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What is the longest sentence that can be constructed where all the characters have the same sounds in Mandarin, but may have different tones? I'm sure many people have heard of 'mothers insulting horses', but are there any more interesting ones?

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  • I don't know which is the longest sentence with all words having the same sound, but you may want to look for the longest Buddhism Scripture, which is usually reading through "mono-tone" by the monks :)
    – r13
    Mar 13 at 23:41
  • 1
    The example you refer to has three distinct sounds. 「媽媽騎馬,馬慢,媽媽罵馬」
    – joehua
    Mar 14 at 1:01
  • 1
    For some more examples: Wikipedia - One-syllable article/同音文章
    – Andrew T.
    Mar 14 at 10:41

4 Answers 4

4

《施氏食狮史》

石室诗士施氏,嗜狮,誓食十狮。施氏时时适市视狮。十时,适十狮适市。是时,适施氏适市。氏视是十狮,恃矢势,使是十狮逝世。氏拾是十狮尸,适石室。石室湿,氏使侍拭石室。石室拭,氏始试食是十狮。食时,始识是十狮,实十石狮尸。试释是事。


有一个诗人姓施,住在一个石头屋子里,他喜欢吃狮子,发誓要吃掉十头狮子。这位先生经常去市场寻找狮子。这一天十点钟的时候正好有十头大狮子到了市场。这时候他正好也到了市场。于是,这位先生注视着这十头狮子,凭借着自己的弓箭,把这十头狮子杀死了。先生扛起狮子的尸体走回石头屋子。石头屋子很潮湿,先生让仆人擦拭石头屋子。擦好以后,先生开始尝试吃这十头狮子的尸体。当他吃的时候,才识破这十头狮尸,并非真的狮尸,而是十头用石头做的狮子的尸体。先生这才意识到这就是事情的真相。请尝试解释这件事情。

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  • 1
    It sounds like a Cantonese writer making fun of the fact that Mandarin's pinyin only have four sounds instead of nine like Cantonese
    – Tang Ho
    Mar 14 at 1:37
  • @TangHo 赵元任 composed this to advocate his view that Chinese can/should be written in pinyin. He thought it's generally doable. The few confusing examples using pinyin are literary and will not appear colloquially.
    – lilysirius
    Mar 14 at 1:57
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I believe it is 施氏食獅史

原文:

石室詩士施氏,嗜獅,誓食十獅。施氏時時適市視獅。十時,適十獅適市。是時,適施氏適市。施氏視是十獅,恃矢勢,使是十獅逝世。氏拾是十獅屍,適石室。石室濕,氏使侍拭石室。石室拭,施氏始試食是十獅屍。食時,始識是十獅屍,實十石獅屍。試釋是事。

Pinyin:

Shíshì shī shì shī shì, shì shī, shìshí shíshī. Shī shì shí shíshìshì shì shī. Shí shí, shì shí shī shì shì. Shì shí, shì shī shì shì shì. Shī shì shì shì shí shī, shì shǐ shì, shǐ shì shí shī shì shì. Shì shíshì shí shī shī, shì shíshì. Shíshì shī, shì shǐ shì shì shí shì. Shí shì shì, shī shì shǐ shì shí shì shí shī shī. Shí shí, shǐ shí shì shí shī shī, shí shí shí shī shī. Shì shì shì shì.

譯文

有一個詩人姓施,住在一個石頭屋子裏,他喜歡吃獅子,發誓要吃掉十頭獅子。這位先生經常去市場尋找獅子。這一天十點鐘的時候正好有十頭大獅子到了市場。這時候他正好也到了市場。於是,這位先生注視着這十頭獅子,憑藉着自己的十把石頭弓箭,把這十頭獅子殺死了。先生扛起獅子的屍體走回石頭屋子。石頭屋子很潮濕,先生讓僕人擦拭石頭屋子。擦好以後,先生開始嘗試吃這十頭獅子的屍體。當他吃的時候,才識破這十頭獅屍,並非真的獅屍,而是十頭用石頭做的獅子的屍體。先生這才意識到這就是事情的真相。請嘗試解釋這件事情。

Translation:

There was a poet named Shi who lived in a stone house. He liked to eat lions and vowed to eat ten lions. The gentleman often went to the market looking for lions. At ten o'clock that day, ten big lions arrived at the market. At this time, he happened to be in the market. So, the gentleman watched the ten lions, and with his ten stone bows and arrows, killed the ten lions. The gentleman carried the lion's body and walked back to the stone house. The stone house was very damp, and the gentleman asked his servants to wipe the stone house. After wiping, Mr. began to try to eat the carcasses of the ten lions. When he was eating, he realized that the ten lion carcasses were not real lion carcasses, but ten lion carcasses made of stone. It was only then that Mr. realized that this was the truth of the matter. Please try to explain this thing.

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As for sentences, there's a second half of 妈妈骑马,马慢,妈妈骂马:

妞妞骑牛,牛扭,妞妞扭牛。

But these are considered as tongue twisters, not used in conversations.


Depending on what you refer to by Mandarin (官话 or 普通话), there could be active daily-life usages.

In Southwestern Mandarin, for example

盖盖,盖盖盖。gai4 gai1, gai4 gai4 gai1.

This is an imperative sentence. The first name of the person being addressed to is 盖. Doubling it in apostrophe is the most common way to call someone with a monosyllabic first name who's close to you. This is the first two 盖's.

The last two 盖's form a noun, meaning lid.

The third 盖 is a verb, meaning to cover.

This example is not as neat as this if coerced into Standard Mandarin. To sound smoothly, it would be 盖盖,盖上盖子.


While you're asking for the longest sentence, it can actually be extended to a text, which is called 同音文, which is first written by linguist 赵元任 (1892-1982).

The other answers give the most famous 同音文, written by 赵元任. He composed this, together with other two, to advocate that Chinese can/should be written in pinyin. He thought it's generally doable. The few confusing examples using pinyin are literary and will not appear colloquially. I'd say they're bad examples because people take it exactly the opposite way.

I'm able to find a longer text from Baike. The author is unknown.

原文:

羿裔熠①,邑②彝,义医,艺诣。熠姨遗一裔伊③,伊仪迤,衣旖,异奕矣。熠意④伊矣,易衣以贻伊,伊遗衣,衣异衣以意异熠,熠抑矣。伊驿邑,弋一翳 ⑤,弈毅⑥。毅仪奕,诣弈,衣异,意逸。毅诣伊,益伊,伊怡,已臆⑦毅矣,毅亦怡伊。翌,伊亦弈毅。毅以蜴贻伊,伊亦贻衣以毅。伊疫,呓毅, 癔异矣,倚椅咿咿,毅亦咿咿。毅诣熠,意以熠,议熠医伊,熠懿⑧毅,意役毅逸。毅以熠宜伊,翼逸。熠驿邑以医伊,疑伊胰痍⑨,以蚁医伊,伊遗异,溢,伊咦。熠移伊,刈薏⑩以医,伊益矣。伊忆毅,亦呓毅矣,熠意伊毅已逸,熠意役伊。伊异,噫,缢。熠癔,亦缢。

注释:

①熠:医生,据说为后羿的后裔。

②邑:以彝为邑,指居住在一个彝族聚居的地方。

③伊:绝世佳丽,仪态万方,神采奕奕。

④意:对伊有意思,指熠爱上了伊。

⑤翳:有遮蔽的地方,指伊游弋到了一个阴凉的地方。

⑥毅:逍遥不羁的浪人,善于下棋,神情坚毅,目光飘逸。

⑦臆:主观的感觉,通”意“,指对毅有好感。

⑧懿:原意为”懿旨“,此处引申为要挟,命令。

⑨胰痍:胰脏出现了疮痍。

⑩刈:割下草或者谷物一类。薏:薏米,白色,可供食用,也可入药。

译文:

后羿的后裔中有个叫熠的人,居住在少数民族彝族地区。熠是个义医,经常为百姓免费看病,医术精湛。熠的姨妈死后留有一个女儿名叫伊,伊长得很漂亮,神态可人,穿上漂亮的衣服,简直就是天上的仙女,人间的凡夫俗子根本没法比。熠喜欢上了表妹伊,他给伊买漂亮的衣服,可是伊并不领情,抛掉了表哥给他的衣服,穿上怪异的衣服以表示示不喜欢熠,熠感觉很郁闷。为躲避表哥的纠缠,伊离开家乡,躲到一偏僻的地方,找一叫毅的人下棋,毅长得很帅,像貌堂堂,精通下棋,很有造诣。毅穿着不同寻常,看上去意气风发。毅开导伊,使伊受益匪浅,伊很高兴,偷偷喜欢上了毅,毅也喜欢上了伊。第二天,伊继续和毅下棋,毅送给伊一只蜥蜴作为礼物,伊则把自己的衣服回赠给毅。伊病了,梦中喊着毅的名字。伊精神不正常了,靠着椅子咿咿细语,毅陪着她,也跟着她咿咿细语。毅早就听说过熠的大名,于是找到他,说明来意,求熠救救伊。熠要挟毅,提出条件,要求毅在治好伊的病后离开。毅思量着只有熠可以治好伊,答应了熠的要求。熠用了各种办法医治好了伊。伊想起了毅,又在梦中叫者毅的名字,熠暗示伊毅已经离开了,自己很喜欢她。伊想到再也见不到毅了,生活得没意思。于是就上吊自杀了。熠精神也恍惚了,也自杀了。

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I remember another passage that has only one sound -- a bizarre story with only the sound of ji.

《季姬击鸡记》(The story of 季姬 hitting his chicken)

季姬寂,集鸡,鸡即棘鸡。(季姬 is bored, collects some chickens, those that come from spiked bushes)

棘鸡饥叽,季姬及箕稷济鸡。(Those chickens started cuckooing because their hungry, so 季姬 fed them with rice from a bamboo bucket)

鸡既济,跻姬笈,季姬忌,(The chickens are full and jump on 季姬's bookshelf. 季姬 is afraid that these chickens would make a mess, so...)

急咭鸡,鸡急,继圾几,季姬急,(so 季姬 shouts to chase the chickens away, which scared the chickens and made them jump on a few other tables. 季姬 is even more anxious, therefore...)

即籍箕击鸡,箕疾击几伎,伎即齑。 (therefore he used the bamboo bucket to hit the chickens /to chase them away. The bucket was fast and hits an earthenware figure, making it fall on the ground and shatter into pieces)

鸡叽集几基,季姬急极屐击鸡,(The chickens kept on clucking under the table, which infuriated 季姬 provoking him to hit the chickens with his clogs)

鸡既殛,季姬激,即记《季姬击鸡记》。 (The clogs killed the chickens. Aggravated by what happened, 季姬 wrote 《季姬击鸡记》)

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  • There are actually many more, you all can search it up: 《饥鸡集矶记》 《熙戏犀》《易姨医胰》《遗镒疑医》《于瑜与余欲渔遇雨》. I won't list them here
    – De Rien
    Mar 25 at 13:31

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