Chinese Language Blog

Chinese Idioms Vol. 3 Posted by on Jul 1, 2011 in Culture, Uncategorized, Vocabulary

It’s time for another installment of Chinese idioms!

痴人说梦 – chī rén shuō mèng – “A fool tells about his dreams”

Fools talk about their dreams...

Basically, this idiom means to talk complete nonsense. The story behind it talks of a rich family who had a very foolish son. One day, he awoke to see the maid in his room. As he had seen her in his dream, he asked if she had seen him in hers. When she responded that she had not seen him in her dream, he freaked out and tried to order his mom to have the maid beaten. This idiom can be used in many ways to refer to absurd and unreasonable words. Here are a few examples:

你们真是痴人说梦. – nǐ men zhēn shì chī rén shuō mèng

You guys are just kidding yourselves.

可是你讲孙小姐的话完全是痴人说梦. – kě shì nǐ jiǎng sūn xiǎo jiě de huà wán quán shì chī rén shuō mèng.

But what you say about Miss Sun is complete rubbish.


道听途说 – dào tīng tú shuō – “Roadside gossip”

Get your story straight!

As this old story goes, there was a man named Ai Zi who was strolling along the road one day when he ran into Mao Kong. When he asked Mao Kong what had been going on recently, Mao replied, “Haven’t you heard?! Someone has raised a duck which can lay 100 eggs at one time!” Ai Zi was very doubtful of this claim, and he made Mao aware of this. “Well… it was two ducks that laid 100 eggs!” Once again, Ai Zi expressed his doubts. “Umm… then it was three ducks!” said Mao. Finally, Ai Zi asked him, “Where did you get your information from?” and Mao responded, “Well, I heard it at the roadside…” As such, this idiom is used to describe groundless hearsay or news.


囫囵吞枣 – hú lún tūn zǎo – “Swallow the dates whole”


Once upon a time, there was a man who loved eating pears and dates. However, one day a doctor told him, “Eating pears is good for your teeth, but overeating will harm your spleen. Dates are good for your spleen, but overeating will harm your teeth.” The man decided that as long as he only chewed the pears, and only swallowed the dates, he would be just fine. Of course, it wasn’t long before he experienced a horrible stomachache. This idiom is used to describe a person who accepts information without prior analysis, reflection, and understanding.

Here is a short video about the “swallow the date whole” idiom.

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About the Author: sasha

Sasha is an English teacher, writer, photographer, and videographer from the great state of Michigan. Upon graduating from Michigan State University, he moved to China and spent 5+ years living, working, studying, and traveling there. He also studied Indonesian Language & Culture in Bali for a year. He and his wife run the travel blog Grateful Gypsies, and they're currently trying the digital nomad lifestyle across Latin America.


  1. tabahiko:

    I like saying 覆水不返盆?.I don’t know correct words.

    Hi, I performed dance”AKB48”. I succeed to reduce my weight.
    Thank you.

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