Essential Chengyu: To see someone in a new light – 刮目相看

Do you know anyone who went to China and came back speaking fluent Chinese, making you look at them in a whole new light?

Or are you in China right now and want to wow everyone when you go back home?

Here’s one step in that direction: 刮目相看 (guā mù xiāng kàn).

刮目相看 (guā mù xiāng kàn) means to see someone in a whole new light. Literally, it means to rub your eyes and take a good look. Generally, it’s used to describe people who have improved significantly in some way, making it impossible to look at them in the same way as before.

A look at the characters in 刮目相看 (guā mù xiāng kàn):

刮 (guā): to wipe

目 (mù): eyes (eg. 目光 – mù guāng – gaze or look)

相 (xiāng): indicates action is being performed by one towards another

看 (kàn): generally means “to see,” here it specifically means “to regard” as in 看待 (kàn dài)

Observing 刮目相看 (guā mù xiāng kàn) in the wild reveals a few key usages.

Important note: In practice, 让人 (ràng rén) or 令人 (lǐng rén) usually precede 刮目相看. This changes the meaning into “to make people look in a whole new light.”

Usage 1) 让/令 + 人 + 刮目相看

Example 1)


“guónèi xiāofèi shìchǎng de huólì lìngrén guāmùxiāngkàn”

“The domestic consumer market’s vitality makes people see it in a new light (or “do a double take”)”

Usage 2) 让/令 + 人 + 对 + the main subject + 刮目相看

Example 2 A)


“zhè ràng suǒyǒu rén duì tā guāmùxiāngkàn

“This made everyone look at her in a whole new light

Example 2 B)


“suíshísuídì gēn péngyǒu fēnxiǎng nǐ de shēnghuó, ràng dàjiā duì nǐ de pāizhào shuǐpíng guāmùxiāngkàn

“Share your life with your friends in all places and at all times, and make everyone see your photographic ability in a whole new light

Usage 3) 令/让 + 人 + 刮目相看 + 的 + Noun

Example 3 A)


“…tā yěshì yī gè lìngrén guāmùxiāngkàn de yǎnyuán”

“…he is also an actor who (often) makes people look at him in a new light

Example 3 B)


“gè pǐnpái xiānhòu tuīchū le bùshǎo ràng rén guāmùxiāngkàn de chǎnpǐn”

“One after another, all the brands introduced many products that made people look at them in a new light

Example 3 C)


“…ràng xiǎoxiǎo de tǔdòu chéngjiù le yìfān lìngrén guāmùxiāngkàn de dà shìyè”

“(He) made the small potato realize a major accomplishment that made people look at it in a new light

Questions? Comments? Other chengyu or Chinese expressions you would like to learn? Let us know!

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