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My 10 favorite Chinese Idioms and Sayings

Mandarin Inn

· Learning Chinese,Chinese culture,Chinese lesson

Mandarin is a wonderful and interesting language to learn. I personally derive a lot of joy from learning Chinese idioms and sayings. Just like our English sayings and idioms, the Mandarin ones are packed full of meaning. I have put together a list of ten of my most favorites:

1.百折不bǎi zhé bù náoLiterally this means, “One hundred breaks/losses, no scratch/yield.” So the meaning here is to keep on fighting in spite of all setbacks or to be indomitable. This is a great one to keep in mind when studying Mandarin.

2.水滴石穿 shuǐ dī shí chuānLiterally this means, “Water drops, stone is bored through.” In other words dripping water can penetrate through rocks. The idea here is closely related to the English saying, “little strokes fell great oaks.” This idiom encourages you to be persistent and keep your goals in mind.

3. 大惑不解 dà huò bù jiěLiterally this means, “large confusion, no understanding.” The idiom means to be at a complete loss or to be unable to make head or tail of something. Sometimes I feel this way when studying new characters and so it is an appropriate 语chénɡ yǔ to use here.

4.烟消云散 yān xiāo yún sànLiterally this means, “Smoke vanishes, clouds disperse.” In other words, to vanish like smoke as disperse like clouds. The meaning here is to completely vanish or disappear. Perhaps in English a close comparison could be when we say someone went AWOL.

5. 捡了芝麻,丢了西瓜 jiǎn le zhī mɑ , diū le xī ɡuāLiterally this means, “To pick out the seeds and neglect the watermelon.” In other words, to dwell on trifle issues and thus lose sight of the bigger picture. This idiom is interesting because it uses the imagery of food, (who doesn’t love watermelon?), to explain a larger issue. This is definitely one of my favorites。

6.将信将疑 jiānɡ xìn jiānɡ yí This literally means, “to use belief and to use doubt.” In other words half believing and half doubting. You can use this idiom to describe a situation in which you feel skeptical or not completely convinced.

7. 拒之jù zhī mén wài This literally means, “to refuse what is outside the door.” The meaning behind this idiom is to lock the door and refuse to see someone, or in other words, completely refuse or disregard someone or something.

8.至宝 rú huò zhì bǎoThis idioms meaning is, “ as if one had found a priceless treasure. ” For me, this describes my sentiments towards learning Mandarin, as it is indeed as if I have stumbled upon a priceless treasure.

9.在家靠父母,出靠朋友zài jiā kào fù mǔ , chū mén kào pénɡ youThis one is interesting because it talks about the significance of relationships, literally, “At home you rely on your parents, but when you go out into the world you rely on friends.” This tells you the significance of friends in your life and how important it is to have someone to rely on, as well as to be someone reliable for your fellow friend.

10.便宜一分是一份 pián yi yì fēn shì yí fènThis is a financial saying and if you use it when bargaining it probably will get you that discount. It literally means that with regards to money, even one cent is a part of the whole. In other words even one cent can make a difference.

There are so many more idioms and saying. Do you have any you would like to add? Feel free to add them in the comments below and help us all increase our idiom knowledge.

About Writer


Having grown up in South Africa, attended College in the US and now living in China, has allowed Stephanie to experience a multitude of differing cultural perceptions of the world. She's learning Mandarin AT Mandarin Inn and is studying for her HSK-LEVEL 5 certificate.

About Mandarin Inn

Mandarin Inn was founded in 2008, which focuses on disseminating the Chinese and Western culture. Mandarin Inn are providing foreigners Mandarin Course and the service of Study in China. Mandarin Inn is HSK official online test center、membership of ChineseAll Online training center of International Mandarin teachers, Member of Austcham Shanghai, Member of Amcham Southwest, Sponsor partner of German Chambers,Sponsor of ACLSA.For meeting Mandarin learning demands of foreigners, Mandarin Inn set up the agents and training centers inShanghai,Beijing,Guangzhou and Chengdu.

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