Essential Chengyu

What are 成语 (chéngyǔ) and why learn them?

Early on, every Chinese learner encounters 成语 (chéngyǔ), which are expressions that are typically 4 characters long and carry a wealth of meaning. Mastery of chengyu is seen as a sign of intelligence and sophistication, while a strong grasp of them is necessary for true fluency. Studying chengyu can also help increase knowledge of Chinese culture, because many of them are derived from Chinese ancient history.

The Problem

It’s not that simple, however. There are anywhere from 5,000 to over 20,000 chengyu – learners quickly find themselves drowning in chengyu. Picking the right chengyu to study can feel like a game of Russian roulette – nothing is more discouraging than spending time to learn a chengyu, only to discover that nobody will understand you when you use it! And current resources tend to be heavy on esoteric history but light on what learners really need: how exactly the chengyu can and can’t be used.

Our solution: Essential Chengyu

That’s where our series, Essential Chengyu comes in. We:

  1. Focus on the commonly used Chengyu that are worth learning
  2. Present the word to you in a way that will make it digestible and memorable
  3. Tell you how the chengyu can and can’t be used
  4. Provide you numerous, real world examples equipping you to actually use the chengyu

These posts are drawn from our free ebook on the most commonly used Chinese idioms.

Download: To get our free ebook, 50 Essential Chengyu: Chinese Idioms Made Simple, click here to grab a copy. (Download)


If you prefer to read them online, check out all of our Essential Chengyu posts below:

  1. Essential Chengyu: Do you need to learn Chengyu to be fluent in Chinese? 理所当然了!
  2. Essential Chengyu: The best way to learn Chinese? 破釜沉舟!
  3. Essential Chengyu: A great word for tenacity and effort – 千方百计
  4. Essential Chengyu: Are you just happy or 兴高采烈?
  5. Essential Chengyu: When 努力 is not enough – 力所能及
  6. Essential Chengyu: A Chengyu for love, parties, and revolutions – 轰轰烈烈
  7. Essential Chengyu: A chengyu for the dining room table – 津津有味
  8. Essential Chengyu: Our blog’s target audience? Learners who 全力以赴
  9. Essential Chengyu: What do we hope to do with FluentU? 开天辟地
  10. Essential Chengyu: Next time you find yourself in a debate – 合情合理
  11. Essential Chengyu: How to describe a Macbook Air? 精益求精
  12. Essential Chengyu: How to describe a meticulous person? 精打细算
  13. Essential Chengyu: Call someone out with this – 强词夺理
  14. Essential Chengyu: Learning Chinese is a marathon not a sprint – don’t 急于求成
  15. Essential Chengyu: For you jetsetters out there – 四海为家
  16. Essential Chengyu: Homesick in China? 落叶归根
  17. Essential Chengyu: Expressing modesty – 笨鸟先飞
  18. Essential Chengyu: How to say “spur of the moment” – 心血来潮
  19. Essential Chengyu: Another way to say “Cute”
  20. Essential Chengyu: If you want to become fluent, don’t 半途而废
  21. Essential Chengyu: Like a fish in water – 如鱼得水
  22. Essential Chengyu: If you’ve ever spilled coffee before – 粗心大意
  23. Essential Chengyu: To see someone in a new light – 刮目相看
  24. Essential Chengyu: Is your business or love life rising like steam? 蒸蒸日上
  25. Essential Chengyu: Bursting with Joy – 心花怒放
  26. Essential Chengyu: Through thick and thin
  27. Essential Chengyu: Don’t you love this feeling?
  28. Essential Chengyu: What children and “Japanians” can teach us
  29. Essential Chengyu: How to describe the scene at “Occupy Wall Street”?
  30. Essential Chengyu for that familiar love story
  31. Essential Chengyu: Warren Buffett’s favorite
  32. Essential Chengyu: Word is bond
  33. Essential Chengyu: Smooth talk
  34. Essential Chengyu: To be dazzled or overwhelmed
  35. Essential Chengyu: To play the lute for a cow
  36. I’d stick knives in my ribs for you, man
  37. Essential Chengyu: Love at First Sight
  38. Tired of 累? Try this instead
  39. Learn more by learning less (and this Chinese idiom)
  40. Chinese idiom for defensive people: “To take someone else’s seat”
  41. Chinese idiom for a drop in the bucket
  42. Chinese idiom: Give an inch and they’ll take a yard 
  43. Chinese idiom for 12 year old CEO
  44. Remember to do this in 2012
  45. Chinese idiom for “strong start, weak finish”
  46. 7 Chinese Idioms for the Year of the Dragon
  47. Chinese idiom for cat meat murder
  48. Chinese idiom for counterfeit RMB that’s only half fake
  49. Chinese idiom for not exactly real girlfriend
  50. Chinese Idiom for “Just Tossing An Idea Out There”
  51. Chinese idiom for Tablet Custom-Made for China’s Cadres
  52. Chengyu for Playing Hot Potato with Explosives
  53. Chengyu for Why Starbucks Wins in China While Others Fail
  54. Chengyu For Close Game or Race
  55. Chengyu for China’s Many iPhones
  56. Chinese Idiom for a Real-Life Batman
  57. Chengyu for Chinese-French-Russian-Japanese-sounding-American
  58. Chengyu for World’s Biggest Parking Lot
  59. Chinese Idiom For Invisible Artist
  60. Hey Zuckerberg: Learn these Chinese Idioms!
  61. Attention Bachelors- Describing Chinese Beauty
  62. Chengyus for NBA Champion Lebron James
  63. 3 Chengyus for New iPad Launch in China
  64. Hey Ladies! “Handsome” Chinese Chengyus
  65. Top Chengyus to Describe FluentU Launch!
  66. How To Describe China Holiday Insanity
  67. Chengyu For All You Efficient People
  68. China’s Most “Ambitious” Chengyus
  69. How To Pick “The One” Chengyu
  70. Chengyu For Baidu’s New Image Search Engine
  71. Armstrong & Walmart Might Have Something In Common, Sincerity?
  72. 6 Snake Phrases for the Year of the Snake
  73. RAWR! Life Of Pi Exceeding Expectations Idiom
  74. 50 Essential Chengyu: Chinese Idioms Made Simple Ebook
  75. Taking Forever Chinese Chengyu – 10 Minutes Feeling Like 2 Hours
  76. Idiom for the Deceit in House of Flying Daggers
  77. The Apple Suppliers’ Scramble Chinese Idiom
  78. China – Untapped Potential and Promising Chengyu
  79. To Be A “House Slave” – Preposterous! Chinese Idiom

Download: To get our free ebook, 50 Essential Chengyu: Chinese Idioms Made Simple, click here to grab a copy. (Download)

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