Chinese idiom for cat meat murder

For 49 year-old billionaire Long Liyuan, it was just a lunch to talk business and eat cat meat. 

Little did he know that it would be his last.

A local official allegedly laced the cat meat with toxic herbs.

You can just imagine the official’s expression while offering Long the cat meat. The Chinese idiom 笑里藏刀 (xiào lǐ cáng dāo) seems appropriate.

笑里藏刀 (xiào lǐ cáng dāo) literally means “to have a smile hiding a knife,” and it refers to someone who looks nice and benign, but is actually thinking sinister thoughts. 

A breakdown of the characters in 笑里藏刀 (xiào lǐ cáng dāo):

笑 (xiào): to laugh or smile (eg. 笑容 – xiàoróng – a smile)

里 (lǐ): inside (eg. 里面 – lǐmiàn)

藏 (cáng): to hide or conceal (eg. 隐藏 – yǐncáng)

刀 (dāo): knife

Observing 笑里藏刀 (xiào lǐ cáng dāo) in the wild reveals 2 main usages.

Usage 1) As a Verb.

Example 1 A)


“cǐcì xīlālǐ de bājīsītǎn zhī xínɡ, yěshì xiàolǐcánɡdāo, ɡēnɡ zài shì wēixié bājīsītǎn”

“Hillary’s trip to Pakistan, is also a smile hiding a knife – she’s really threatening Pakistan”

Example 1 B)


“rénlèi zǒng shuō yěshēng dòngwù shì hǎo péngyǒu, kěshì xiàolǐcánɡdāo…”

“People always say that wild animals are all great friends, but their smiles are actually hiding knives…”

Usage 2) 笑里藏刀 + 的 + Noun

Example 2 A)


“tāmen… búhuì zuòchū xiàolǐcánɡdāo de shìqíng”

“They… are incapable of doing things like hiding knives behind their smiles

Example 2 B)


“…měiguó sìhū kàndào le yī gè xiàolǐcánɡdāo de xiànjǐng”

“…it seems that the US has seen a trap that looks like a smile but is hiding a knife

Example 2 C)


“míngxiǎn shì qīngshì duìshǒu, zhè yě gěi le xiàolǐcánɡdāo de gāohóngbō chū dāo jīhuì”

“(They) clearly underestimated their opponent, and this gave the innocent looking but malevolent Gao Hongbo an opening”

Questions? Comments? Do you have other cat meat Chinese idioms or stories? Let us know!

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3 Responses to Chinese idiom for cat meat murder

  1. Tamar Harrington January 16, 2012 at 2:31 pm #

    口蜜腹剑 kǒu mì fù jiàn expresses pretty much the same idea.
    Wow, that’s a pretty bizarre story. I hope the police handle the case appropriately. Be careful who you eat with in Bajia.

    • Alan January 16, 2012 at 2:38 pm #

      Yes, and good thing I’m not a billionaire! :)


  1. Hao Hao Report - January 11, 2012

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