20 Insanely Fun Chinese Tongue Twisters (with Audio)
Try terrifically tricky tongue twisters that totally teach you Chinese posthaste!
Now say the above line five times fast.
If you can do this with ease, then you already start with a good chance at mastering the tongue twisters in this post.
No matter the language, tongue twisters or 绕口令 (rào kǒu lìng) are a fun way to help out with pronunciation.
The main purpose of this article is to provide you with excellent Chinese tongue twisters that you can practice right away.
- 1. Xi Shi
- 2. Is the Teacher 44 Years Old?
- 3. Flip-flops
- 4. Red Phoenix, Pink Phoenix…
- 5. Mother Rides a Horse
- 6. How to Eat Grapes
- 7. The Pear and Mud
- 8. Butterfly Flies
- 9. Four Is Four, Ten Is Ten
- 10. 800 Soldiers
- 11. Black Fertilizer, Gray Fertilizer
- 12. The Vine
- 13. Yan Yuanyan and Yan Yanyuan
- 14. The Bird and the Cat
- 15. Bamboo Pole
- 16. If You Know, Say You Know
- 17. Bird Island
- 18. The Ox Herder Boy Loves Lady Liu
- 19. The Lion-eating Poet
- 20. The Monk and the Mute
- And One More Thing...
1. Xi Shi
The tongue twister titled “Xi Shi” is derived from a Chinese woman who was said to be so beautiful that she was considered one of the four beauties of ancient China.
xī shī sǐ shí sì shí sì.
Xi Shi died at 44.
死 (sǐ) — to die
四十四 (sì shí sì) — 44
2. Is the Teacher 44 Years Old?
Here’s another tongue twister that incorporates 四十四, which can be quite a mouthful on its own. Just don’t let your teacher hear it if they understand Chinese!
lǎo shī shì bú shì sì shí sì suì?
Is the teacher 44 years old?
老师 (lǎo shī) — teacher
或 (huò) — or
Believe it or not, there’s actually a tongue twister about flip-flops:
liáng xié wèi lè qù fēi chū nǐ de jiǎo!
Flip-flops fly off your feet for fun!
凉鞋 (liáng xié) — sandals; flip-flops
乐趣 (lè qù) — fun; pleasure
飞出 (fēi chū) — fly
脚 (jiǎo) — foot
4. Red Phoenix, Pink Phoenix…
Here’s another short Chinese tongue twister for those –ng sounds:
hóng fèng huáng,
fěn fèng huáng,
fěn hóng fèng huáng huā fèng huáng.
红 (hóng) — red
凤凰 (fèng huáng) — phoenix
粉 (fěn) — pink
5. Mother Rides a Horse
Not too many people get to see their mothers riding horses, but if you’re one of the lucky few who do, try to tell your mother this one next time she does to show off your Chinese speaking skills.
Just make sure not to accidentally call her a horse!
mā ma qí mǎ.
mā ma mà mǎ.
Mother rides a horse.
The horse is slow,
mother scolds the horse.
妈妈 (mā ma) — mother
骑 (qí) — to ride
马 (mǎ) — horse
慢 (màn) — slow
骂 (mà) — to scold
6. How to Eat Grapes
Be prepared to have your mind blown with this famous Chinese tongue twister. If you eat grapes, this tongue twister will make you realize that you’ve been eating them wrong this whole time:
chī pú tao bù tǔ pú tao pí,
bù chī pú tao dào tǔ pú tao pí.
Eat grapes without spitting out the grape skins,
don’t eat grapes and spit out the grape skins.
吃 (chī) — to eat
葡萄 (pú tao) — grapes
吐 (tǔ) — to spit
皮 (pí) — skin; peel
7. The Pear and Mud
Of all the combinations in the world, pear and mud usually don’t come to mind. When it comes to learning Chinese tongue twisters, there couldn’t be a better pair.
shù shàng yǒu lí
dì shàng yǒu ní
fēng guā lí
lí luò dì
lí gǔn ní
ní zhān lí.
On the tree is a pear
On the ground is mud
The wind knocks off the pear
The pear falls to the ground
The pear rolls in the mud
The mud moistens the pear.
梨 (lí) — pear
泥 (ní) — mud
风 (fēng) — wind
刮 (guā) — to blow
落地 (luò dì) — to fall to the ground
滚 (gǔn) — to roll
沾 (zhān) — to moisten
8. Butterfly Flies
Sounds so beautiful and poetic, doesn’t it? “Butterfly Flies” is yet another quick tongue twister:
hēi hú dié fēi,
hūi hú dié fēi,
hēi hú dié fēi wán,
hūi hú dié fēi.
The black butterfly flies,
the gray butterfly flies,
after the black butterfly flies,
the gray butterfly can fly.
黑 (hēi) — black
蝴蝶 (hú dié) — butterfly
飞 (fēi) — to fly
灰 (hūi) — gray
9. Four Is Four, Ten Is Ten
While this tongue twister may sound complicated when you hear it for the first time, the meaning couldn’t be any simpler:
sì shì sì,
shí shì shí,
shí sì shì shí sì,
sì shí shì sì shí,
sì shí sì shì sì shí sì.
Four is four,
ten is ten,
fourteen is fourteen,
forty is forty,
forty-four is forty-four.
四 (sì) — four
是 (shì) — to be
十 (shí) — ten
There’s a longer version of this tongue twister that includes the above while also describing how 40 is 40 but not 14, but let’s just keep it simple, shall we?
10. 800 Soldiers
Also known as “800 Pivot” or “800 Spearmen,” this is another terrific tongue twister to keep logged away for practicing more advanced vocabulary words.
bā bǎi biāo bīng bèn běi pō,
pào bīng bìng pái běi bian pǎo,
pào bīng pà bǎ biāo bīng pèng,
biāo bīng pà pèng pào bīng pào.
800 spearmen rush to the northern slope.
Artillery soldiers run side by side to the north.
The artillery soldiers fear bumping into the spearmen.
The spearmen fear bumping into the artillerymen’s cannon.
标兵 (biāo bīng) — parade guards; spearmen
奔 (bèn) — to rush to; to head for
北 (běi) — north
坡 (pō) — slope
炮兵 (pào bīng) — artillery soldiers
并排 (bìng pái) — side by side
碰 (pèng) — to bump into
怕 (pà) — to be afraid of; to fear
炮 (pào) — cannon
11. Black Fertilizer, Gray Fertilizer
Surprisingly, this tongue twister actually makes sense:
hēi huà féi fā huī,
huī huà féi fā hēi.
hēi huà féi fā huī huì huī fā,
huī huà féi huī fā huì fā hēi.
Black fertilizer turns gray,
gray fertilizer turns black,
black fertilizer that turns gray can be volatile,
gray fertilizer will turn black when it volatiles.
化肥 (huà féi) — fertilizer
发 (fā) — to turn; to become
灰 (huī) — gray
挥发 (huī fā) — volatile
12. The Vine
This tongue twister talks about a particular vine on a particular mountain with this particular bell and… you get the idea. Overall, it’s a short and easy tongue twister that’s good for beginners.
qīng qīng shān shàng yì gēn téng,
qīng téng dǐ xià guà tóng líng,
fēng chuī téng dòng tóng líng dòng,
fēng tíng téng tíng tóng líng tíng.
On a green mountain is a vine.
Under the green vine hang copper bells.
The wind blows, the vine moves, (and) the copper bells move.
The wind stops, the vine stops, (and) the copper bells move.
青 (qīng) — green
山 (shān) — mountain
藤 (téng) — vine
铜 (tóng) — copper
铃 (líng) — bell
风 (fēng) — wind
吹 (chuī) — to blow
动 (dòng) — to move
停 (tíng) — to stop
13. Yan Yuanyan and Yan Yanyuan
Ever wanted to know about two people living in the same village who have almost the exact same name? In the end, it asks which person has the rounder eyes which is random, but at least learners will be able to practice their yan and yuan pronunciations.
cūn qián yǒu gè yán yuán yǎn.
cūn hòu yǒu gè yán yǎn yuán.
bù zhī yán yuán yǎn de yǎn yuán
hái shì yán yǎn yuán dē yǎn yuán?
In front of the village is a Yan Yuanyan.
Behind the village is a Yan Yanyuan.
(I) don’t know if Yan Yuanyan’s eyes are rounder,
or Yan Yanyuan’s eyes are rounder?
村 (cūn) — village
前 (qián) — in front
后 (hòu) — behind
眼 (yǎn) — eye
圆 (yuán) — round
14. The Bird and the Cat
This tongue twister explains what most likely happens when a bird and a cat come together, all while helping you with niao and mao sounds.
shù shàng yì zhī niǎo,
dì shàng yì zhǐ māo.
dì shàng de māo xiǎng yǎo shù shàng de niǎo,
shù shàng de niǎo xiǎng zhuó māo de máo.
In the tree is a bird.
On the ground is a cat.
The cat on the ground tries to bite the bird in the tree.
The bird in the tree tries to peck at the cat’s fur.
树 (shù) — tree
地 (dì) — ground
鸟 (niǎo) — bird
猫 (māo) — cat
咬 (yǎo) — to bite
啄 (zhuó) — to peck
15. Bamboo Pole
This fun tongue twister helps speakers with the -ing, -ong, –eng and -ang sounds:
biǎn dan cháng, bǎn dèng kuān,
biǎn dan yào bǎng zài bǎn dèng shàng,
bǎn dèng bú ràng biǎn dan bǎng zài bǎn dèng shàng,
biǎn dan fēi yào bǎng zài bǎn dèng shàng.
The bamboo pole is long, and the wooden bench is wide.
The bamboo pole should be tied to the bench.
The bench won’t let the pole be tied to it,
but the pole has to be tied to the bench.
扁担 (biǎn dan) — bamboo pole; carrying pole
长 (cháng) — long
板凳 (bǎn dèng) — wooden bench
宽 (kuān) — wide
让 (ràng) — to allow
绑 (bǎng) — to tie
非要 (fēi yào) — to insist on
16. If You Know, Say You Know
Although this is just a tongue twister, truer words have never been spoken.
zhī dào jiù shuō zhī dào,
bù zhī dào jiù shuō bù zhī dào,
bú yào zhī dào shuō bù zhī dào,
yě bú yào bù zhī dào shuō zhī dào,
nǐ zhī dào bù zhī dào?
If (you) know, just say (you) know.
If (you) don’t know, just say (you) don’t know.
Don’t say (you) don’t know when (you) know,
and also don’t say (you) know when (you) don’t know,
you know or not?
知道 (zhī dào) — to know
说 (shuō) — to say
不要 (bú yào) — don’t
17. Bird Island
Bird lovers will surely appreciate the pure genius that is this next tongue twister.
niǎo dǎo shì dǎo,
niǎo dǎo yǒu niǎo.
niǎo dǎo de niǎo duō de shǔ bù qīng le.
yào xiǎng dào niǎo dǎo,
yì dìng yào ài niǎo.
nǐ bú ài xiǎo niǎo
jiù bié dào niǎo dǎo.
Bird Island is an island;
Bird Island has birds.
The birds on Bird Island are countless.
If (you’re) thinking of going to Bird Island,
(you) must love birds.
If (you) don’t love small birds,
don’t go to Bird Island.
鸟 (niáo) — bird
岛 (dǎo) — island
数不清 (shǔ bù qīng) — countless
想 (xiǎng) — to wish to
到 (dào) — (to go) to
一定 (yí dìng) — certainly
爱 (ài) — to love
别 (bié) — don’t
18. The Ox Herder Boy Loves Lady Liu
For all of you romantics out there, this tongue twister was specially chosen for you! Brace yourselves though, it’s a slightly longer and more complex one.
niú láng liàn liú niáng, liú niáng niàn niú láng,
niú láng niú nián liàn liú niáng, liú niáng nián nián niàn niú láng,
láng liàn niáng lái niáng liàn láng,
niàn niáng liàn láng niàn láng liàn niáng,
niàn liàn niáng láng, rào bù yūn nǐ suàn wǒ bái máng.
The ox herder boy loves Lady Liu, Lady Liu longs for the ox herder boy.
The ox herder boy loves Lady Liu in the Year of the Ox, Lady Liu longs for the ox herder boy every year.
The boy loves the lady and the lady longs for the boy,
The longing lady loves the boy and the longing boy loves the lady.
Longing, loving, lady, boy. If you aren’t dizzy by now, I’ve wasted my effort.
牛郎 (niú láng) — ox herder
恋 (liàn) — to love
娘 (niáng) — young woman
念 (niàn) — to miss (someone)
牛年 (niú nián) — Year of the Ox
绕 (rào) — to confuse
晕 (yūn) — dizzy
19. The Lion-eating Poet
“The Lion-eating Poet” is one of the more modern poems on this list, yet it’s so profound that college professors have actually put a lot of time and effort into researching its true meaning.
Every syllable in the poem contains a form of shi using various tones and characters. Believe it or not, the variations in tones and characters allow shi to become tons of unique words when spoken correctly.
This is perfect for those already familiar with some Chinese who want not only a fun tongue twister, but a good brain teaser as well.
shí shì shī shì shī shì, shì shī, shì shí shí shī.
shì shí shí shì shì shì shī.
shí shí, shì shí shī shì shì.
shì shí, shì shī shì shì shì.
shì shì shì shí shī, shì shǐ shì, shǐ shì shí shī shì shì.
shì shí shì shí shī shī, shì shí shì.
shí shì shī, shì shǐ shì shì shí shì.
shí shì shì, shì shǐ shì shí shì shí shī.
shí shí, shǐ shí shì shí shī shī, shí shí shí shī shī.
shì shì shì shì.
In a stone room lived a poet named Shi Shi, a lion lover, who swore to eat ten lions.
He often went to the market to look for lions.
At ten o’clock, ten lions arrived at the market.
At that time, Shi arrived at the market.
Looking at the ten lions, he used his trusty arrows, causing the ten lions to die.
Shi brought the corpses of the ten lions to the stone room.
The stone room was damp. Shi asked his servants to wipe it.
As the stone room was being wiped, Shi began to try to eat the meat of the ten lions.
When it was mealtime, he realized that the ten lions were in fact ten stone lion corpses.
Try to explain this matter.
石室 (shí shì) — stone den
诗士 (shī shì) — poet
嗜 (shì) — addict
狮 (shī) — lion
市 (shì) — market
视 (shì) — to show
矢 (shǐ) — arrow
尸 (shī) — corpse
湿 (shī) — wet, damp
释 (shì) — to explain
20. The Monk and the Mute
Unlike most of the other tongue twisters on this list, “The Monk and the Mute” is more detailed and elaborate in that it sort of tells a story.
Since it’s longer and contains more Chinese vocabulary words than a typical tongue twister, it will probably take longer to memorize. Once you finally get it down, you’ll be sure to impress.
dǎ nán bian lái le gè yǎ ba, yāo lǐ bié le gè lǎ ba;
dǎ běi biān lái le gè lǎ ma, shǒu lǐ tí le gè tǎ mǎ.
tí zhe tǎ mǎ de lǎ ma yào ná tǎ mǎ huàn bié zhe lǎ ba de yǎ ba de lǎ ba;
bié zhe lǎ ba de yǎ ba bú yuàn ná lǎ ba huàn tí zhe tǎ mǎ de lǎ ma de tǎ mǎ.
bù zhī shì bié zhe lǎ ba de yǎ ba dǎ le tí zhe tǎ mǎ de lǎ ma yì lǎ ba;
hái shì tí zhe tǎ mǎ de lǎ ma dǎ le bié zhe lǎ ba de yǎ ba yì tǎ mǎ.
lǎ ma huí jiā dùn tǎ mǎ, yǎ ba dī dī dā dā chuī lǎ ba.
From the south comes a mute, carrying a trumpet pinned to his waist.
From the north comes a monk, holding a flatfish in his hand.
The monk holding a flatfish wants to trade his flatfish for a trumpet, with the mute carrying a trumpet.
The mute carrying a trumpet doesn’t want to trade his trumpet with the monk holding a flatfish for the flatfish.
(I) don’t know if the mute carrying a trumpet hits the monk holding a fish with his trumpet,
or the monk carrying a flatfish uses his fish to hit the mute carrying a trumpet.
The monk goes home and stews his flatfish. The mute plays his trumpet.
哑巴 (yǎ ba) — mute
喇嘛 (lǎ ma) — monk
喇叭 (lǎ ba) — trumpet
獭犸 (tǎ mǎ) — flatfish
换 (huàn) — to exchange
不愿 (bú yuàn) — to be unwilling
打 (dǎ) — to hit
回家 (huí jiā) — to go home
炖 (dùn) — to stew
吹 (chuī) — to play a wind instrument
By the way, there’s actually a song for this tongue twister! (Note it has been modified slightly.)
After reading this article, you’re probably really eager to practice all of these tongue twisters.
If you’re wondering where to find more, check out “Classical Tongue Twisters: Chinese Edition” and “Pocket Book Twisters: Chinese Edition.” Both books are filled with hundreds of tantalizing tongue twisters.
But you can also turn any video into pronunciation practice as long as it has accurate subtitles, like on the learning program FluentU. Just pick from hundreds of videos and follow along.
FluentU takes authentic videos—like music videos, movie trailers, news and inspiring talks—and turns them into personalized language learning lessons.
Good luck with your Chinese studies, and try not to get your tongue totally tied up in knots!
And One More Thing...
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