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of the Chinese language

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Stories, Idioms & Phrases

Does the Chinese language have any expressions or idioms?

An idiom is a unique language form in the cultural circle of Chinese characters. It is a fixed phrase that expresses a specific semantic meaning, often derived from ancient stories with a philosophical sense. There are tens of thousands of idioms which are an essential part of the Chinese language.

What is the origin of the Chinese idioms?

The following short story handed down for centuries by word of mouth can give an example of an idiom.

Once upon a time, King Fuchai of Wu led the army to attack the country of Yue with his strong army. As a result, the Kingdom of Yue was defeated, and the King of Yue Goujian was captured in the Kingdom of Wu. To humiliate Goujian, Fuchai sent him to guard the tomb and feed the horses, work usually done by his servants. Although Goujian did this reluctantly, he still tried to pretend to be loyal and obedient. When Fuchai came out, Goujian walked in front and led the horse; when Fuchai was sick, Goujian tried to take care of him at his bedside. Fuchai saw that Goujian served him with all his heart and soul and that he was very loyal to him, so he allowed him to return to Yue. After Goujian returned to his country, he was determined to wash away the shame of being a prisoner in the U. To remind himself of revenge, he slept on the hardwood every day and hung gall on the door to taste before eating and sleeping. In addition, he often visited his people to inspect the living conditions and solve their problems. He fostered the people living and working in peace and contentment and strengthened the army's training. After ten years of hard struggle, the Yue country became rich and powerful, so Goujian personally led his army to attack the Yue country and won the battle. After being defeated, Fuchai committed suicide in shame. Later, the Yue country took advantage of the victory to enter the Central Plains and become a significant power there.

The story is the basis of a four-character idiom:







It describes a person who undergoes suffering and deprivation as motivation for some great goal. It is similar to English:


What is an example of a Chinese idiom?

Another idiom derived from the following story:

Legend has it that in ancient times there was an artist named Zhang Shengyao who was very good at drawing dragons. He once painted four giant dragons on the wall of Anle Temple in Jinling (now Nanjing). People asked Zhang Shengyao, "Why don't you draw the eyes." He said, "The eyes cannot be drawn easily! As soon as I draw them, the dragon will fly away!". Later, unable to withstand people's repeated requests, Zhang Shengyao had to agree to paint the dragon's eyes.

And indeed, strange things happened then. Zhang just pointed at the eyes of one of the dragons, and suddenly a strong wind blew, lightning flashed and thunder in an instant. The giant dragon turned its glowing eyes, rose into the sky and flew away. The onlookers were amazed and admired Zhang Shengyao even more. The idiom "画龙点睛" comes from this legend. It is now commonly used as a metaphor in writing and speaking. It indicates the meaning and makes the content more vivid and powerful when one or two sharp words are inserted into key places.






The idiom is used to say that each masterpiece must be refined down to the last detail to achieve maximum expressiveness. It corresponds to the English phrase:


What are the ancient stories behind Chinese idioms?

Most of the idioms consist of four Chinese characters and are widely used in classical Chinese. There are other idioms with different word counts that often appear in the vernacular or everyday conversation.

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