Posts by Anthill

Chengyu Tuesdays: Duck Romance


We're finishing up our run of chengyu with a few idioms for lovers, and then back to something completely different next month. This one is for all the mandarin ducks.


• 一见钟情 yījiànzhōngqíng – Love at first sight. Also connected is 一见如故 yījiànrúgù for that feeling when you meet someone like you’re old friends

• 擦肩而过 cājiānérguò – To brush shoulders but pass each other by. For missed connections, or when you’ve known someone a long time before falling for them

• 爱屋及乌 àiwūjíwū – Love me, love my dog. Although technically replace “me” with “my house”, and “dog” with “the crow [living in the rafters]”


Chengyu Tuesdays: Smashing Jade

完璧归赵 wánbìguī Zhào – return to its owner


完璧归赵 (wánbìguī Zhào) is literally "return the jade disc to Zhao", and means to return something to its rightful owner. As always, there's a (somewhat overwrought) story behind it:


A precious jade disc (the 和氏璧 héshìbì) was stolen from the state of Chu and sold to the state of Zhao. In 283 BC, King Zhaoxiang of Qin offered 15 cities to the state of Zhao in exchange for the jade disc. Zhao minister Lin Xiangru was dispatched to take the jade to Qin. He handed over the disc, but when it became clear that the King of Qin would not uphold his side of the bargain, he claimed that the jade had an imperfection.


Chengyu Tuesdays: Dripping Water

滴水穿石 dīshuǐchuānshí – perserverance yields success


滴水穿石 (dīshuǐchuānshí) literally means “dripping water cuts through stone”, and is a common chengyu meaning that persistent effort can overcome any obstacle, a bit like “little strokes fell great oaks”. It’s a clear image, and is the sort of thing a mum will say when her kid is studying for the gaokao. The story behind it, meanwhile, is rather more criminal:


Chengyu Tuesdays: Spreading Rumours

三人成虎 sānrénchénghǔ – repeated rumour becomes fact


三人成虎 (sānrénchénghǔ) literally means “three people [talking] makes a tiger”, and is an idiom used to warn that if you repeat a lie often enough, it will be believed. Here’s the story behind it:

In the Warring States Period, Pang Cong, a minister of the State of Wei, was going to the State of Zhao as a hostage. Before he left, he said to the ruler of Wei: 

"Someone said there is a tiger in the market. Do you believe it?"

"No, I don't believe it,” the King replied.

Later, Pang Cong said:

"Now two people have said there is a tiger in the market. Do you believe it?" 

“I am beginning to wonder.”


Chinese Tuesdays: Hopping Qing zombies


A Halloween special for Chinese Tuesdays today, in case you're looking for a costume and haven't considered Chinese zombie.

僵尸 (jiāngshī) literally means "stiff corpse", tautology that it is. They are reanimated corpses, either ancient and undecomposed or freshly undead, but with Chinese characteristics. For one, they wear the robes of Qing dynasty officials. If they catch up with you, they suck your life energy (气 qì) rather than your brains. As their limbs are stiff their arms are outstretched, but their legs are too, so they move by ... hopping. George Romero didn't think this one through.