Posts tagged: chengyu

Dec 30 2009

Chinese Proverbs, Sayings and Idioms

This is perhaps my most loved portion of Chinese language.  Every language has it’s unique proverbs, sayings and idioms, however Chinese is especially well known for it’s sayings.

Idioms (called “cheng4yu3” in Chinese) are generally 4 characters in length.  These short sayings pack quite a punch in meaning.  When used correctly they can highly impress your listener.  When I correctly use Chinese idioms people sing my praises like nobodys business.  They think I am an expert in Chinese when really I am just average.  By using chengyus correctly you can actually trick people into thinking that your Chinese is better than it actually is.  This is because they don’t expect early learners to be able to use such high level Chinese.  So I highly recommend learning and using chengyus anytime you get the chance.  Not that I try to trick people into thinking my Chinese is better than it actually is, it’s just that these chengyus are incredibly useful.  In fact, there are situations in English where I want to get my point across about something and the Chinese chengyu is perfect, however I must spend a few sentences in English explaining something that could be summed up in just 4 Chinese words.

Proverbs are slightly different but essentially the same thing.  They tend to be longer than chengyus but still pack the equivalent punch.  Again if you can use them correctly your Chinese friends will be well impressed.  Proverbs might be sayings of people like Confucious (Kongzi) or Laozi, ancient Chinese philosiphers who wrote books that still have influence on the culture of Chinese people.

The meaning of Proverbs tend to be a bit more obvious than that of Chengyus.  This is because the Chengyus are very short and use only parts of words whereas Proverbs tend to be complete sentences and phrases.

I have a section devoted entirely to Chinese Idioms and one for Chinese Proverbs that I know and encounter while living here.  There’s no point in learning idioms that are rarely used, so focus on the most frequently used ones.  I will post all the sayings I use on a regular basis and  continue to post new ones as I encounter and learn them myself in my day to day life here.

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