Chinese Idioms (成语)
成语 (chéngyǔ) are Chinese set expressions, typically consisting of four characters. They often allude to a story or historical proverb.
Here is a list of chéngyǔ I’ve come across while translating Why Harem Intrigue and Held in the Lonely Castle along with their meanings in English. I also include some well-known phrases. My Chinese skill is not very high so I’m afraid I can’t explain the stories behind them. I will link any background information I come across.
I plan on adding to this page periodically as a way to review the chéngyǔ flashcards that I’ve saved. Please check back from time to time if you’d like to learn together! 🙂
- 千篇一律 | qiānpiān yīlǜ
Literally: A thousand articles, the same rule
Meaning: Stereotyped; Following the same pattern.
- 额手称庆 | éshǒu chēnpqìng
Literally: Raising one’s hand to one’s forehead in joy
Meaning: To be overjoyed
- 特立独行 | tèlì dúxíng
Literally: Unconventional, independent action
Meaning: to be independent in mind and action
- 抑扬顿挫 | yìyáng dùncuò
Literally: To modulate one’s tone and pause and transition in rhythm or melody
Meaning: Cadence, modulation in tone
- 敷衍了事 | fūyǎn liǎoshì
Literally: Perfunctorily completing work
Meaning: To work half-heartedly, to skimp
- 蠢蠢欲动 | chǔnchǔn yùdòng
Literally: Restlessly moving as one wishes
Meaning: To begin to stir, to become restless, to be ready to make trouble
- 根深蒂固 | gēnshēn dìgù
Literally: As deep as a root, as firm as the stem of a fruit
Meaning: Deep-rooted, ingrained
- 众矢之的 | zhòngshǐzhīdì
Literally: To be the target for the crowd’s arrows/feces
Meaning: To be attacked on all sides, to be the target of public criticism, censured by all
- 群起而攻之 | qúnqǐ ér gōng zhī
Literally: The group rises against sth/sb
Meaning: To have the masses rise (or turn against) against sth/sb, universally abhorrent
- 皆大欢喜 | jiēdà huānxǐ
Literally: Everyone is pleased
Meaning: To everyone’s delight and satisfaction
- 异军突起 | yìjūn tūqǐ
Literally: An unusual army charges forward
Meaning: To emerge as a new force to be reckoned with
- 轰轰烈烈 | hōnghōng lièliè
Literally: To violently explode
Meaning: On a grand and spectacular scale; vigorous and dynamic
- 千里之堤毁于蚁穴 | qiān lǐ zhī dī, kuì yú yǐ xué
Literally: An ant may well destroy an entire dam
Meaning: If a small problem is overlooked, it could develop into a big disaster. Ants multiply quickly and make tunnels in dams, allowing water in and consequently causing it to collapse.
Ignore this section~ It’s more to keep myself accountable while learning.
Translated: 5 chapters | Saved: 58 idiom flashcards | Added/reviewed: 10/58
Translated: 6.85 chapters | Saved: 61 idiom flashcards | Added/reviewed: 12/61 | Others: 1/1
Thank you for reading!
Please check back from time to time if you’d like to learn together! 🙂
I’d love to hear any thoughts you might have.
To any Chinese speakers:
- Do you know the stories behind the chéngyǔ above?
- How did you learn chéngyǔ?
- Do you know any resources for learning cheng yu?
- What chéngyǔ are obsolete in modern times?
I deeply appreciate your guidance! (>m<) <3
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