Chinese idiom story 借花献佛

A frequently used Chinese idiom 借花献佛 jiè huā xiàn fó might have bewiddled you if you didn’t understand it’s meaning. Judging from it’s literal translation, it’s not that easy to guess out what exactly it means. 花 jiè huā, to borrow flowers, 佛 xiàn fó, to present to the Buddha. To borrow flowers to present to Buddha, does it make much sense to you?!

If not, I’ll help you out here. The original story was about a poor man. He wanted to thank Buddha who helped bring rain to his village in drought (people were superstitious in ancient China). However he was too poor to buy anything to present to Buddha. So he borrowed some money from others and bought flowers to present to Buddha.

Today this idiom just means to use other people’s stuff to do your own favor. Is it a negative idiom? Not necessarily. As a matter of fact, it is used positively in lots of cases.

Let’s see some examples :

jìrán bùxiǎng qù, jiù bǎ biéren sòng de diànyǐngpiào sònggěi nǐ jiějie, tā huì hěn kāixīn de. zhè jiào jièhuāxiàn Fó.

既然不想去, 别人电影票送给姐姐, 开心的. 借花献佛.

Since you don’t want to go, you can give the ticket that others gave you to your sister, she’ll be really happy.  This is called “using other people’s stuff to do your own favor”.


zài shāngyè jiāowǎng zhōng xuéhuì jièhuāxiàn Fó yě shì yīzhǒng běnshi.


In socializing with your business partners, learn to reuse the benefit or favor you received is also a strategy of a kind.


Have you ever done 借花献佛 before? It could be as simple as resend a gift you received to others as a gift from yourself. If you did, then try to describe what happened by using this Chinese idiom.