Most Popular Chinese Idiom Stories You Don't Want To Miss

Chinese idioms are the fun part of the Mandarin Chinese language. With their clever wordplay, Chinese idioms convey timeless wisdom and moral lessons with a touch of humor. Chinese idioms are given a lot of importance and respect in Chinese culture. After all, they convey stories of dynasties, saints, life lessons, and more, all in a little four-character phrase. But, without these stories, these words would mean nothing. They would sound like random words put together unless you know the stories and their history. So, let us explore 10 of the most interesting and fun Chinese idiom stories in this article.

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Here are some of the most popular Chinese idiom stories:

  1. Help the crops grow by pulling them up – 拔苗助长 – bá miáo zhù zhǎng – A farmer in the state of Song in China is worried that his crops are not growing as fast as his neighbor’s. While trying to find a solution to this problem, he comes up with an idea. He thinks that they will grow faster if he pulls the crops upward. At the end of the workday, he returns home and tells his son that he feels tired, but at least he helped the plants grow a little higher today. Puzzled by his statement, his son goes to check the crop. It is dead.

    Message: If you try to interfere with nature, you just make everything worse.

  2. Never ashamed to consult one’s inferiors – 不耻下问 – bù chǐ xià wèn – One spring, in the State of Wei, there was a senior official called Kong Yu. Despite being a senior, Kong Yu was always humble, modest, and eager to learn. After his death, he was awarded the title ‘Wen’ by the State as a mark of respect. One day, Confucius, a wise philosopher, was asked by one of his students why Kong Yu was awarded the title of ‘Wen’. Confucius replied that Kong Yu was smart, keen to learn, and felt no shame in consulting the people, irrespective of whether they were superior or inferior to him in any way. This answered the disciple’s question about whether Kong Yu deserved the title.

    Message: Being smart, keen to learn, and not being ashamed of asking for help from people are qualities that describe a good human being.

  3. Beat the grass and startle the snake – 打草惊蛇 dǎ cǎo jīng shé – During the rule of the Tang Dynasty, there was a corrupt, greedy county magistrate named Wang Lu. He and his subordinates were known to take bribes, practice nepotism and extortion. The ordinary people were angry with them. Someone filed a complaint against one of Wang Lu’s employees for taking bribes one day. Thinking that it was meant for him, the magistrate got scared. In fact, he was so afraid that instead of giving a judgment on the case that was brought before him, he wrote, “by beating the grass, you have startled me, as I am like a snake under the grass!”

    Message: Punishment can serve as a warning to others who are committing the same crimes.

  4. Fear of things going wrong in one’s absence – 后顾之忧 hòu gù zhī yōu – During the reign of Emperor Xiao Wen, Li Chong was a dedicated and loyal prime minister who worked things through in detail. He had the Emperor’s trust. When Li Chong passed away, the Emperor was left alone without someone to trust. While passing his tomb one day, the Emperor broke down into tears and thought Li Chong was reliable, loyal, and could handle any task entrusted to him. Even when the Emperor was away, he could trust that Li Chong would take care of the empire in his absence. He could leave his affairs behind with no worries.

    Message: When you have someone to depend on, you don’t need to worry about anything going wrong in your absence.

  5. A child must be regarded with respect – 后生可畏 – hòu sheng kě wèi – Confucius, the great Chinese philosopher, used to travel far and wide to spread his teachings. During one of his travels, he was riding in a carriage when a child suddenly came in the middle of the road, and his carriage was forced to halt. Confucius asked the child if he could kindly make way for the carriage, but the child stood, blocking the road, and pointed ahead. He said, “Can’t you see that there’s a castle here?” There was a small mud castle in the middle of the road. He continued, “Don’t you know that castles don’t give way to carriages? Carriages move around castles.” Confucius was surprised and admired the child for his confidence. He commented that the child knew so much at such a young age. The child looked directly at Confucius and said, “I also know that fish can swim as soon as they are born, rabbits can run on the third day after birth, and all these things are natural. Age doesn’t make any difference.” Confucius found the child’s words wonderfully reasonable. He asked the carriage driver to go around the child’s castle as he went back.

    Message: The younger generation is full of passion, spirit, and curiosity. They would always be an improved version of the older generation. They deserve respect.

  6. A dagger heart behind a honey mouth – 口蜜腹剑 – kǒu mì fù jiàn – During the rule of Emperor Xuan of the Tang Dynasty, Li Linfu was the prime minister. He was known to be polite in public, but he was actually quite sinister. He tried to please people in power and despised those more competent than him. Furthermore, he would use deceptive ways to gain the Emperor’s favor, often at the cost of someone else. When he found that the minister of war was gaining more popularity with the Emperor, he managed to get him transferred to a remote location. And when that did not work, he demoted him. Even though he was malicious, he seemed kind to others when he spoke with sugar-coated words (‘honeyed mouth’). He was infamous among the people as ‘Honey mouthed and dagger hearted.’

    Message: People who appear kind and polite may have ill intentions.


Chinese idioms are more like life lessons. The stories behind them reinforce these lessons from the older to the younger generations. These stories become a part of children’s value systems and stay with them through the highs and lows of life.


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