30 Chinese Idioms to do with animals

duì niú tán qín对 牛 弹 琴 Playing music for the cattle(牛niú);Meaning: It is waste of time to presenting facts and reasoning things with an obstinate or foolish person.


jiǔ niú yī máo

九 牛 一 毛

A hair of nine cattles(牛niú);Meaning: a thing or a matter which is tiny and insignificant.


chē shuǐ mǎ lóng

车 水 马 龙

The vehicles driving like flowing water; horses riding like flying dragon(龙 lóng);Meaning: the lively scene on the street: crowded with people and vehicles.


huà shé tiān zú画 蛇 添 足 Drawing a snake(蛇shé), and adding feet;Meaning: doing something which is unnecessary.



mǎ dào chéng gōng

马 到 成 功

When the horses(马mǎ) arrived, people get immediate success;Meaning: easy and quick success from the beginning.



qīng méi zhú mǎ青 梅 竹 马 Green plums and a bamboo horse(马mǎ), a children’s game of riding on a bamboo stick for a horse;Meaning: friendship formed in childhood, especially between boys and girls.


shùn shǒu qiān yáng顺 手 牵 羊 Leading away the sheep(羊yáng) on the way out;Meaning: taking the opportunity to take other people’s things.



jī quǎn bú níng鸡 犬 不 宁 Fowls and dogs(鸡犬jī quǎn) are not in peace;Meaning: something causing a big chaos


xiǎo niǎo yī rén小 鸟 依 人 Like a little bird (鸟 niǎo) resting upon a man;Meaning: a woman being timid and lovely next to a man



yā què wú shēng

鸦 雀 无 声

There is even no sound of crows(鸦yā) and sparrows(雀què);Meaning: as silent as the grave; absolute quietness



yī jiàn shuāng diāo一 箭 双 雕 Kill two eagles(雕diāo) with one arrow;Meaning: killing two birds with one stone, doing one thing while achieve two purposes.


rú yú dé shuǐ

如 鱼 得 水

Feeling just like a fish(鱼yú) swimming in water;Meaning: somebody gets into a comfortable and easy situation.


jǐng dǐ zhī wā

井 底 之 蛙

frog(蛙wā) at the bottom of a well, only able to see the little patch of sky above;Meaning: a person with a narrow view.


zhū sī mǎ jì

蛛 丝 马 迹

The web of spider(蛛zhū) and footprints of horse(马mǎ);Meaning: the clues (of a crime).


zhāo bīng mǎi mǎ招 兵 买 马 Recruiting soldiers and buying up horses(马mǎ);Meaning: enlarge an army/organization/company by recruiting people.



niǎo yǔ huā xiāng

鸟 语 花 香

Birds (鸟niǎo) twitter and flowers give away fragrance;Meaning: A rosy picture of spring.



hè  lì  jī  qún

鹤 立 鸡 群

crane(鹤hè) standing among chicken(鸡jī);Meaning: somebody who stands out in a group.


bèn niǎo xiān fēi笨 鸟 先 飞  A slow bird(鸟niǎo) fly earlier than others;Meaning: the early birds catch the worm



shǔ mù cùn guāng鼠 目 寸 光 The eyes of a rat(鼠shǔ) can only only an inch of light;Meaning: a person with a narrow view



hú péng gǒu yǒu狐 朋 狗 友 Make friends with dogs(狗gǒu) and foxes(狐hú);Meaning: being friends with the wrong type of people; evil associates



láng xīn gǒu fèi狼 心 狗 肺 The heart of a wolf(狼láng) and the lung of a dog(狗gǒu);Meaning: rapacious as a wolf and savage as a cur.



jīng gōng zhī niǎo惊 弓 之 鸟 bird(鸟niǎo) frightened by a bow;Meaning: an extremely frightened person.



chén yú luò yàn沉 鱼 落 雁 One who would make wild geese(雁yàn) alight and fish(鱼yú) dive down for shame;Meaning: a woman being extremely gorgeous and beautiful.

Hints: Even though this phrase is exaggerated, but girls love it.


wáng yáng bǔ láo亡 羊 补 牢 Mend the hole after a sheep(羊yáng) is lost;Meaning: take precautions to avoid future loss.



hǔ bèi xióng yāo虎 背 熊 腰 With a back like a tiger’s (虎hǔ) and a waist like a bear’s (熊xióng).Meaning: a person (especially woman) with overly strong figure.

Hints: No woman like it. Use it carefully.


yáng rù hǔ kǒu羊 入 虎 口  A sheep(羊yáng) getting into the mouth of tiger(虎hǔ);Meaning: entering a very dangerous situation



shǒu zhū dài tù守 株 待 兔 Lying by the tree to wait for a hare(兔tù) that would kill itself by crashing into a tree trunk;Meaning: waiting unrealistically for something good to happen without making an effort


lóng mǎ jīng shén

龙 马 精 神

The vigour of a dragon(龙lóng) or horse(马mǎ);Meaning: people with full of vigour.

Hints: The old really like to hear this phrase, especially for male.


mǎ bú tíng tí马 不 停 蹄 The horse(马mǎ) gallops on without stop;Meaning: making a hurried journey without stop.


rén yǎng mǎ fān人 仰 马 翻 Men and horses(马mǎ) thrown off their feet;Meaning: suffering a crushing defeat.

2 thoughts on “30 Chinese Idioms to do with animals

  1. August 6, 2015

    Rita Reply

    Great list, thanks for publishing it!
    I enjoyed recognizing some of the familiar idioms and discovering the new ones! 🙂

  2. […] For more idioms about animals and their meanings, you can see my precious article on 30 Chinese Idioms to do with animals. […]

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