Great minds think alike

As a Chinese saying goes,

人同此心, 心同此理.
Rén tóng cǐ xīn, xīn tóng cǐ lǐ.
All human beings have a similar mindset, which follows the same reasoning.

(tóng) means the same, alike, in common, or together.
(cǐ) is the formal Chinese word for “this”.
(lǐ) is short for 道理 (dàolǐ), which means reason, logic, principle, or truth. 有道理 (Yǒu dàolǐ) means “Makes sense.”

Indeed, no matter one is from the Arctic region or the Amazon Basin, we all have the same basic human needs, feelings and aspirations, and follow similar daily routines. We tend to form similar concepts of, and apply the same logic to, many everyday things. This is evident in the many idioms and figurative expressions that have been passed down through generations. And when you see the multitude of Chinese expressions that have nearly exact western equivalents, you are apt to conclude that East and West are of a like mind in many matters.

For instance, the heart is not just a physical entity, one of our internal organs. It has been designated the site of feelings. So, 心疼 (xīnténg) is a heartache, and 心碎 (xīnsuì) means to be heart-broken. Neither has anything to do with a heart disease. Please note that 心疼 (xīnténg) also means to love dearly. I guess one could love so intensely as to get a pang in the heart.

Mǎlì shì Wang xiānsheng xīnténg de nǚér.
Mary is Mr.Wang’s beloved daughter.

会心 (huìxīn) is a meeting of the hearts, as in:

Wǒmén jiāohuàn le yī gè huìxīn de wēixiào.
We exchanged a knowing smile.

一心一意 (yīxīnyīyì) means heart and soul, or single-heartedly, while
三心二意 (sānxīnèryì) is to be of two minds. Here, the oriental heart seems to be somewhat more undecided than the western heart.

One of the meanings of the formal Chinese word is “here”. 心不在焉 (xīnbùzàiyān) means just that – the heart is not here, i.e. absent-minded.

血汗 (xuèhàn) is the equivalent of “blood, sweat and tears”, and 血肉 (xuèròu) means the same as flesh and blood, but in the reverse order.


Zhè shì tā de xuèhàn qián.
This is his hard-earned money.

Like the westerners, the Chinese also refer to that tiny hole in a sewing needle as the eye of the needle, or 针眼 (zhēnyǎn).

不对味 (bù duì wèi) means not to suit one’s taste, both literally and figuratively. For example,

Zhè gēcí yǒudiǎnr bù duì wèi.
The lyrics are not to my taste.

咬牙切齿 (yǎoyáqièchǐ) is to grit one’s teeth in hatred.

Ever since walls came into existence, people have acknowledged that they have ears – 隔墙有耳 (géqiángyǒuěr there are ears on the other side of the wall).

弦外之音 (xiánwàizhīyīn) are overtones or implications.

(zì) means “self”, and (mǎn) means “full”. 自满 (zìmǎn) is to be self-satisfied or overconfident. An extreme case is to become so full of oneself as to forget one’s place, or 得意忘形 (déyìwàngxíng proud beside oneself).

No one has ever seen time as a physical entity, but we all agree that it flies. The Chinese think time flies like an arrow – 光阴似箭 (guāngyīnsìjiàn).

坏蛋 (huàidàn) is an addled egg (a bad guy). And someone who is too slow for you might inspire you to utter (under your breath):

Bèn de xiàng zhī luó.
Dumb as a mule.

If you have learned the material posted at this blog site on 6/27/12 and 7/18/12, you should be able to use the above sentence pattern to come up with the Chinese for “Lazy as a pig.” And be sure to get yourself a copy of “Learn Chinese through Songs and Rhymes” to see how you can turn the Chinese words that you have learned into meaningful sentences.

The above examples are but a small sample to support the observation that the Chinese people see many things in the same light as the westerners. There are also a number of idioms that are very similar in Chinese and English because they’ve been borrowed from the other language. For example, “以牙还牙. (Yǐyáhuányá.)” is the translation of “A tooth for a tooth.” And, guess what? “早起的鸟儿有虫吃. (Zǎoqǐ de niǎo ér yǒu chóng chī.)” came from “The early bird catches the worm.”


2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Anthony Bogadek
    Aug 02, 2012 @ 12:31:16

    Hi, Ms Lin,
    So many technical expressions! Quite a challenge to memorize them all.
    One small misspelling about half-way down the text: …so full of oneself as to “foget” …; must be “to forget” I think.
    With thanks,
    A bee


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