成语Chinese idioms

成语 (pronounced as “cheng yu”) – Chinese idioms



例子 发音 字面意思 表达意思
半途而废 Ban Tu Er Fei 在途中的一半停下来 事情没有做完就放弃,不能坚持到底
例子 发音 字面意思 表达意思
掩耳盗铃 Yan Er Dao Ling 捂住自己的耳朵去偷铃铛 欺骗自己,掩盖无法掩盖的事实

Chinese idioms is an important part of Chinese language. Idioms use set structures and phrases to express a particular meaning. Chinese idioms have been invented and used for centuries. During the long history of China, based on mythical legends, fables, historical events and literature work, many simple and precise phrases were invented, which later became the idioms. Most Chinese idioms are made up with four Chinese characters. Chinese idioms cover many aspects of life: people, animals, objects and abstract concepts. Some idioms can be understood by its literal meaning while others’ expressive meanings are different from their literal meanings. All of the Chinese idioms have stories behind them to explain the origins of these phrases.

The following are two examples of Chinese idioms:

Example Pronunciation Literal meaning Expressive meaning
半途而废 Ban Tu Er Fei Stopped at halfway Give up halfway, leave something unfinished
Mencius (Meng Zi) was very hard working with his studies when he first went to school. However, as time went on, he became very slack. He always skipped school because he went out to play. One day, when he came home he saw his mum was sewing some cloth. Her cloth was almost done, but she suddenly cut it up in half with a pair of scissors. Meng Zi was very surprised. His mums then said to him: “Look at this piece of cloth. Now that it’s cut in half that I will no longer be able to continue sewing it. The same goes for studies: if you stop half way then you will not be able to continue learning.” Meng Zi was moved by his mum and from then on he studied hard and became a famous philosopher, politician and educationalist.
Example Pronunciation Literal meaning Expressive meaning
掩耳盗铃 Yan Er Dao Ling Cover your ears to steal a bell Deceive oneself, bury one’s head in the sand
Long time ago, there was a man called Li Si. One day, he saw a beautiful bell hanging outside a house. He liked the bell so much that he wanted to steal it. But every time he touched it, the bell would make a ringing sound and other people would be alerted to the scene. Li Si thought hard for a solution. Finally, he thought that if he covers up his ears then he won’t hear the ringing sound of the bell and maybe other people won’t hear it either. He covered up his ears and then tried to steal the bell. But of course other people can still hear the bell ring and Li Si got caught in the act and later sentenced for his crime.

做一做, 找一找 Challenges for you

学习成语。Learn some Chinese idioms.

The following two Youtube channels has videos of learning Chinese idioms.

中文成語學習 01 (Learning Chinese Idioms 01)

成语Daily Chinese Idioms (1) | 水火不容 Oil and Water

画成语故事。Draw a picture according to the idiom’s story.


The following picture is what I drew based on the Yan Er Dao Ling idiom story. Would you like to try drawing one for this or other idiom stories?

把你们画好的成语故事画或找到的成语在下面留言告诉我们吧。You can post your drawings or the idioms you found in the comments below.

相关的衔接 Links to useful resources

基督城图书馆有一些关于中国成语及学中文的资源 (电子资源需要用你的图书馆会员信息来登录观看)
You can explore these cool resources from Christchurch City Libraries’ on Chinese idioms and Chinese language
Log in to eResources with your library account,

Overdrive ebooks – in Chinese:

Just for Kids Access videos


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