Hello and welcome to Culturally Speaking on the SOH Network. This is Catherine Hennessy with you. Today’s Culturally Speaking’s article, The Rich and Varied Use of Idioms in Chinese Culture, is contributed by Zhi Zhen.
Chinese idioms have been developed and refined over the long history of the Chinese language. They are succinct and pithy. Most idioms contain four Chinese characters, such as, (有声有色) This literally means “having sound and having color”; that is, “vivid” and “impressive.”
Some idioms consist of only three or over four characters, such as,(桃李满天下) which contains five characters. This literally means “peach and plum flowers blooming all over the world.” This is used to describe a teacher who has many students.
Another example includes, (有志者事竟成) This idiom is used to convey that a person with a great aspiration can ultimately succeed in what he or she does.
These and other idioms reflect the colorful and variegated world of China’s past. From them, people can gain insight into many aspects of Chinese culture including astronomy, geography, history, literature, art, morality, ethics, and so on. These idioms reflect the trends and standards of various kinds of thought and behavior in Chinese culture. Idioms portray the culture in a lively and tangible way.
This article discusses the cultural connotation of Chinese idioms from the perspective of the relationship between idioms and culture, that is, by combining the language phenomenon and the cultural phenomenon.
There are several sources of Chinese idioms. One is mythology. For example:
(开天辟地) translates to creating heaven forming earth.
(精卫填海) tells of a mythical bird who tries to fill the ocean with twigs and pebbles.
(夸父逐日) translates to a mythical figure chasing sun.
(八仙过海) translates to “eight immortals crossed the sea with their unique divine capabilities” referring to each of the eight using his unique talents to achieve the goal.
(天衣无缝) refers to “doing something flawlessly.
(点石成金) refers to making something perfect with a Golden Touch.
Many idioms also come from fables or from the classic stories in Confucianism, Taoism, and Buddhism. Some idioms even are from Chinese literature. We will bring you more examples for each source of idioms in the next several segments.
Well, I hope you enjoyed ‘the Rich and varied use of idioms in Chinese Culture’ written by Zhi Zhen. Today’s article’s credit belongs to “Clearwisdom” web site. Thank you for listening. I’m Catherine Hennessy with SOH Network, the home of Culturally Speaking. Untill then.