This is the first 成语 backstory I recall reading in class. It’s about a guy who can’t help but flaunt his superior skill in front of others, and the nasty surprise he gets as a result. This is upper-beginner, HSK 4.
This is the legend that underpins the idiom “画龙点睛”, which typically describes the use of a couple of perfectly-chosen words or sentences, added a critical moment in written works or spoken arguments, which illuminate a deeper meaning and give the content more power. The story itself, though, it about dragons, and is only tied to that concept in the loosest way.
This story is believed to have originated from a Buddhist sutra, the Mahayana Mahaparinirvana Sutra 《大般涅槃经》, donated to us by the content team over at Du Chinese. A challenge for HSK 2, should be smoother for HSK 3.
This one’s pretty cool, guys. Today, we’re going to take look at a short text that’s almost 2000 years old. This passage comes from the 《山海经》shān hǎi jīng, or The Classic of Mountains and Seas, an ancient compendium of mythological beasts that was formalized during the Han Dynasty – that’s around the same time as the Roman Empire.
Yang over at Learn Mandarin Now is spoiling me with all these guest posts. I’ve been struggling to find something that suitable for beginners lately – everything I stumble across ends up being intermediate. But this is a very good place for beginners to start reading chéngyǔ (成语 idiom) stories, because you’ll get an introduction […]
Hey hey, lookie here, an excellent guest post submitted by native Chinese speaker Yang from Learn Mandarin Now. This story tells us a bit about the Chinese chengyu (idiom),塞翁失马, which can mean “a blessing in disguise”, or can conversely mean “bad luck disguised as good”. It’s used to point out the hidden positives or negatives […]
Story behind the Chinese idiom 专心致志 zhuān xīn zhì zhì, which means “to do something with single-minded devotion”.
You know the kind of person who loses something and immediately declares it was stolen? Yeah, that.
Here we’ll cover the back story behind the idiom “夜郎自大”, or “Yelang thinks highly of itself”. This idiom one refers to someone who has a high, but misguided, opinion of their own worth. Stick this one in the language bank for when you need to take someone down a peg (preferably while stroking your fu […]
This is the backstory behind the Chinese idiom 鹬蚌相争 yù bàng xiāng zhēng, which translates to “The Sandpiper and the Clam Fight Each Other”, and means “Two parties fight and a third party benefits.”
This short tale addresses the background story behind the Chinese idiom 一暴十寒, which literally translates to “One day of sun, ten days of frost”, and which means “to bust butt for a little while and then get lazy”, or “to only work for a short time and then fail”. The story below really applies to […]
This fable describes backstory / origination of the idiom 掩耳盗铃 yǎn ěr dào líng, which literally translates as “to plug one’s ears while stealing a bell”, and meaning “to bury one’s head in the sand”, or “to deceive oneself”.
As you’re probably aware, most Chinese idioms are 4-character constructs that make little sense unless you know the story behind them. this one, 南辕北辙, means “to do something that acts against your own best interests”.