Chinese allegories

Chinese allegories

These are two-part allegorical sayings. The first part, which is always stated, is the literal meaning of the expression. The second part is the unstated, implied meaning of the expression.

guān yǔ xiáng cáo cāo – shēn zài cáo yíng xīn zài hàn
关羽降曹操 – 身在曹营心在汉
Guan Yu (160-219), a general in the period of the Three Kingdoms, surrendered to Cao Cao (155-220), a military strategist and statesman during the Three Kingdoms. – live in the Cao camp but with one’s heart in the Han camp; though one is physically here, one’s mind is elsewhere; be half-hearted

chī cáo cāo de fàn xiǎng liú bèi de shì – rén zài xīn bú zài
吃曹操的饭,想刘备的事 – 人在心不在
(After surrendering to Cao Cao,) Guan Yu (160-219), a general in the period of the Three Kingdoms, lived in the Cao camp, but only bore Liu Bei’s affairs in mind – though one is physically here, one’s mind is elsewhere; be half-hearted

cáo cāo shā huà tuó – yǐ yuàn bào dé
曹操杀华佗 – 以怨报德
Cao Cao (155-220), a military strategist and statesman during the Three Kingdoms, killed Hua Tuo (141-203), a noted surgeon and physician at the end of the Han Dynasty. – return evil for good; repay good with evil

cáo cāo yòng jì – yòu jiān yòu huá
曹操用计 – 又奸又滑
Cao Cao (155-220), a military strategist and statesman during the Three Kingdoms, mapped out schemes or laid traps. – cunning and treacherous

kŏng míng dà bǎi kōng chéng jì – huà xiǎn wéi yí
孔明大摆空城计 – 化险为夷
Zhuge Liang (181-234), a famous military strategist and statesman in the State of Shu during the period of the Three Kingdoms, implemented the empty-city stratagem (bluffing the enemy by keeping the gates of a weakly defended city open as if a trap were laid for him inside). – turn danger into safety; get out of the jaws of danger; head off a disaster

kŏng míng zhǎn wèi yán – jiè dāo shā rén
孔明斩魏延 – 借刀杀人
Zhuge Liang (181-234), a famous military strategist and statesman in the State of Shu during the period of the Three Kingdoms, killed Wei Yan (?-234), a military general of Shu Han. – murder with a borrowed knife; make use of another person to get rid of an adversary; kill by another’s hand

zhū gĕ liàng lóng zhōng duì cè – yŏu xiān jiàn zhī míng
诸葛亮隆中对策 – 有先见之明
Zhuge Liang (181-234), a famous military strategist and statesman in the State of Shu during the period of the Three Kingdoms, outlined the Longzhong Plan to envisage the securing of a viable regional base in southern China and then a two-pronged attack to conquer the north. – have ability to anticipate what is coming; have a prophetic vision; have the foresight

liú bèi fǎng xián – sān gù máo lú
刘备访贤 – 三顾茅庐
Liu Bei (161-223), founder of the Shu Han Kingdom of the Three Kingdoms, visited a virtuous talent (here, referring to Zhuge Liang). – make three personal calls at the thatched cottage; repeated and sincere invitations

Dos & Don’ts in China

中国自古有”礼仪之邦”的美誉,尽管现在中国社会生活变化很大,但很多礼仪习惯还是延续下来.要避免不必要的尴尬和不愉快, 了解生活中有哪些禁忌还是有必要的.
China is known as “a nation of courtesy and propriety”. Although the country is undergoing change at a rapid pace, it remains a highly traditional society. Here are some tips to help newcomers fit in and avoid making gaffes.

Giving and receiving a gift

  • Present and receive gifts with both hands.
  • The following gifts should be avoided:

    1.Clocks of any kind. The word clock in Chinese “钟”(zhōng) sounds the same as the expression for the ending of a life “终”(zhōng).

    2.Pears. The word pear in Chinese “梨”(lí )sounds the same as “离”(lí ) which means “to separate” and is considered unlucky.

    3.White or yellow flowers (especially chrysanthemums), which are used for funerals.

  • Chinese people generally do not unwrap gifts upon being presented with them as this is considered impolite. Gifts should only be opened after you have left the place you received them. More senior Chinese people do not usually accept a gift when it is first presented to them; politely refusing a gift a few times to start with is thought to reflect modesty and humility, whilst accepting in haste makes one look aggressive and greedy.
  • When wrapping gifts, avoid using white or black-coloured wrapping paper. Consider red or other festive colors.

Table Manners

  • Do not place your chopsticks upright in the rice bowl since this symbolizes wishing death upon somebody at the table due to its resemblance to a shrine for a deceased person. You should not tap your bowl with chopsticks either.
  • Make sure the spout of the teapot does not point towards anyone, as this is considered impolite. Teapots are usually placed on a table with their spouts facing outwards.
  • Making a toast –You’d better stand up if it’s a formal occasion.
  • At a banquet or during formal occasions, it is considered polite to sample all the dishes, and at the end of the meal you should leave a little on your plate to demonstrate the host’s generosity in providing a plentiful amount of food.

Other Points

  • Embracing or kissing when greeting someone or saying good-bye is highly unusual in China. Do not slap them on their backs, hug or put your arm around someone’s shoulder, as this will make a Chinese person feel uncomfortable since they do not like being touched by strangers. Of course, you can do so if you are friends.
  • Punctuality is considered a virtue in China. Being on time shows respect for others. Chinese people tend to show up a bit earlier than scheduled for appointments to show their earnestness.
  • Do not overreact when asked personal questions regarding marital status, family, age, job or income, by people you have just met because this is usually done to seek common ground.
  • The number four, pronounced si in China, is considered bad luck because it has the same phonetic spelling in Chinese as the word death 死 (sǐ ). Some buildings do not have a fourth floor or a room number 4 – with the numbering going straight from 3 to 5! In contrast, the number 8, pronounced bā, is similar to the Chinese word 发 (fā) which means “to become rich”, and is considered very lucky.
  • Mianzi (face) is a fragile commodity in China. The easiest way to cause someone to lose face is to criticize him/her in front of others. When asked to do something in a group of people, it is advisable not to directly say “no”. A better approach would be to prompt the questioner to withdraw his request by replying, “Yes, but it will be difficult” as an alternative, since a direct refusal may cause embarrassment and loss of face.
  • If you suggest a dinner to someone, you’re implicitly inviting that person as your guest, and will be expected to foot the bill.
  • Tipping is not practiced in China.

take subway to work

wǒ zuò dì tiě lái shàng bān
I take subway to work.

Panda : Tiger, 早!
Tiger, 早!
Tiger, zǎo

Tiger: 早,Panda, 你今天是坐公交车来上班的吗?
早,Panda, 妳今天是坐公交車來上班的嗎? zǎo ,Panda, nǐ jīn tiān shì zuò gōng jiāo chē lái shàng bān de ma
Morning, Do you take a bus to office this morning?

Panda : 不是,今天我坐地铁来上班的!
bú shì ,jīn tiān wǒ zuò dì tiě lái shàng bān de
zǎo shàng chuān shàng hòu wài tào ba
No honey, I took subway this time.

Tiger: 地铁上人多吗?
dì tiě shàng rén duō ma
Ok, So are there so crowds in the subway?

Panda: 非常多,人挤人。
fēi cháng duō ,rén jǐ rén
yes, really.

Tiger: 那你下次还会坐地铁来上班吗?
nà nǐ xià cì hái huì zuò dì tiě lái shàng bān ma 。
Next time will take subway again ?

Panda: 如果起床晚了就坐地铁,要不然就迟到了。
rú guǒ qǐ chuáng wǎn le jiù zuò dì tiě ,yào bú rán jiù chí dào le
Not sure, if I wake up so late and I just can take a subway, or else I will be late for working.

Tiger: 你几点钟起床?
nǐ jǐ diǎn zhōng qǐ chuáng
When do you wake up?

Panda: 我一般7点钟起床,有时候睡过头了,8点钟才起床。
wǒ yī bān 7diǎn zhōng qǐ chuáng ,yǒu shí hòu shuì guò tóu le ,8diǎn zhōng cái qǐ chuáng
I usually wake up at 7:00. Sometimes I sleep so deeply then will get up at 8:00.

Tiger: 那你能告诉我在上海怎么坐地铁吗?
nà nǐ néng gào sù wǒ zài shàng hǎi zěn me zuò dì tiě ma 。
Would you like to tell me how to take a subway in Shanghai?

Panda: 好的,没问题。首先你要买票,然后进站,等车。
hǎo de ,méi wèn tí 。shǒu xiān nǐ yào mǎi piào ,rán hòu jìn zhàn ,děng chē
Ok, you should buy tickets, enter the entrance, waiting for a subway. It is similar with other cities.

Tiger: 好的,谢谢你。
hǎo de ,xiè xiè nǐ 。
Ok, Thanks.


地铁-地鐵- dì tiě –subway
坐地铁- zuò dì tiě – chuān yī – take subway
要不然-要不然- yào bú rán – or
迟到-遲到- chí dào –be late
起床-起床- qǐ chuáng – get up
上班-上班- shàng bān -go to office
买票-買票- mǎi piào -buy tickets
进站-進站- jìn zhàn -enter the subway station
等车-等車- děng chē -wait for a subway

Special Effects

A video parody adapted from a shampoo commercial featuring kungfu star Jackie Chan went viral online, leading Internet users to coin a word “Duang”, an onomatopoetic word which doesn’t correlate with any particular Chinese character and refers to special effects.
一段恶搞功夫明星成龙代言的洗发水广告视频在网络上走红,并由此诞生了一个热门词语duang. Duang 是一个拟声词,不对应任何汉字,指的是“特效”。

The video begins with Chan flashing his black, sleek(有光泽的) hair, which would have been flawless(完美的) except(除…外) that it was not his real hair, to the tune of online hit, “My Skating Shoes”, known for its coarse melody and the singer’s strong southern Mandarin dialect(很重的南方口音).

Next, a smug Chan confesses(承认), to the repetitive, rhythmical sounds of “Duang”, “I refused to endorse(代言) this product when they first came to me because of my thin hair, but the director insisted, saying special effects(特效) could be used to make my hair look healthy on the screen. Now you see. It’s all special effects. It’s not real.”

The original advertisement became the target of regulators’ crackdown(打击) for overhyping(过度宣传) the effects of the shampoo after it was broadcast in 2004.

重点词汇 Key Words:

特效 tè xiào
special effects

n.  Eg.

  •          这部新的系列剧将会是一场特效和舞美的盛宴。
    This new series promises a feast of special effects and set designs.
  •           这部电影的特效未能出彩。
    The movie’s special effects fail to dazzle.

承认 chéng rèn

v. Eg.

  •           我立刻就想承认我错了。
    Right off I want to confess that I was wrong.
  •           我承认这把我难倒了。
    I admit it’s got me baffled.

除…外 chú …wài
except/except for


  • 星期天,我们每天都工作。
    We work every day except Sunday.
  • 下了一阵大雨,天气还是很好的.
    The weather was good except for an occasional shower.

Chinese Grammar learning: 像 + items + 之类的; items + 之类的 + Noun.

之类的 can be translated as “and so on” or “and stuff like that.” As in English, this grammar point is used to continue a list without explicitly mentioning further items within it.

Used with 像

像 + [items] + 之类的


Yuè lái yuè duō de rén bú chī yánɡ kuàicān, xiànɡ KFC zhīlèide.
越 来 越 多 的 人 不 吃 洋 快餐,像 KFC 之类的 。
More and more people don’t eat foreign fast food, like KFC and stuff like that.


Wǒ xǐhuɑn dāi zài dà chénɡshì, xiànɡ shànɡhǎi、xiānɡɡǎnɡ zhīlèide.
我 喜欢 呆 在 大 城市,像 上海、香港 之类的 。
I like to stay in big cities like Shanghai, Hong Kong, and places like that.


Tā xǐhuɑn tánlùn piàoliɑnɡ de nǚ mínɡxīnɡ, xiànɡ zhānɡzǐyí、zhānɡbǎizhī zhīlèide.
他 喜欢 谈论 漂亮 的 女 明星,像 章子怡、张柏芝 之类的 。
He likes to talk about pretty actresses like Zhang Ziyi, Zhang Baizhi, and people like that.

Used without 像

The 像 in the sentence can also be left out.
[items] + 之类的 + Noun


Nǐ xǐhuɑn kàn《xīyóujì》zhīlèide diànyǐnɡ mɑ?
你 喜欢 看《西游记》之类的 电影 吗?
Does he like to watch movies like “Journey into the West”?


Yíkànjiùzhīdàotāhěnyǒuqián, chuānde dōu shì Gucci, Chanel zhīlèide yīfu.
一看就知道她很有钱,穿的 都 是 Gucci, Chanel 之类的 衣服。
You will realize that she’s very rich as you see her. All of her clothes are brands like Gucci and Chanel.

The History of Chinese Film

The history of Chinese film has three separate threads of development: Cinema of Hong Kong, Cinema of China, and Cinema of Taiwan. The cinema of Mainland China after 1949 has grown up somewhat suppressed by the Communist regime until recent times, although certain Chinese films are still being routinely censored or banned there but allowed to be played abroad.

The Beginnings: Shanghai as the Center

Motion pictures were introduced to China in 1896. The first recorded screening of a motion picture in China occurred in Shanghai on August 11, 1896, as an “act” on a variety bill. The first Chinese film, a recording of the Beijing Opera, The Battle of Dingjunshan, was made in November 1905. For the next decade the production companies were mainly foreign-owned, and the domestic film industry did not start in earnest until 1916, centering around Shanghai, a thriving entrepot center and the largest city in the Far East then.

During the 1920s film technicians from the United States trained Chinese technicians in Shanghai, and American influence continued to be felt there for the next two decades. The first truly important Chinese films were produced starting from the 1930s, when the “progressive” or “left-wing” films were made, like Cheng Bugao’s Spring Silkworms (1933), Sun Yu’s The Big Road (1935), and Wu Yonggang’s The Goddess (1934). During this time the Kuomintang struggled for power and control over the major studios, and their influence can be seen in the ensuing films produced. The post-1930 era is called the first “golden period” of Chinese cinema, where several talented directors, mainly leftist, worked. The period also produced the first big Chinese movie stars, namely Hu Die, Ruan Lingyu, Zhou Xuan, and Jin Yan. Other major films of the period include Song of the Fishermen (1934), Crossroads (1937), and Street Angel (1937).

The Japanese invasion of China, in particular their occupation of Shanghai, ended this golden run in Chinese cinema. All production companies except Xinhua closed shop, and many of the filmmakers fled Shanghai, relocating in Hong Kong, Communist- and Nationalist-controlled regions, and elsewhere.

The Second Golden Age: the late 1940s, and the Communist Era

The film industry continued to develop after 1945. A major Chinese production house, the Lianhua Company, re-established itself in Shanghai after the war and once again became the basis for leftist directors. Many showed the disillusionment with the oppressive rule of Chiang Kai-shek’s Nationalist Party. Myriads of Lights (1948), Crows and Sparrows (1949), San Mao (1949), and, most importantly, The Spring River Flows East (1947) are the classics produced during this period. The Spring River Flows East, a three-hour-long two-parter which depicts the struggles of ordinary Chinese folks during the Sino-Japanese war, was immensely popular during its time, making social and political references to the period. The Wenhua Film Company, one of the two important production companies formed by left-leaning film-makers in the city, also contributed some of the masterpieces of the era. A film by Shanghainese director Fei Mu, Springtime in a Small Town or Spring in a Small Town (1948), which was produced in Shanghai prior to the revolution, is often considered by Chinese film critics as the best Chinese film of all time, and certainly one of the most influential. (an acclaimed 2002 remake by one of the Fifth generation Chinese film maker Tian ZhuangZhuang can also be seen)

With the Communist takeover in 1949, the government saw motion pictures as an important mass production art form and propaganda. The number of movie-viewers increased sharply, from 47 million in 1949 to 4.15 billion in 1959. In the 17 years between the founding of the People’s Republic of China and the Cultural Revolution, 603 feature films and 8,342 reels of documentaries and newsreels were produced, sponsored as Communist Party of China by the government. Chinese filmmakers were sent to Moscow to study Soviet filmmaking. In 1956, the Beijing Film Academy was opened. The first wide-screen Chinese film was produced in 1960. Animated_films using a variety of folk arts, such as papercuts, shadow plays, puppetry, and traditional paintings, also were very popular for entertaining and educating children. The thawing of censorship in 1956-7 and the early 1960s led to more indigeneous Chinese films being made which were less reliant on their Soviet counterparts. The most prominent filmmaker of this era is Xie Jin, whose two films in particular, The Red Detachment of Women (1961) and Two Stage Sisters (1965), exemplify the growing expertise China has in the craft of motion pictures.

The Cultural Revolution and its Aftermath

During the Cultural Revolution, the film industry was severely restricted. Almost all previous films were banned, and only a few new ones were produced, the most notable being a ballet version of the revolutionary opera The Red Detachment of Women. Feature film production came almost to a standstill in the early years from 1966 to 1972.

In the years immediately following the Cultural Revolution, the film industry again flourished as a medium of popular entertainment. Domestically produced films played to large audiences, and tickets for foreign film festivals sold quickly. The industry tried to revive crowds by making more innovative and “exploratory” films which take in ideas from the West.

In the 1980s the film industry fell on hard times, faced with the dual problems of competition from other forms of entertainment and concern on the part of the authorities that many of the popular thriller and martial arts films were socially unacceptable. In January 1986 the film industry was transferred from the Ministry of Culture to the newly formed Ministry of Radio, Cinema, and Television to bring it under “stricter control and management” and to “strengthen supervision over production.”

The end of the Cultural Revolution brought the release of “scar dramas”, which depicted the emotional traumas left by this period. The most popular of these is probably Xie Jin’s Hibiscus Town (1986), although they could be seen as late as the 1990s with Tian Zhuangzhuang’s The Blue Kite (1993).

The rise of the Fifth Generation

Beginning in the mid-late 1980s, the rise of the so-called Fifth Generation of Chinese filmmakers brought increased popularity of Chinese cinema abroad. The first generation of filmmakers to produce Chinese films since the Cultural Revolution, they jettisioned traditional methods of storytelling and opted for a more free and liberal approach. Yellow Earth (1984), directed by Chen Kaige and photographed by Zhang Yimou, in particular was taken to mark the beginnings of the Fifth Generation. Chen Kaige and Zhang Yimou went on to produce works such as King of Children (1987), Farewell My Concubine (1993), Judou (1989), and Raise the Red Lantern (1991) which were not only acclaimed by Chinese cinema-goers but by the Western arthouse audience. Tian Zhuangzhuang’s films, though less well-known by Western viewers, were well-noted by directors such as Martin Scorsese. Extremely diverse in style and subject, the Fifth Generation directors’ films ranged from black comedy (Huang Jianxin’s The Black Cannon Incident, 1985) to the esoteric (Chen Kaige’s Life on a String, 1991). Other notable Fifth Generation directors include Wu Ziniu, Hu Mei, and Zhou Xiaowen.

The Fourth Generation also returned to prominence. Given their label after the rise of the Fifth Generation, these were directors whose careers were stalled by the Cultural Revolution and who were professionally trained prior to 1966. Wu Tianming, in particular, made outstanding contributions by helping to finance major Fifth Generation directors under the auspices of the Xi’an Film Studio.

The Fifth Generation movement effectively ended in the Tiananmen_Square_protests|1989 Tiananmen Incident, although its major directors continued to produce notable works. Several of its filmmakers went into self-imposed exile: Wu Tianming stayed in the United States, Huang Jianxin left for Australia, while many others went into television-related works.

Sixth Generation and Beyond

The recent era has seen the “return of the amateur filmmaker” as state censorship policies have produced an edgy underground film movement loosely referred to as the Sixth Generation (from the number of generations since the 1949 revolution). These films are shot quickly and cheaply, which produces a documentary feel: long takes, hand-held cameras, ambient sound (see cinema verite). Many films are joint ventures and projects with international investment. Some important Sixth Generation directors to have emerged are Wang Xiaoshuai (The Days, Beijing Bicycle), Zhang Yuan (Beijing Bastards, East Palace West Palace), Jia Zhangke (Xiao Wu, Unknown Pleasures, Platform, The World), and Lou Ye (Suzhou River).

Unlike the Fifth Generation, the Sixth Generation brings a more individualistic, anti-romantic life-view and pays more attention to contemporary urban life, especially affected by disorientation.

A New Chinese International Cinema

In 1999, the multi-national production Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon achieved massive success at the Western box office despite being disregarded by some Chinese cinema-goers as pandering to Western tastes. Nevertheless, it provided an introduction to Chinese cinema for many and increased the popularity of many Chinese films which may have otherwise been relatively unknown to Westerners.

In 2002, Hero (movie)|Hero was made as a second attempt to produce a Chinese film with the international appeal of Crouching Tiger, Hiden Dragon. The cast and crew featured many of the most famous Chinese actors who were also known to some extent in the West, including Jet Li, Zhang Ziyi, Maggie Cheung, Tony Leung Chiu-Wai, and Zhang Yimou. The film was a phenomenal success in most of Asia and topped the U.S. box office for two weeks, making enough in the U.S. alone to cover the production costs.

The successes of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and Hero blur the boundary between what is Mainland Chinese cinema and a more international-based Chinese-language cinema. Crouching Tiger, for example, was made by a Taiwanese director, but its leads include Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Mainland Chinese actors and actresses; the funding is from overseas. This merging of people, resources, and expertise from three regions (China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan) meant Chinese-language cinema is moving toward an international Chinese arena.