Photo Credit:

Choice Chengyu: Spoken from the Heart

Idioms about the heart

September 29 marks World Heart Day, a day to raise awareness about heart-related illnesses and think about changing our lifestyles to maintain a healthier heart.

Poets and writers, both Chinese and otherwise, have long been obsessed with the heart as a subject of love and life, with feelings and emotions of warmth attributed to the whims of heart, in contrast to the cold, rational calculations of the mind.

Below, TWOC introduces Chinese idioms related to the heart:

心如止水 A heart as still as water

This chengyu is used to describe being at peace with oneself, having a calm mindset, and being unshaken by external events.

Everything encountered in life is part of a journey, which we must travel with calmness.

Rénshēng zhōng yùdào de měi yí jiàn shìqing dōushì yì chǎng xiūxíng, yào zuòdào xīnrúzhǐshuǐ.


心浮气躁 A floating heart and short temper

The opposite of 心如止水, this chengyu is used to describe those who are impetuous and short-tempered, as if their heart is floating in the clouds.

When you become unsettled and annoyed, stop to take some deep breaths.

Dāng nǐ zuòshì xīnfú qìzào de shíhou, tíngxià lái zuò shēnhūxī.


怦然心动 One’s heart aflutter

The character 怦 (pēng) is onomatopoeia for the sound of one’s heart beating. The idiom is often used when referring to romantic encounters, which make one’s heart beat a little faster.

My heart skipped a beat when I saw your smile.

Nǐ xiào qǐlái de yàngzi ràng wǒ pēngrán-xīndòng.


灰心丧气 Downhearted and despairing

This idiom first appeared in Ming dynasty writer Lü Kun’s masterpiece Whisper (《呻吟语》): “Weak-minded individuals who fear what people say behind their back will always be downhearted and will never succeed (是以志趋不坚,人言是恤者,辄灰心丧气,竟不卒功).” The phrase is now applied to those who are discouraged in the face of petty obstacles.

Do not be disheartened just because of a small failure. Fall down, then get up, and you’ll succeed.

Bié yīnwèi yí cì xiǎoxiǎo de shībài jiù huīxīn-sàngqì, diēdǎo le, pá qǐlái, jiù huì chénggōng.

别因为一次小小的失败就灰心丧气,跌倒了, 爬起来, 就会成功。

一片丹心 Leaf of red heart

This phrase comes from a poem by legendary Song dynasty writer Su Shi (苏轼), in which he confessed his love for his country even though he had been exiled by its rulers: “I maintain a loyal heart, though I shed tears in the remote south (一片丹心天日下,数行清泪岭云南).” This chengyu is now used to describe loyalty to one’s country.

Cover image from VCG


author Yang Tingting (杨婷婷)

Yang Tingting is a Chinese editor at The World of Chinese. Interested in telling Chinese stories, she writes mainly about culture, language, and society.

Related Articles