Chinese Expressions: Cheng Yu


Chinese has hundreds if not thousands of 4-character sayings and phrases which are similar to US idiomatic expressions and stock phrases, such as “it’s raining cats and dogs” or “love me, love my dog” or “as poor as a church mouse.”

They are just as colorful as you can imagine.

Here are a few to pique your interest…try to guess what it might mean, and I’ll give the answers at the end.

A hint:  all 3 of the phrases are expressing the same idea.

1. 倾国倾城   (qing guo qing cheng) = collapsed country, collapsed city

2.  闭月羞花   (bi yue xiu hua)  = covered moon, shy flower

3.   沉鱼落雁 (chen yu lou yan) = sinking fish, falling goose

In fact, all three of these expressions are ways of describing a very beautiful woman.

In 1, the woman is so beautiful that all is neglected (or the emperor neglects his work) and the country falls apart

in 2, there is an ancient story about a goddess who was so beautiful that the moon covered itself out of shame for its plain looks, and the flowers felt shameful in comparison.

in 3, another old tale is told where the beautiful woman startled the fish and wild geese with her beauty, so they sank and fell out of the sky.



One response »

  1. I love looking at past blogs…and new ones.

    Kira looks longingly at the pics of S.

    I have the most wonderful Norwegian exchange student this year…Tor. Makes me miss you more even though you don’t know him!

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