chinese tuesdays

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.


Chinese Tuesdays: National Day Bargains


Happy National Day (国庆日 guóqìngrì) all, which is tomorrow, starting the "golden week" (黄金周 huángjīn zhōu) holidays. For our friends in Hong Kong, here's a translation of a topical joke I stumbled across online:


How to Get Great Value for 7 Days of National Day Festival!

1. Use a rock to smash up one police car, and win seven days free lodging in a guarded dormitory, everything included, amazing value


Chengyu Tuesdays: Marking the Boat

刻舟求剑 kèzhōuqiújiàn – Not adapting to circumstance


刻舟求剑 (kèzhōuqiújiàn) literally means "marking the boat to find the sword", and is used to chide someone who is being foolish, stubborn and generally not considering changing circumstances in their pursuit of something. It's not the most often used chengyu – what is? – but it's one of the ones with a classical Chinese story behind it, albeit of a remarkably stupid person. You can find the original here, and here's a translation from

In the State of Chu, there was a man who loved his sword very much. One day, he accidentally dropped it into the water while crossing a river by boat. He quickly took out his knife and carved a mark in his boat take note of the spot and come back later.