老鼠嫁娘 | Mouse Marries Its Daughter
In traditional folklore from south China, mice are considered to be harmful and unlucky. On New Year's Eve people will decorate their houses with papercut, which illustrates the story of a mouse marrying its daughter to somewhere else far-away. People believe that the story of “mouse marrying its daughter” is a sign of good fortune in the coming year.
牛毛细雨 | Raining the Hair of a Bull
Originally used in literature to describe drizzles, which is as thin and light as the hair of a bull.
如虎添翼 | Like a Tiger Having Wings
Zhu Geliang is a famous militarist and strategist during the Three Kingdom era, He once wrote in his book that "A general who have the control of the army is like a tiger who has got wings." Now this expression is used to describe an additional benefit to something already good, usually strong man with the help of others becomes more powerful.
守株待兔 | Staying by a Stump Waiting for More Hares
There was a farmer who always dreamed of having unexpected fortune. One day, when he worked in the field, a hare dashed itself headlong against the stump of a tree in his field and died. That day, he had a good meal. From that day on, he stopped working in his field. From morning till night, he stayed by that miraculous stump, waiting for another hare. People often use this phrase to refer to people dreaming to reap without sowing.
龙飞凤舞 | Like Dragons Flying and Phoenixes Dancing
Originally used in poet Su Shi's poem to describe the winding and magnificent shape of mountains, now describe lively and vigorous flourishes in calligraphy.
画蛇添足 | Painting a Snake with Feet
During the Warring States Period, a man gave a beaker of wine to his servants after a ceremony to his ancestors. The wine was enough for one person, so the survants decided to play a game: each one drew a picture of a snake, and whoever finished the picture first would get the wine. One of them finished very rapidly. But seeing that the others were still busy drawing, he added feet to the snake. At this moment another man finished, snatched the beaker and drank the wine, saying “How can you add feet to a snake? A snake doesn't have feet. So I am the one who finishes drawing a 'snake' first.” Nowdays people use this phrase to describe redundant things or behaviors.
青梅竹马 | Green Plums and Bamboo Horse
This expression, meaning “childhood sweetheart”, comes from a poem by Chinese peot Li Bai, who used “green plum” and “bamboo horse” to describe the sweet sentiment of childhood: On bamboo horse you came upon the scene, Around the well we played with plums still green. We lived, close neighbours on Riverside Lane, Carefree and innocent, we children twain.
亡羊补牢 | Mending the Fold After a Sheep is Lost
Once upon a time, there was a shepherd who kept several sheep. One morning, he discovered that one of his sheep was missing. It turned out that during the night, a wolf had stolen his sheep through a hole in the sheep pen. His neighbor suggested to him to fix the pen and cover the hole right away. But the shepherd said: “The sheep is already lost, so I don't need to repair it.” The next morning, he discovered that another sheep was stolen and regretted not taking the neighbor's advice. This phrase means that it’s not too late if you make corrections immediately after after doing something wrong.
猴子捞月 | Monkeys Fishing the Moon
A little monkey was playing by the well. He looked in the well and shouted : “Oh my god! The moon has fallen into the well!” A group of monkeys ran over to the well. They looked at the moon in the well and shout: “Come on! Let's get it out!” Then, the oldest monkey hang on the tree up side down with his feet on the branch. And he pulled the next monkey’s feet with his hands. All the other monkeys followed his suit. They joined each other one by one down to the moon in the well. Just before they reached the moon, the oldest monkey raised his head and yells “Stop being so foolish! The moon is still in the sky!”
呆若木鸡 | Dumb as a Wooden Cock
During the Warring State, cockfighting was a popular entertainment among the aristocrats. In order to win, the King of Qi Kindom asked an expert named Shengzi to help him train his cock. A few days later, he asked a servant to check if it was ready. Shengzi said "No. It's too agitated." A few days passed, someone else came to ask. Shengzi said: "It's better, but not calm enough yet." After another few days, Shengzi told the servant that the cock is finally ready to fight. On the day, the trained cock stay still like a rock no matter how his opponents tried to attack him. The other cocks are so shocked by its abnormal behavior that they all ran away. In this way, the King of Qi never lost any game after.
白云苍狗 | White Clouds Turn into a Grey Dog
An expression decribing the unpredictability of life events. Originated from poet Du Fu, who felt very sorry for his friend, whose wife left him suddenly because of his financial inability. He then wrote a poem which starts with: “The clouds on the sky look like floating white clothes, but all of a sudden they turn into a grey dog.”
肥猪拱门 | Fat Pig Arches the Door
In the countryside, pigs are often related to good harvest and wealth, which is a good sign of the new year.. This expression describes unexpected wealth arriving at the door.