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The 18 Funniest Chinese Expressions (and How to Use Them)

China Languages
by Jocelyn Eikenburg May 12, 2015

1. Chinese people aren’t just in a class all their own. They’re “a crane among a flock of chickens.” (鹤立鸡群, hèlìjīqún)

2. In Chinese, you’re not better late than never. You “mend the flock after the sheep have been lost.” (亡羊补牢, wángyángbǔláo)

3. A Chinese person won’t kill the goose that lays the golden eggs. But he might “drain the pond to catch all the fish.” (竭泽而渔, jiézé’éryú)

4. The Chinese don’t gild the lily. They “paint a snake with feet” (画蛇添足, huàshétiānzú)

5. In Chinese, she’s not just drop-dead gorgeous. She could be “dazzling enough to make the fish drown and the geese fall from the sky.” (沉鱼落雁, chényúluòyànyan)

6. The Chinese don’t dream of Eden. They imagine “the stream in the peach orchard that leads to paradise.” (世外桃源, shìwàitáoyuán)

7. In Chinese, you’re not easily spooked. You “startle at the sound of the wind and cry of the stork.” (风声鹤唳, fēngshēng-hèlì)

8. A Chinese person won’t talk of a lost cause. He might say it’s like “climbing a tree to catch fish.” (缘木求鱼, yuánmùqiúyú)

9. In Chinese, you’re not a fall guy. You “carry the black bowl.” (背黑锅, bēihēiguō)

10. The Chinese don’t split hairs. They “sort chicken feathers and garlic skins.” (鸡毛蒜皮, jīmáosuànpí)

11. A Chinese person won’t toot his horn. He’ll “blow bullskins.” (吹牛皮, chuīniúpí)

12. The Chinese don’t kiss butt. They “beat a horse’s behind.” (拍马屁, pāimǎpì)

13. Chinese people aren’t slapdash about their work. They could “mop mud and carry water” while on the job. (拖泥带水, tuōnídàishuǐ)

14. The Chinese won’t ask for trouble. They “beg for bitterness to eat.” (自讨苦吃zìtǎokǔchī)

15. A Chinese guy won’t get green-eyed with jealousy over your new boyfriend. He might “eat vinegar.” (吃醋, chīcù)

16. In Chinese, you’re never in dire straits. You’re “a fish trapped in a dry wheel track.” (涸辙之鲋hézhézhīfù)

17. Chinese people don’t stretch the truth. They talk “as if the heavens were raining flowers.” (天花乱坠, tiānhuāluànzhuì)

18. A Chinese person doesn’t add the crowning touch. He “paints a dragon and, at last, dots the eyes.” (画龙点睛, huàlóngdiǎnjīng)

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