Learn Chinese words involving the face

笑脸 (xiàoliǎn) Smiling Face

Many drawing instructions tell you to start out with an oval shape when drawing a human face. Indeed, the Chinese often refer to the face of children and nice-looking women as 脸蛋 (liǎndàn face, cheeks). For the others, the word, (liǎn face), will do.

The skin on the face is called 脸皮 (liǎnpí face, cheeks). (hòu) means thick. Therefore, 脸皮厚 (liǎnpí hòu) means thick-skinned or brazen. An even worse accusation is 不要脸 (bùyàoliǎn shameless, “Shame on you!”), which is an offensive term that is sometimes heard between two people quarrelling with each other.

When you do something embarrassing, you may feel disgraced or shameful, i.e. 丢脸 (diūliǎn losing face). And you may blush, 脸红 (liǎnhóng).

Nà shì yī jiàn diūliǎn de shì.
That was a disgrace.

她想到他说的话, 不禁脸红了.
Tā xiǎngdào tā shuō de huà, bùjīn liǎnhóng le.
When she thought about what he said, she could not help but blush.

天色 (tiānsè) is the color of the sky, or the weather. 脸色 (liǎnsè) is one’s complexion or facial expression. (biàn) means to change. 变天 (biàntiān) means the weather has changed, usually for the worse. Similarly, 变脸 (biànlián) means to turn angry or hostile all of a sudden. (fān) means to flip or turn over. So, 翻脸 (fānliǎn) also means to stop being friendly to someone.

The Chinese equivalent of pulling a long face or looking displeased is 拉下脸 (lāxialiǎn). 愁眉苦脸 (chóuméikǔliǎn) is to frown and put on a sad or worried face.

Now, a happier facial expression – 笑脸 (xiàoliǎn smiling face).

Wǒ xiǎngniàn tā de xiàoliǎn.
I miss her smiling face.

The face is also called 面孔 (miànkǒng) or 面容 (miànróng). 脸面 (liǎnmiàn) refers to one’s face as well as one’s self-respect.

Whereas (liǎn face) only refers to the physiological face, (miàn) also means a surface, an aspect, or a side of an object or structure. In the Simplified Chinese Characters system, it also stands for noodles.

见面 (jiànmiàn) is to see or meet someone.

露面 (lùmiàn) is to make an appearance.

面熟 (miànshú) means to look familiar.

面子 (miànzi) could refer to the outside of a garment or comforter, or it could refer to one’s import or prestige. Important people are said to have large faces – 面子大 (miànzi dà).

给面子 (gěi miànzi) means to honor or give due respect to someone, or to do something to make someone look good in front of others.

他今天来这里, 是给你面子.
Tā jīntiān lái zhelǐ, shì gěi nǐ miànzi.
He is giving you special consideration by coming here today.

爱面子 (àimiànzǐ) is to care about one’s reputation, or be keen about saving one’s face.

丢面子 (diūmiànzi), like 丢脸 (diūliǎn), is to lose face. 不体面 (bùtǐmiàn) also means improper or shameful.

We can see the outward appearance and the facial expressions of a person, but can we really claim to know that person’s heart or true intentions? When you feel betrayed by a long-time acquaintance, you might say, with a sigh,

唉, 知人知面不知心.
Ái, zhīrénzhīmiànbùzhīxīn.
Oh well, I thought he (or she) was a true friend.
(One cannot judge a person’s heart by his face.)

We’ve talked about the face and a few facial features. To sing about them as well, look up the song “Lift your Veil” in “Learn Chinese through Songs and Rhymes“.


2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. TerryJ
    Oct 29, 2012 @ 18:22:33

    Thanks for the article! I like where you are going by relating the Chinese characters to faces and facial expressions, I would have enjoyed more pictures. As a native English speaker it takes longer for me to catch on to the characters and pictures (like a universal language) help a lot.


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