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Xiehouyu (traditional Chinese: 歇後語; simplified Chinese: 歇后语; pinyin: xiēhòuyǔ; Wade–Giles: hsieh1-hou4-yü3; lit. 'a saying with the latter-part suspended') is a kind of Chinese proverb consisting of two elements: the former segment presents a novel scenario while the latter provides the rationale thereof. One would often only state the first part, expecting the listener to know the second. Compare English "an apple a day (keeps the doctor away)" or "speak of the devil (and he doth/shall appear)".

Xiēhòuyǔ is translated as "enigmatic folk simile; truncated witticism; pun" (Wenlin 2016). Puns are often involved in xiēhòuyǔ. In this case the second part is derived from the first through one meaning, but then another possible meaning of the second part is taken as the true meaning. To create examples in English, one can say "get hospitalized" to mean "be patient", or "small transactions only" to mean "no big deal". Thus a xiēhòuyǔ in one dialect can be unintelligible to a listener speaking another. Valuable linguistic data can sometimes be gleaned from ancient xiēhòuyǔ.

The origin of Xiehouyu

Xiēhòuyǔ is a special form of language created by the Chinese working people since ancient times. It is a short, funny and figurative sentence. It consists of two parts: the former part ACTS as a "lead", like a riddle, and the latter part plays the role of "back lining", which is like a riddle, which is quite natural. In a certain language environment, usually the first half, "rest" to the second half, can understand and guess its original meaning, so it is called "xiēhòuyǔ" ("saying with the latter part suspended"). The Chinese civilization has a long history. Five thousand years[citation needed] of historical vicissitudes, quenching, condensing into brilliant language art. The rest of the language is characterized by its unique expressiveness. To give people a deep thought and enlightenment. It reflects the unique customs and national culture of Huaxia nationality, tastes life, understands philosophy and promotes wisdom. Xiēhòuyǔ generally has a profound meaning, and a short sentence condensed a lot of wisdom.

Examples

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chī

shuǐ

——

——

——

tūn

tūn

鯉 魚 吃 水 —— 吞 吞 吐 吐

鲤 鱼 吃 水 —— 吞 吞 吐 吐

lǐ yú chī shuǐ —— tūn tūn tǔ tǔ

A carp drinks water, drinking and spitting (meaning that one speaks hesitantly)

èr

wàn

qiān

長征

长征

chángzhēng

——

——

——

rèn

zhòng

dào

yuǎn

二 萬 五 千 里 長征 —— 任 重 道 遠

二 万 五 千 里 长征 —— 任 重 道 远

èr wàn wǔ qiān lǐ chángzhēng —— rèn zhòng dào yuǎn

The long march which was 25,000 miles long, used to describe an arduous journey.

jiāng

shān

改,

改,

gǎi,

běn

xìng

nán

江 山 易 改, 本 性 難 易

江 山 易 改, 本 性 难 易

jiāng shān yì gǎi, běn xìng nán yí

The fox may grow gray but never good.

蘆溝橋

芦沟桥

lúgōuqiáo

shàng

shí

獅子

狮子

shīzi

——

——

——

shǔ

qīng

蘆溝橋 上 石 獅子 —— 數 不 清

芦沟桥 上 石 狮子 —— 数 不 清

lúgōuqiáo shàng shí shīzi —— shǔ bù qīng

There are numerous stone lions on Lu Gou Bridge. It is used to describe a large amount.

huó

dào

老,

老,

lǎo,

xué

dào

lǎo

活 到 老, 學 到 老

活 到 老, 学 到 老

huó dào lǎo, xué dào lǎo

It is never too old to learn.

jīng

fēng

雨,

雨,

yǔ,

zěn

me

jiàn

cǎi

hóng

不 經 歷 風 雨, 怎 麽 見 彩 虹

不 经 历 风 雨, 怎 么 见 彩 虹

bú jīng lì fēng yǔ, zěn me jiàn cǎi hóng

No cross, no crown.

lèi

聚,

聚,

jù,

rén

qún

fēn

物 以 類 聚, 人 以 群 分

物 以 类 聚, 人 以 群 分

wù yǐ lèi jù, rén yǐ qún fēn

Birds of a feather flock together.

chá

zhǔ

jiǎo

zi

——

——

——

yǒu

kǒu

dào

chū

茶 壺 裏 煮 餃 子 —— 有 口 倒 不 出

茶 壶 里 煮 饺 子 —— 有 口 倒 不 出

chá hú lǐ zhǔ jiǎo zi —— yǒu kǒu dào bù chū

Dumpling in a boiler(kettle) — cannot be poured out.

chuán

tóu

shàng

pǎo

——

——

——

zǒu

tóu

船 頭 上 跑 馬 —— 走 投 無 路

船 头 上 跑 马 —— 走 投 无 路

chuán tóu shàng pǎo mǎ —— zǒu tóu wú lù

Riding a horse on the ship's bow — no way out.

沙鍋

沙锅

shāguō

——

——

——

wèn

dào

打 破 沙鍋 —— 問 到 底

打 破 沙锅 —— 问 到 底

dǎ pò shāguō —— wèn dào dǐ

Insist on getting to the bottom

shuǐ

shí

穿

穿

chuān

——

——

——

fēi

zhī

gōng

滴 水 石 穿 —— 非 一 日 之 功

滴 水 石 穿 —— 非 一 日 之 功

dī shuǐ shí chuān —— fēi yí rì zhī gōng

Constant dropping wears the stone

diàn

线

xiàn

gǎn

shàng

bǎng

máo

——

——

——

hǎo

de

dǎn

(膽)

(胆)

(dǎn)

zi

電 線 桿 上 綁 雞 毛 —— 好 大 的 撣 (膽) 子

电 线 杆 上 绑 鸡 毛 —— 好 大 的 掸 (胆) 子

diàn xiàn gǎn shàng bǎng jī máo —— hǎo dà de dǎn (dǎn) zi

Feathers tied on the pole—How cocky!

fèn

kēng

de

shí

tóu

——

——

——

yòu

chòu

yòu

yìng

糞 坑 裏 的 石 頭 —— 又 臭 又 硬

粪 坑 里 的 石 头 —— 又 臭 又 硬

fèn kēng lǐ de shí tóu —— yòu chòu yòu yìng

The stone in the cesspit — smelly and hard

jiǎo

cǎi

liǎng

zhī

chuán

——

——

——

yáo

bǎi

dìng

腳 踩 兩 只 船 —— 搖 擺 不 定

脚 踩 两 只 船 —— 摇 摆 不 定

jiǎo cǎi liǎng zhī chuán —— yáo bǎi bú dìng

To sit on the fence — swing

老虎

老虎

lǎohǔ

de

屁股

屁股

pìgǔ

——

——

——

老虎 的 屁股 —— 摸 不 得

老虎 的 屁股 —— 摸 不 得

lǎohǔ de pìgǔ —— mō bù dé

The butt of the tiger, can not touch.

黃鼠狼

黄鼠狼

huángshǔláng

gěi

bài

nián

——

——

——

怀

huái

hǎo

黃鼠狼 給 雞 拜 年 —— 不 懷 好 意

黄鼠狼 给 鸡 拜 年 —— 不 怀 好 意

huángshǔláng gěi jī bài nián —— bú huái hǎo yì

A weasel wishing Happy New Year to a chicken — harboring no good intention.

ròu

包子

包子

bāozi

gǒu

——

——

——

yǒu

huí

肉 包子 打 狗 —— 有 去 無 回

肉 包子 打 狗 —— 有 去 无 回

ròu bāozi dǎ gǒu —— yǒu qù wú huí

Chasing a dog by throwing meat dumplings at it — gone, never to return.

手榴彈

shǒuliúdàn

zhà

茅房

máofáng

–-

公憤

gōngfèn

(糞)

(fèn)

手榴彈 炸 茅房 –- 激 起 公憤 (糞)

shǒuliúdàn zhà máofáng – jī qǐ gōngfèn (fèn)

Throwing grenade into a public toilet — stirring up public anger.

See also

References