Is there some sort of logical rule for when 血 is xuè and when it is xiě?

  • 2
    Oh, it also makes a lot of Chinese people confused... :p
    – Kjuly
    Jan 10, 2012 at 6:49
  • 1
    For your question about the quality standards, I suggest you post a question on the meta site with the text of the versions that got rejected. My guess is that it was too short. Adding some context for the question will usually solve that.
    – Don Kirkby
    Jan 10, 2012 at 7:24
  • 2
    @Kjuly The xuě sound is incorrect for 血. Some people speak xuě just because they speak incorrectly(remember China is a big country in terms of area. There are a lot of dialects). xuě doesn't have special meanings, so I don't decide to remain it.
    – Huang
    Jan 10, 2012 at 8:17
  • 2
    No-one else asked, so maybe it's just me who doesn't know, but what is TIA?
    – Alenanno
    Jan 10, 2012 at 10:18
  • 1
    @Alenanno: "Thanks in advance"
    – Alf
    Jan 10, 2012 at 13:04

4 Answers 4


The standard Chinese dictionary (《现代汉语词典》) lists xuè (fourth, not third, tone) as the official pronunciation and xiě as a colloquial variant. As such, in most compounds and technical terms, xuè is preferred. The pronunciation xiě is acceptable when you just want to say "blood" in casual speech.

There are several exceptions: the two modifiers 血糊糊 (xiěhūhū, "covered in blood") and 血淋淋 (xiělínlín, "gushing blood") are never read with the xuè pronunciation. There is also a word "血晕" the meaning of which differs based on which pronunciation of 血 is used.

血晕 (xiěyùn): to bruise
血晕 (xuèyùn): a traditional Chinese medicine term for fainting after childbirth due to loss of blood.

Note that this is only what the dictionary says. I suspect many native speakers make different choices in their own speech.

  • Thanks, that was a lot of helpful detail. The xie3 pronunciation always bugged me, probably because I learned from books first.
    – msittig
    Jan 10, 2012 at 7:07
  • @msittig: you're welcome! I'm looking forward to hearing from some native speakers about their own impressions of the distinction.
    – Alf
    Jan 10, 2012 at 7:36
  • Can the downvoter please explain his or her vote?
    – Alf
    Apr 12, 2012 at 14:20
  • I'm not the down-voter, but my editions of 《现代汉语词典》 and 《现代汉语规范词典》 list both pronunciations (but give other meanings for the different pronunciations), and don't mention that one is the official one and the other isn't. It would like to copy it, but the entries are a bit long to copy (and the layout would be messed up in a comment).
    – BertR
    May 9, 2012 at 7:07
  • I think it should be mentioned that xie3 is the standard pronunciation in Taiwan, or at least the one given for most words containing this character in the MoE dictionaries. I don't think I've ever heard "xue4" here.
    – Olle Linge
    Sep 14, 2012 at 3:16

Actually, such a problem even upsets native speakers, like me. When I was a student, I had to memorize the words for different pronunciatons too.

Unfortunately,there are some characters with two different pronunciations when used in colloquial language (白读) and literary language (文读), while different pronunciations basically mean the same. See the article in Wikipedia to learn more info about this special phenomenon (in my dialect, there is also such a phenomenon, but I really don't realize it because I have been used to these different pronunciations). 血 is a typical one.

xiě blood. Generally used as a single word and used in oral speech(words with this are not literary, are coarse or vulgar).
xuè blood Generally used in a literary words.


xiě 血淋淋 (bloody,cruel), 血豆腐 (a kind of food looks like bean curd, but made of blood), 血糊糊 (bloody), 他流了很多血 (He bleeds too much)
xuè 止血 (to stop bleeding), 流血 (to bleed), 血腥 (bloody), 血型 (blood type).

Some other characters with this problem would be:

薄 báo, bó. thin, with small thickness
báo is used in colloquial language and bó is used in literary language.
壳 ké, qiào the shell
ké is used in colloquial language and qiào is used in literary language.

Take it easy, you could consult the dictionary when you are not sure. If you want to speak Mandarin in a very formal way, you have to try to memorize the words for different pronunciations.


To what I have been taught in schools or even chinese dictionaries I flipped...the only correct pronunciation for the word blood is Xiě.....while Xuè is represent Snow.

Hence it is depending on the individual on their level of acceptance and understanding of the language and/or words.

For myself, I will only stick to my foundation laid...that is blood is xiě and snow is xuè.

There is no grey area and to me, no justification of when where xuè is used in formal or informal.. spoken or written etc.

This is important as there is no grey area in languages especially for those trying to learn the language.

Just as an example : it couldn't be that we use "yes" as "no" in certain area or usage for English...can we?

  • 1
    isn't snow actually xuě?
    – user102008
    Nov 11, 2019 at 2:56

my teacher back in china always taught us that xue (4th tone) is more formal.

  • Hi, welcome to this site. I think your answer could be with more stuff to attract other's attention and I believe you could. This answer is not a good one, because xiě really exists and the answer doesn't show any knowledge.I will down-vote this answer, sorry.
    – Huang
    Jan 11, 2012 at 1:26
  • points taken. thx for your welcome.
    – Laguna
    Jan 11, 2012 at 2:35

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