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Context: I posted a photo on WeChat of an event that happened a long long time ago to me. I was living a completely different life back then. Different country, job, I was much younger etc. It's surreal looking at the photo as it's just hard to believe that that was a period in my life.

Under the photo I left a caption 我的上一辈子. It is a kind of a simile or a metaphor, where I'm trying to express how surreal it is that that was once my life.

Anyway a Chinese friend got back to me and started explaining how it implies reincarnation and I should use a phrase more along the lines of "my younger years" or "an earlier part of my life".

But that is not what I was trying to express. I'm not trying to express "my past", I'm trying to express:

"although this really happened to me it is so hard to believe that, it's as if it were a faint memory of a past life".

To native and fluent Chinese speakers, would you understand what I meant by this caption or do you agree that it is flat out wrong?

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    乍一看到"我的上一辈子",我还以为题主在说"我的前生(prelife)。看了其他人的答案才知道题主在说"我的前半辈子、我的前半生",PS:有一部比较出名的电视剧叫《我的前半生》。 – Zhang Jul 2 at 2:52
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I'd totally be able to understand if you left as a caption to photo with "我的上一辈子", which tells me:

  • It has been a long time since
  • And it's very different from the present
  • Usually, it also tells that you are not satisfied at yourself back then, or you were having a wonderful life but not now.
  • People knows the meaning behind of that words, just like I have seen "reborn" in English, I won't think who has lived twice if he said that word. I'll know he is trying to say he live different now.

I am not English native speaking, so my explanation may incorrect.

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in your situation, try the idiom “恍如隔世”.

http://dict.revised.moe.edu.tw/cgi-bin/cbdic/gsweb.cgi?o=dcbdic&searchid=Z00000086679

some would write it as “仿如隔世” 😼

here’s an example of it’s usage:

https://www.thestandard.com.hk/images/characters/20170222230555idoms.pdf

have fun :)

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  • Thanks, that idiom is relevant here. But would you understand my meaning in my caption ? – Kantura Jul 1 at 19:15
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    “恍如隔世”. was what I think when I finishing reading the question. – Tang Ho Jul 1 at 19:44
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    “我的上一輩子”? no lah :( – 水巷孑蠻 Jul 1 at 19:44
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    @tang ho, what do you think, it’s “恍” or “仿”? – 水巷孑蠻 Jul 1 at 19:45
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    仿 simply means 'as if' or 'like'; On the other hand, 恍 (as in 恍惚) add the notion of 'vaguely' to it, (it has been so long, I can just vaguely remember it) – Tang Ho Jul 2 at 0:22
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你可以使用:上半辈子。在中文里,下半辈子代表你的未来,直到你死去。上半辈子只能代表你出生到现在的所有经历过的时光。 在中文里使用上半辈子这种词,通常是为了夸张表达时间很长。 例子:我上半辈子都白活了。(意思是我非常后悔过去的岁月)

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I'm a native Mandarin speaker.

I agree with 水巷孑蠻's answer as the idiom 恍若(almost as if)隔世(another life) gives off the exact vibe you desire without being too awkward.

Saying 我的上一辈子 is indeed a bit weird. (Tang Ho's answer explains the issue with word order quite well) To add to Tang Ho's answer, when you say 我的上辈子, the emphasis is on 上辈子. When you say 上辈子的我, the emphasis is on 我. In your case, it seems to be a better fit as the centre of focus is you, while 'past life' is descriptive.

But at the same time, I also think people are probably more incline to assume you made a mistake if they know you are not a native speaker. (I experience this when I play DND with native English speakers)

If a native speaker posts this caption, I would probably think they are trying to be humorous and exaggerate the difference between how they were then and how they are now.

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The photo can be titled as 恍如隔世 (seemingly like a previous life)

You can describe the man in the photo as 隔世之人 or 上辈子的我

恍 = 恍惚: vaguely; seemingly

如 = resumble; like

隔世 = previous life

之人 = man of

隔世之人 = a man from a previous life.

我的上一辈子 (my previous life) means it was your previous life

上辈子的我 = 'me from my previous life'. (上辈子的 as a metaphor for long, long ago.)

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我的上一辈子 isn't a good metaphor.

过去经常有人用"青葱岁月"这个词来表达对过去一段美好的青春时光的向往。 这段时光通常感觉是像在梦里一样。有种浪漫、模糊和不真实之感。

可能这个词能代表你所要表达的意思。you can put “我的那段青葱岁月” as the caption.

Have fun.

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Because if you use "一辈子" which means a whole life. We would misunderstand that you are talking about "前世". In our thoughts you can't have a whole life if you are still alive.

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