Chinese idioms involving the hog

Year of the Hog

Year of the Hog

Soon we will be welcoming the Year of the Hog, or 猪年 (zhū nián). As sounds the same as , a popular greeting for this particular year is:

Everything will be as you wish.

The greeting on the displayed card is:
Zhūshì dàjí
Everything will be very auspicious.

A sow is called 母猪 (mǔzhū), and a hog is called 公猪 (gōngzhū). If you know that 公主 (gōngzhǔ) is a princess, you will definitely understand why it is important to speak Chinese using the correct intonation. The wild boar is called 野豬 (yězhū).

In the popular children’s story “Three Little Pigs”, or 三只小猪 (Sān zhī xiǎo zhū), two of the pigs are dumb and lazy, while the youngest one is intelligent and hardworking. In the Chinese novel “Journey to the West”, or 西游记 (Xīyóujì), the monk’s second disciple 猪八戒 (Zhū Bājiè) is also depicted with faults and strengths, albeit more of the former traits than the latter. In Episode 23 of the Journey to the West by Little Fox, you can see how 猪八戒 (Zhū Bājiè) was fooled into carrying all the luggage for the journeying party, how he shirked the work and wanted to eat all the time.

Generally speaking, most Chinese consider pigs 肮脏 (āngzāng filthy), 愚蠢 (yúchǔn stupid), 贪吃 (tān chī gluttonous) and 鲁莽 (lǔmǎng crude and rash). This is clearly reflected in many idioms involving the pig.

猪朋狗友 zhū péng gǒ yǒ
Fair-weather friends

猪羊变色 zhū yáng biànsè
The pigs and the sheep have discolored.
(The situation has changed completely.)

猪狗不如 zhū gǒ bùrú
Worse than pigs and dogs.

豕突狼奔 shǐ tū láng bēn
Pigs dash forward and wolves flee.
(A scene of hasty retreat of defeated troops.)

 (shǐ) is the formal word for pigs.

一龙一猪 yī lóng yī zhū
One is a dragon, and the other is a pig.
(One is able and virtuous; the other, unworthy.)

泥猪瓦狗 ní zhū wǎ gǒ
Pigs fashioned from mud, dogs made from clay.
(useless things)

指猪骂狗 zhǐ zhū mà gǒ
Point the finger at the pig to chastise the dog.
(Indirectly chide or criticize someone.)

猪头猪脑 zhū tóu zhū nǎo
Having a pig’s head and brains.
(dumb as a pig)

冷水烫猪 lěngshuǐ tàng zhū
Using cold water to scald a pig.
(ineffective; a waste of effort)

人怕出名, 猪怕肥.
Rén pà chūmíng, zhū pà féi.
People shun fame for fear it might bring trouble just like a pig’s fattening calls for slaughter. (Think “Charlotte’s Web”.)

Perhaps this is what Master Confucius had in mind when he made the following remark about true gentlemen:

Rrén bùzhī ér bù yùn.
Even if no one takes note of them, they don’t mind.

Chūnjié kuàilè!
Happy Spring Festival!

The soil radical

The Chinese character for soil, ground, or land is (tǔ). Mud is wet soil, or 泥土 (nítǔ), and the territory of a country is 国土 (guótǔ). 土豆 (tǔdòu) are potatoes, which are also referred to as 洋芋 (yángyù).

According to the doctrine of five phases, in the destruction cycle, earth (soil) overcomes water. Therefore, the following sentence will come handy when you wish to declare that you have the confidence to tackle anything that might come your way.

兵来将档, 水来土掩.
Bīng lái jiàng dǎng, shuǐ lái tǔ yǎn.
Come soldiers charging, the general will subdue them;
Come water rushing, the soil will smother it.
(Come hell or high waters, they won’t faze me.)

As the word (tǔ) is associated with land and locality, it also connotes indigenousness, localism or provincialism. You will be able to determine from the English translation which of the following terms are used in a depreciatory sense.

(shēng) means to generate, to give birth to, to be born, or to be alive. (zhǎng), when pronounced in the third tone, means to grow or increase. Therefore, 土生土长 (tǔshēngtǔzhǎng) is a phrase describing someone who was born and raised locally. So, if you came from the Midwest and someone asks you if you were from Sweden, you could say:

Wǒ shì tǔshēngtǔzhǎng de Měiguórén.
I was born and raised in the USA.

土人 (tǔrén) are aborigines.

土匪 (tǔfěi) are bandits.

包子 (bāozi) are filled steamed buns. 肉包子 (ròu bāozi) are steamed buns filled with meat. 素包子 (sù bāozi) are steamed buns stuffed with vegetarian food stuff. On the other hand, 土包子 (tǔbāozi) refers to a country bumpkin. There is no such thing as a 包子 (bāozi) made with a soil filling.

头脑 (tóunǎo) refers to one’s mind or brains. One whose head and brains are made of soil or mud is naturally unenlightened.

Tā kànlai tǔtóutǔnǎo.
He seems rather simple-minded.

土木 (tǔmù) literally means soil and wood, which were used in constructing dwellings. Therefore, this term refers to building construction and civil engineering.

(qiáng) are walls.
(sì) is a temple.
(tǎ) is a tower or a Buddhist pagoda.
(xíng) is a style, a cast, a pattern or a model.
(táng) is a dike or a pond.
(tí) is a dike or embankment.
(zhuāng) is a village or a manor.
(chǎng ) is a meeting place, a plaza, or a scene.
(jìng) is a territory, a phiscal border, or a condition or situation.
(jiān) means strong or firm. In everyday speech, this character normally appears in combination with another character. For example, 坚强 (jiānqiáng) means strong, firm, or to strengthen, and 坚固 (jiāngù) means rugged, solid, or strong and sturdy. Also see the following sentence:

Tā jiānchí yào huíjiā.
She insists on going home.

You already know that (qù) means to leave, to go, or to remove. Add a right-to-left slanted stroke at the top, and you get the word (diū), which means to misplace or to discard something.

The character (zuò to sit) features two persons sitting on the ground, and the character (tù spit, vomit, or reveal) indicates a mouth dropping something onto the ground.

Another Chinese word for ground or land is (dì), which also means the earth, a place, a locality; a position or a situation. The term 土地 (tǔdì) unambiguously refers to the physical land. 地方 (dìfang) is a place. And somewhere in a faraway place is a good maiden with a rosy smiling face and a pair of charming eyes that one sings about in the folksong, 在那遥远的地方 (Zài Nà Yáoyuǎn de Dìfang).

遥远 (yáoyuǎn) means distant or faraway.

帐篷 (zhàngpeng) is a tent, which the nomads use as their dwelling. This song uses 帐房 (zhàngfáng) instead of 帐篷 for the sake of rhyming. Actually, the term 帐房 (zhàngfáng) will be construed in modern days as the accountant’s office.

回头 (huítóu) means to turn one’s head to look back, or to turn around and go back. Colloquially, people use this term when they tell someone to wait until after they have completed the task at hand, as in:

Huítóu wǒ zài gàosù nǐ.
I’ll tell you later.

留恋 (liúliàn) means to be reluctant to leave. 张望 (zhāngwàng) means to look around. 留恋地张望 (liúliàn di zhāngwàng) describes how people would look longingly to catch a glimpse of the maiden.

抛弃 (pāoqì) is to abandon, and 财产 (cáichǎn) is one’s possessions and property. What a romatic notion to want to give up all of one’s riches for that one lovely nomad maiden!

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