How To Describe China Holiday Insanity

1.3 BILLION people on holiday. Can you imagine the insanity? Pushing, shoving, line cutting, invasion of personal space, and that rush to snag an empty seat. The traffic forecast for Beijing: congestion index of 9.5. In English?  With a 100% chance for bumper to bumper traffic, Beijing might as well turn into a temporary car parking lot!

To a newbie traveling around China during national holidays, the experience might be a bit shocking, overwhelming and hard to articulate. Well, here are two chengyus to help!

1. 人山人海 (rén shān rén hǎi): a sea of people

(rén): people
(shān): mountain
(hǎi): sea, ocean

This specific chengyu describes the amount of people. Literally, it means people mountain people sea. It depicts an image a place so densely populated with people that all you see are heads in every direction and not enough empty space (or any space). It would be fit to use 人山人海at Times Square as the ball is dropping on New Year’s Eve.

Example A:


“Nán dé yī gè cháng jià hái yào chū qù kàn “rén shān rén hǎi”, zhǐ néng shuō míng hěn duō rén píng shí méi yǒu lǚ yóu de jī huì”

“As if getting a holiday isn’t a rare enough occasion, we still have to see a sea of people, demonstrating that most people don’t usually have the opportunity to travel”

Example B:


“Zuó tiān xià wǔ, jǐn án cháng tú qì chē zǒng zhàn de shòu piào dà tīng, hòu chē cháng láng yǐ jí fā chē chǎng qū lǐ, yī lǜ rén shān rén hǎi

“Yesterday afternoon, all you could see at the Jinan Bus Terminal ticket hall’s waiting room and departure gates was a sea of ​​people”


2. 车水马龙 (chē shuǐ mǎ lóng): busy

(chē): car
(shuǐ): water
(mǎ): horse
(lóng): dragon

This chengyu refers to the amount of automobiles out on the roads. Literally, it’s an endless stream of horses and carriages, long enough to be a dragon. Perfect for describing rush hour or  the amount of cars on the road by the stadium after the superbowl game. What I’d call, bumper to bumper traffic, a LOT of cars.

Example A:


“Jiē tóu zǎo yǐ huā tuán jǐn cù, dào lù shàng chē shuǐ mǎ lóng

“The street has long been decorated with flowers, on a busy road”

Example B:


“Wǒ měi tiān qīng chén yóu wán yǒng huí jiā shí, mǎ lù shàng yǐ shì chē shuǐ mǎ lóng

“Every morning on my way home after I finish swimming, the roads are already congested with bumper to bumper traffic”


Any other good chengyus out there? Feel free to share!

And feel free to try out FluentU!

Enjoy those moon cakes & happy travels.

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