Questions tagged [chengyu]

Chengyu (simplified Chinese: 成语; traditional Chinese: 成語, pinyin: chéngyǔ, lit. "set phrases") are a type of traditional Chinese idiomatic expressions, most of which consist of four characters. Chengyu were widely used in Classical Chinese and are still common in vernacular Chinese writing and in the spoken language today.

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13
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8answers
2k views

How to translate: 人是铁,饭是钢,一顿不吃烦得慌. What is the logic?

人是铁,饭是钢,一顿不吃烦得慌 I can not really figure out to translate this sentence. I guess it basically means that not eating is a bad thing. The first sentences - do they indicate that "iron" and "steel" ...
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2answers
323 views

Implications of “旧的不去,新的不来”

I found this idiom while looking for another idiom my friend told me about like 回去回来 or 回来回去. I'm wondering about the implications of 旧的不去,新的不来 though. Can this be used for people who hold onto broken ...
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2answers
711 views

Which period in Chinese history produced the most chengyu?

There are tens of thousands of chengyu, many of them are historical in nature, whilst others are loaned from foreign sources such as Buddhism. Which period or dynasty in Chinese history produced the ...
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2answers
925 views

Specifics of the idiom “四海一家”

There are several sayings and idioms similar to 四海一家 which reference "四海". Does the 四海 actually refer to 4 specific oceans such as the Indian, Pacific etc. or is it more of a metaphor for all of the ...
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5answers
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三长两短: what's long and what's short?

(求词源) 三长两短 is a chengyu that means "unforeseen disaster". It can also be a euphemism for death. Here's an example of its usage: 明·罗贯中《三遂平妖传》:“万一些后再有三长两短,终不能靠着太医活命。” What is its etymology though? ...
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7answers
472 views

Regional variations on 三更半夜

A couple years ago, I was at a Chinese(-American) gathering and the topic of 成语 came up. One of them was 三更半夜. My family is from Hangzhou, and previously I had always known of it as 深更半夜. On the other ...
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6answers
985 views

Are there any online resources for learning Chinese 4-character idioms

I'm interested particularly in the 4-character idioms/chengyu's. Some that I've learnt recently: 独一无二 - unique 由此可见 - this shows that 一般来说 - generally speaking I've realised they come in really ...
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3answers
258 views

When to use 一言难尽

When is it appropriate to use 一言难尽? Please supply a scenario where this would be a good reply. I have found this in my dictionary but I want to make sure I use in in the correct context.
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3answers
428 views

How would one accurately translate “万事大吉”?

This is a four character phrase for which I have found no accurate translation online. I hear it all the time around CNY. 万事大吉
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4answers
477 views

Translating the two meanings of 好自为之

My dictionary gives the meaning of 好自为之 as "look out for yourself". This is a positive thing you might say out of genuine concern for another person, and I think this was also the case with the ...
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1answer
358 views

Chinese Chengyu (Idiom): Refute somebody with his own argument

Is there a Chinese Idiom for "Refute somebody with his own argument"? I thought this is not quite the same as "self-contradictory" 自相矛盾. Thank you.
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5answers
975 views

Variants of 将在外,君命有所不受?

There seems to be multiple versions of this idiom, with slightly different characters: Baidu: 将在外,君命有所不受 汉典: 将在军,君命有所不受 And a big bunch of variants: 将在外,军令有所不受 将在外,军令有所不从 将在外,君令有所不受 将在外,...
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1answer
274 views

Does tone sandhi apply to 成语

In my previous question I found the following about tone sandhi and yī 'one': yī on its own or not followed by other tones yī → yí when followed by a fourth tone yī → yì when followed by ...
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5answers
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Chengyu dictionary

I am looking for a chengyu dictionary with the following caracteristics: the stories behind the chengyus in englis (or with chinese too), long, not just one or two sentence explanation, when and how ...
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2answers
466 views

Request for a 成语 to describe a person with all of 貌, 才, and 德

We can use 才貌双全 to describe a person with both 貌 and 才 and 德才兼备 to describe a person with both 才 and 德. Does there exist a 成语 that describes a person with all of the three?
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5answers
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Chengyu with two numbers

There are chengyu with two numbers in them, for example: 一穷二白 (一, 二) 万众一心 (万, 一) 七上八下 (七, 八) 九五至尊 (九, 五) But it seems that the selection of numbers is not completely random, and ...
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2answers
275 views

Is 察颜观色 or 察言观色 the correct term to use?

I have found citations from ancient texts backing both interpretations on the Internet while searching for the correct form of the term: 清·唐甄《潜书·食难》:“吾老矣,岂能复俯首于他人之宇下,察颜观色,以求无拂于人,吾不能也。 However, ...
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1answer
158 views

What are the 1,500 chengyu for the 2015 chengyu convention

The 2015 Chengyu Convention apparently tested contestants on 1,500 different chengyu. Where's the list of the 1,500 Chengyu?
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4answers
340 views

成语 or expression for perservering

I am looking for an expression (maybe a 成语) which can describe the idea of, "I know I have a long way to go, but if I keep trying, I can succeed." For example, "我的发音还差得远,可是" Meaning, "My ...
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7answers
160 views

成语 or expression that one is speaking about a topic he knows nothing about

I am giving a presentation about topics in philosophy for my Chinese class, and unlike many of the students there, I have no formal education in the topic I am presenting. I feel it would be ...
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3answers
197 views

怎么用草船借箭这个成语 how/when to use 草船借箭

When and how do we use the idiom 草船借箭? I know where the story comes from — 《三国演义》— and I know the meaning. But I'm still not really clear in what situation I'd say this.
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1answer
55 views

Idiom/成語 for “Worrying Doesn't Change the Outcome”

Is there an Idiom/成語 for "Worrying does not change the outcome"? To be used when someone is spending a lot of time / energy worrying about something that they have no control over. Thanks for any ...
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3answers
266 views

Is there a chengyu to mean “walk with one's own legs”

I'm looking for a chengyu (成语) or a proverb or a phrase that can elegantly express "to walk with one's own legs", which is used to say that someone has learnt enough and doesn't need a master any more....
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5answers
195 views

凤毛麟角 - How to use?

I think that the 成语 "凤毛麟角" is pretty awesome, and I would like to learn how to use it. Could you please help me? My teacher said I could use it to describe a person who is truly unique, but when I ...
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5answers
590 views

What is the etymology and usage of 爱不释手

爱不释手 be so fond of something that one will not let it out of one's hand So I'm guessing 爱 would be the being fond of something and the 不释手 would be the not letting go. I feel like it's missing ...
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2answers
518 views

Why 文以載道 but 以文會友?

以 is one of the most confusing words in Chinese. Texts that really challenge me are usually full of it. Today I saw something confusing again: I encountered the phrase 文以載道。The document claims it ...
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3answers
757 views

“Whatever you can do today, don't postpone it to tomorrow”

I just learned a German proverb: "Was du heute kannst besorgen, das verschiebe nicht auf morgen," which can be translated as: "Whatever you can do today, don't postpone it to tomorrow" Is ...
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2answers
145 views

成语 for expressing that a couple was meant for eachother

I seem to recall there being a 成语 to the effect of, "Heaven brought them together," or something like that. It expresses that the couple was truly meant for one another. Do you know which 成语 I am ...
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3answers
118 views

Is there any difference between 相濡以沫 and 以沫相濡?

I encountered the following sentence: 他们都一直相濡以沫,患难与共。 I looked up the entry on Pleco, and although it shows the meaning, it also redirects toward 以沫相濡, which seems to have the same meaning (as ...
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3answers
223 views

Is 一日千秋 a chengyu?

Is 一日千秋 a chengyu? I have tried searching for it using google with mixed results. If it is a chengyu, what is its grammatical function?
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1answer
124 views

Anyone heard a saying about marriage being like cooking rice?

This was a question here which has a link to here "Chinesische Weisheiten" = Chinese wisdom. I don't really believe there is such a saying. I think it is "Quatsch", which is German for "rubbish, ...
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1answer
238 views

Do “lipstick on a pig” and “画蛇添足” share the same meaning?

Do "lipstick on a pig" and "画蛇添足" share the same meaning? 画蛇添足 means "drawing snake with feet".
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1answer
146 views

Meaning of 走马看花

So, I came across this chengyu and my understanding is that it means something like "to take a cursory look at something" or, to quote my dictionary, "粗略地观察事物". Now, I understand this and I see where ...
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1answer
160 views

What's distinguishes a chengyu (Chinese idiom) from a 4-character expression?

I read the first two pages of 狐狸的窗户 (Húlí de chuānghù) = The Fox's Window (douban.com) on my Kindle, and encountered several 4-character phrases: 异口同声 (yì kǒu tóng shēng) = all with one voice (Baidu ...
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1answer
113 views

Does anyone know origins of 万一?

Does anyone knows how 万一 became a phrase with "just in case" meaning? Is it a shorthand of a longer phrase or chengyu?
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3answers
159 views

How to correctly translate 为达目的不择手段 in English?

I have a lot of context that I want to use this phrase to describe a certain type of people. I tried to translate it as "Not being ashamed of using evil methods to accomplish goals". But I think my ...
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3answers
201 views

What does 飘然而至 mean?

My context is an old, untranslated flashcard I've found. My guess it means "like a feather", referring to low weight and/or susceptibility to outside force. What are meaningful contexts and according ...
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2answers
75 views

Idiom/chengyu meaning: 小葱拌豆腐一清二白

I recently came across 小葱拌豆腐一清二白 as a dictionary submission, but the explanation of the submitter was unclear. I have had mixed/little luck searching for the expression (or parts of it), and I also ...
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3answers
100 views

Is there a reliable way to check if an idiom (成语) is widely used?

Sometimes I encounter an idiom (or 成语) and think to myself "oh, I like this 成语, maybe I should learn it". However, I'll often find out later that nobody actually uses that particular 成语, and I've ...
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1answer
64 views

Words related to several 成语 (via 《AB》 → 《-A-B》)

The word 颜色 (yánsè / colour; facial expression/looks) is clearly related to several chengyu: 五颜六色 容颜失色 正颜厉色 和颜悦色 怡颜悦色 喜颜悦色 I suspect that many two-character words AB are similar to 颜色, in that ...
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1answer
48 views

Care yields fine products

Is there a 成语 saying that care yields fine products (eg. care as in cheerfulness)? I have heard 慢工出细货, but I would like a 成语 to express something like 小心出细货, not sure if this expression id's even ...
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5answers
595 views

How to translate “If everything goes as planned…”

For example If everything goes as planned, we should have a successful journey. I hope everything goes as planned tonight. Specifically, I'm wondering if there's an idiom for this. If not, ...
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1answer
129 views

成語 with 鮑魚, grammar structure?

I stumbled upon this 成語: 如入鮑魚之肆久而不聞其臭。 it's like staying in a fish market and getting used to the stink long exposure to bad surroundings or bad company accustoms one to evil ways (source of ...
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4answers
420 views

What is the meaning of 晦 in the phrase 韬光养晦?

I find the phrase 韬光养晦 in a context,and I look up it in the dictionary,it means hidden talents, do not make the leakage.But I still don't know the meaning of 晦.
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5answers
367 views

Is there a 成语 that means something like “Little dogs always bark the loudest”?

What are some 成语 that mean something like "little dogs always bark the loudest", or "little dogs are mean"?
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1answer
149 views

What is the significance of 吃秋葵时过世?

I found this on nciku.cn and after searching around I could find no other references or even mention. Is this a translation error or some sort of dictionary blip? I asked a few Chinese friends but ...
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1answer
51 views

Meaning of a Fan Inscription

In a trip to Hangzhou, almost 2 years ago, I participated in one (the biggest if I'm not mistaken) of the Chinese National Amateur Weiqi Championship as a (Brazilian) foreigner. During one of the ...
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3answers
117 views

Chinese expression for “go out early and return early”

I'm Looking for a Chinese expression that means something like "go out early and return early" or "the sooner you leave, the sooner you can come back". It expresses a wish for a person who is leaving ...
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1answer
42 views

What does the phrase 豪华名贵 mean in Dave Wong's song “爱不起”?

Cross-post notice Here is another Quora cross-post, this one 21 days old and marked as needing to be in English. Quora post. Question At the end of 爱不起, there is the sentence "越是迷住我 豪华名贵 越是发现爱不起". ...
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1answer
76 views

Meanings of 何以家为?

Is it a 成语? I'm wondering about its range of meanings. One source suggests, "use the rhetorical tone to indicate that you have no time or no mood to think about your family problems." Another says, ...