence" (soul, spirit) when they're alive, and go their separate paths after a person passes away:

  • One hun returns to the primordial universe from whence it came;
  • One hun faces judgement for the person's good and bad wordly deeds in hell;
  • One hun resides at a person's burial place or ancestral tablet, and is the hun that is passed on to a person's descendants.

If the three hun are somehow absent from the body when the body is still alive, then the body becomes a walking corpse (行尸走肉), so the expression 三魂去了兩魂半 means almost frightened to death.


In order to understand it, you need to know these two phrases: 三魂七魄 and 吓得没了魂儿.

According to Baidu, 三魂七魄:


So, 三魂 and 七魄 are necessary for a live person. If you lose all 三魂, then you would die.

吓得没了魂儿 means one is so frightened that he lost his 魂儿(soul) and die. It's actually a figurative speech. They will not literally lose them and die.

三魂去了两魂半 is a similar phrase to 吓得没了魂儿. You can imagine that “三魂去了两魂半” is about one loses two and a half of 魂 given he only has three. Figuratively, it implies that one almost dies of something frightening or scary.

So, 吓得没了魂儿 == 吓死了; 三魂去了两魂半 == 吓得半死 or 吓得要死.


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