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List of idioms?[edit]

Is there a list of four-character idioms somewhere? Should this page become such a repository? (I see Chinese Proverbs -- are idioms proverbs?)

Idioms are not proverbs. Chinese proverbs are called "谚语" or "俗语". There is also a special class of Chinese proverbs called "歇后语". i'm surprised that an article doesn't exist for that. On the other hand, this article is somehow wrong in claiming that Chinese idioms were used commonly only before 1919, i.e. the mass conversion to Vernacular Chinese. Idioms are still used very commonly in Chinese language today. There are special dictionaries listing all Chinese idioms and they should be available in respectable Chinese bookshops. Some even offer the origins of the idioms. --Plastictv 03:09, 23 August 2005 (UTC)
Here are some links relevant to the above question:

So far I have not broken down the idioms category by number of characters. However, this may become necessary as it grows. A-cai 16:16, 17 July 2006 (UTC)


I just added a small extension to the section on Japanese 4-kanji idioms. I'm about to write a short article on yojijukugo, as I think they stand a bit apart from the Chinese ones. --JimBreen 02:33, 29 July 2005 (UTC)

Needing Clarification[edit]

"The literal meaning of the idiom is impossible to understand without the background knowledge of the origin of the phrase. However, some idioms such "空穴来风" and "素面朝天" are so widely misunderstood that their literal meaning are used despite of their original meaning."

The article text is missing some crucial information here, such as what these idioms mean, what these idioms are use to mean (in their supposed 'misunderstood' sense), and what their pronunciation is. -- Rikoshi 01:18, 2 February 2006 (UTC)

The second idiom doesn't appear in any dictionary I have access to, it seems it's been misunderstood too long and fallen out of any use. Is there a source for the "misunderstood" comment? tepid 21:03, 9 May 2006 (UTC)

There are hundreds of classic idioms that are better than these two examples, I studied many Chinese idioms when I was a kid and I don't remember seeing the second example. I agree that the first example 空穴来风 is often used in an opposite sense. In the original source, it says when there are wind rushing out of a cave, there is a reason behind it. It should means when something unexplainable happens, the truth behind it is something worth investigating. However, in modern usage, the first example is used literally "Winds blowing out of an empty cave" or something that is out of the blue or fibricated, which is quite different from the original meaning. Kowloonese 02:04, 10 May 2006 (UTC)
see here [1]--Skyfiler 04:27, 10 May 2006 (UTC)
To be widely misunderstood also implies it is widely known or widely used in the first place. If the second idiom is hard to find in an idiom dictionary, I doubt it would be widely used at all. Kowloonese 02:16, 11 May 2006 (UTC)
Speaking for myself, I have heard of both idioms since childhood. Glenn W 01:50, 22 August 2006 (UTC)

The second idiom, 素面朝天, is in the ABC dictionary (the most comprehensive Chinese-English dictionary), and is translaated as "of a woman, to wear no make-up during an audience with the emperor", but I am still unclear on what the correct and incorrect interpretations of this chengyu are...

Would we at least be able get the pinyin translation, and a literal translation of the characters?

Here we are, four years later, and still no explanation of this one. The best I have been able to come up with on the net, at , is su4 mian4 chao2 tian1", with the meaning given above, but no explanation of what the context or connotations of this may be. (talk) 06:02, 4 May 2010 (UTC)

Hi There, I am looking to study Chengyu in depth. A friend showed me a few good idioms in the old Matthews Dictionary. I am aware that this is part of the Childrens Classical Curriculum, any chance that someone might know good English translated resources for introductory books on the subject. it does not matter how elemantary or advanced. I hear there are some good illustrated childrens books. However if translated books are rare, I wouldnt mind mandarin books, might help improve my mandarin. Rivetrenuck (talk) 09:26, 19 June 2013 (UTC)

Ruby annotation[edit]

Something's wrong with the Japanese examples. Shawnc 01:32, 17 April 2006 (UTC)

Chengyu (four-characters idioms) dictionary[edit]

The link to the Chengyu's dictionary page has been removed. With it's 30 000 entries with explenation, pinyin pronunciation and lots of english translation I think it might be a usefull resource. Should we put it back on?


I seem to recall noticing that many Korean proverbs are actually four character idioms. I unfortunately don't have any source for this; I just noticed a bunch of them were basically four words, and some inflections. Does someone happen to know what 4 character idioms are called in Korean, or how they work?

The only example I have, off the top my head, is the Korean shamans' adage, "Jugeun soneun gashi sonida", which is all native readings, and means, "The hand of the dead is a thorny hand" (in other words, you can't have contact with ghosts without coming to harm). I think the Hanja would be "死手茨手," or "死手棘手," or else "死手荊手": I'm not sure which hanja has the native reading "Gashi." It's the same "Gashi" as used in the name of the Gate of Hell in Korean Buddhism. Nagakura shin8 19:24, 5 March 2007 (UTC)

They are called 사자성어 or 四字成語. Konamaiki 05:59, 28 October 2007 (UTC)
Also, they work exactly the same as the Japanese or Chinese variants. I believe most of them are loans from Chinese and just pronounced in Korean. Konamaiki 05:46, 29 October 2007 (UTC)

Long time no see[edit]

Does hao jo bu jin (long time, no see) qualify as a chengyu? — Loadmaster 14:49, 22 March 2007 (UTC)

No, in order for something to be considered an idiom (even in English), it has to have extended meaning beyond its literal definition. --Voidvector 14:07, 17 June 2007 (UTC)
Untrue. Those can also be 俗语. For something to be 成语 it has to hold a deep significance that will not be deciphered just by understanding the language or the culture. You'd have to really learn them. All proverbs and idioms can extend beyond their literal definitions but only 成语 is distinct in that the four words that it uses may not even make sense literally. They may be completely arbitrary terms that could only ever mean something when placed together under it. The four words that make up 比手划脚 mean nothing together except when used in the 成语. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 15:49, 18 July 2012 (UTC)

Four characters??[edit]

This article is not equivalent to "Chinese idioms" -- while many are four characters long, they are by no means all four characters! There are lots and lots of longer idioms and a few shorter ones. This is a common misconception. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 14:48, 24 October 2007 (UTC)