The Shanghai Museum is a world-class museum whose collection of approximately one million pieces primarily consists of Chinese relics from throughout China’s dynastic history. Nearly 130,000 items in its collection are considered national treasures. Located in the People’s Square near Nanjing Road in downtown Shanghai, the museum hosts nearly two million visitors a year (1,944,820 in 2012). The museum was originally established in 1952; its current location opened in 1996.

The museum has ten galleries for permanent collections and three for special exhibits. The museum’s permanent exhibits (listed from the ground floor up) include the following:

Ancient Chinese Bronze Gallery

This sprawling exhibit features over 400 bronze relics, the oldest of which date to the 18th century BCE. The relics include numerous weapons, along with many ancient vessels used in religious rituals.
Noteworthy piece: “Large Ding Made for Ke”, from the reign of King Xiao (late 10th century BCE) of the Western Zhou Dynasty, pictured below.

Ancient Chinese Sculpture Gallery

The approximately 120 sculptures in this gallery include examples from the Warring States Period (475-221 BCE) to the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644 CE). Many of them are Buddhist artworks such as Bodhisattva statues and steles, reflecting the importance of Buddhism in the development of Chinese art.
Noteworthy piece: “Stone Statue of Bodhisattva,” from the Tang Dynasty (618-907 CE), pictured below.

Closeup of a statue of a Heavenly Guardian in the Shanghai Museum
Statue of a Heavenly Guardian
(photo by Colin J.)
Ancient Chinese Ceramics Gallery

This fantastic exhibit of over 500 pieces of pottery and porcelain covers an 8,000-year period, from the Neolithic Age (approximately 10000-2000 BCE) to the late Qing Dynasty (1644-1911). It includes such items as vases, statues, cups, bowls, flasks, dishes, and teapots. The adjacent Zande Lou Ceramics Gallery displays an additional 130 pieces.
Noteworthy piece: “Famille Rose Vase with Peach and Bat Design” from the Yongzheng period (1723-1735 CE) of the Qing Dynasty, pictured below.

Chinese Painting Gallery

This collection includes Chinese paintings from the Tang Dynasty (618-907 CE) through the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911 CE), of which approximately 140 are on display at any time.
Noteworthy piece: “Flowers,” completed in 1859 by the Qing Dynasty artist Zhao Zhiqian, pictured below.

Chinese Calligraphy Gallery

This outstanding collection comprises about half of the calligraphic artworks in all of China’s public collections, of which about 60-70 are on display at any given time. The earliest examples of Chinese calligraphy are characters inscribed on oracle bones and bronze relics. The items in this gallery range from such early Shang Dynasty (1600-1046 BCE) examples through Qing Dynasty (1644-1911 CE) masterpieces.
Noteworthy piece: Cursive Poem by Wen Peng, Ming Dynasty (1368-1644 CE), pictured below.

Chinese Seal Gallery

Also called chops or stamps, seals have been used in China since the Shang Dynasty (1600-1046 BCE). The approximately 500 seals in this exhibit extend from the Western Zhou Dynasty (1029-771 BCE) to the late Qing Dynasty (1644-1911 CE).
Noteworthy piece: “Gilded Silver Seal with Qilin-shaped Knob,” the Seal of the Prince of Duo Luo Ding, from the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911 CE), pictured below.

Jade cup in the Shanghai Museum
Jade cup
(photo by Allan Siew)
Ancient Chinese Jade Gallery

A stunning variety of jade relics and artworks are on display in this gallery, from jewelry and ornaments to cups and figurines. The collection’s 300 pieces include relics dating back to China’s pre-2000 BCE Neolithic period, as well as more sophisticated Ming and Qing masterpieces. This gallery emphasizes the profound cultural and historical significance of jade in Chinese civilization, which was the first to mine and use jade.
Noteworthy piece: “Model of a Mountain with Figures,” Qing Dynasty (1644-1911 CE).

Chinese Currency Gallery

This large collection of over 3,300 pieces covers a period of 1,000 years, including the origins of Chinese currency. The gallery features a special exhibit of ancient coins from nations along the Silk Road.
Noteworthy piece: “Reward of the Western King Coin,” issued by the rebel leader Zhang Xianzhong (1606-1657 CE), pictured below.

Chinese Ming and Qing Furniture Gallery

About 100 pieces of high-quality hardwood furniture from the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644 CE) and Qing Dynasty (1644-1911 CE) are displayed in this gallery, including tables, chairs, beds, and bookcases, along with rarer items such as funerary furniture models.
Noteworthy piece: “Rectangular Table with Engraved Cloud and Dragon Design” and “Throne Chair with Engraved Cloud and Dragon Design,” Qing Dynasty (1644-1911 CE), pictured below.

Chinese Minority Nationalities’ Art Gallery

This gallery comprises more than 600 exhibits of a wide variety of artworks from China’s nearly 60 ethnic minority groups, including clothing, embroidery work, metalware, and masks.
Noteworthy piece: “Hand-painted Wood-carved Fishing Boat,” from Taiwan’s Gaoshan (“high mountain”) people, second half of the 20th century, pictured below.

Tips for visiting the Shanghai Museum

Admission: Admission to the museum is free. Keep in mind that the museum limits the number of visitors to 8000 per day and does not admit new visitors after 4 PM. Also, visitors may not be allowed to enter when the galleries are overcrowded.

Planning your visit: If you don’t have at least half a day to tour the museum, be sure to decide in advance which galleries you want to focus on. (Refer to this floor map of the museum.) For anyone interested in Chinese art, culture, and history, it’s easy to spend an entire day exploring all the galleries.

The exterior of the Shanghai Museum in the People's Square
The Shanghai Museum in the People’s Square
(photo by xiafenfang_1959)

Gift shop: The gift shop on the ground floor has a great selection of books. Not only does it have museum guidebooks (including an excellent, thorough guide in English currently available for US $12); it also has photo books in both Chinese and English devoted to each permanent exhibit (currently only US $5 each). You can essentially take the museum home with you via these books and save yourself the effort and distraction of taking a ton of photos during your visit.

Guided tours: For those going to the museum without a local tour guide, audio tours in English and a number of other languages are available on the ground floor. Daily guided tours are also available; information about them is posted next to the information desk in the lobby.

Tour packages: Normally, all of our standard tour packages that include Shanghai feature the Shanghai Museum. Read about them on our Mainland China Tours page. Although our current value tour packages (EBIV and EBXF) do not include the Shanghai Museum, it’s easy to fit in a visit to the museum at the end of your tour. Contact us for details and options.

Facts about the Shanghai Museum:

  • The shape of the museum building, designed by local architect Xing Tonghe, is meant to suggest the shape of an ancient Chinese food vessel called a “ting” or “ding” (鼎, dǐng).
  • The Da Ke Ding (“Large Ding Made for Ke”), unearthed in Shaanxi Province in 1890, is considered the museum’s greatest treasure and is cited as the specific inspiration for the museum’s architectural design. See the photo of the Da Ke Ding below.
  • The building’s circular shape and square base reflect the ancient Chinese conception of the heavens as round and earth as square.
  • The museum’s collections of Chinese bronzeware, ceramics, calligraphy, and paintings are considered among the best in the world.

Further reading and resources:

  • View or download a floor map of the Shanghai museum.
  • Read more general information about the Shanghai Museum on Wikipedia.
  • Get more specific and up-to-date information about the museum on its official website.
  • See a great selection of photos of the museum and its collection via this search on Flickr. In many cases, these photos are of higher quality than the ones on the museum’s official website.

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Shanghai Museum Photo Gallery

Click on any photo below to see a full-sized version.

The main entrance of the Shanghai Museum Da Ke Ding food vessel in the Bronze Gallery of the Shanghai Museum
The main entrance to the museum, whose design
was inspired by the Da Ke Ding on the right

(photo by CIT)
Large Ding Made for Ke
(Da Ke Ding)

(photo by CIT)
Dui with Inlaid Geometric Pattern food vessel in the Bronze Gallery of the Shanghai Museum Bells of Marquis Su of Jin in the Bronze Gallery of the Shanghai Museum
Dui with Inlaid Geometric
Pattern (food vessel)

(photo by CIT)
The Bells of Marquis Su of Jin
Click here to listen to the bells
(photo by CIT)
Zi Zhong Jiang Pan water vessel in the Bronze Gallery of the Shanghai Museum Ox-Shaped Zun wine vessel in the Bronze Gallery of the Shanghai Museum
Zi Zhong Jiang Pan (water vessel)
(photo by CIT)
Ox-Shaped Zun (wine vessel)
(photo by CIT)
Drums in the Bronze Gallery of the Shanghai Museum Drum Stand with Openwork Coiled Dragon Design in the Bronze Gallery of the Shanghai Museum
Bronze Drums
(photo by CIT)
Drum Stand with Coiled Dragon Design
(photo by CIT)
Stone Bodhisattva in the Sculpture Gallery of the Shanghai Museum Stone Buddhist Stele in the Sculpture Gallery of the Shanghai Museum Stone Thousand-Buddha Stele in the Sculpture Gallery of the Shanghai Museum
Stone Statue of Bodhisattva
(photo by Kris)
Stone Buddhist Stele
(photo by CIT)
Thousand-Buddha Stele
(photo by CIT)
Polychrome-Glazed Pottery Statue of Heavenly Guardian in the Sculpture Gallery of the Shanghai Museum Wooden Bodhisattva painted in color and gold in the Sculpture Gallery of the Shanghai Museum Celadon Jar with Cloud and Dragon Design in the Ceramics Gallery of the Shanghai Museum
Statue of Heavenly Guardian
(photo by CIT)
Painted Wooden Bodhisattva
(photo by CIT)
Celadon Jar with Cloud and Dragon Design
(photo by CIT)
Famille Rose Vase with Peaches and Bats Design in the Ceramics Gallery of the Shanghai Museum Famille Rose Eight Immortals Vase in the Ceramics Gallery of the Shanghai Museum Red Vase in the Ceramics Gallery of the Shanghai Museum Underglaze Blue Landscape Vase in the Ceramics Gallery of the Shanghai Museum
Famille Rose Vase
with Peaches and Bats

(photo by Bill Taroli)
Famille Rose Vase
with Eight Immortals

(photo by CIT)
Vase with Red
Underglaze Design

(photo by CIT)
Underglaze Blue
Landscape Vase

(photo by CIT)
Prince of Duo Luo Ding Gilded Silver Seal with Qilin in the Seal Gallery of the Shanghai Museum Display of seals from the Qing and Ming dynasties in the Shanghai Museum
Gilded Silver Seal with Qilin Knob
(photo by Bill Taroli)
Display of seals from the Qing and Ming dynasties
(photo by CIT)
Seal with Eight Immortals Relief Carving in the Seal Gallery of the Shanghai Museum Flowers by Zhao Zhiqian in the Painting Gallery of the Shanghai Museum Cursive Script Poem by Wen Peng in the Calligraphy Gallery of the Shanghai Museum
Seal with Eight Immortals
(photo by CIT)
Flowers, Zhao Zhiqian
(photo by CIT)
Cursive Poem, Wen Peng
(photo by CIT)
Wood-Carved Fishing Boat in the Minority Nationalities Gallery of the Shanghai Museum Reward of the Western King Coin in the Currency Gallery of the Shanghai Museum Belt Plaque with a Dragon-Through-Peonies Design in the Jade Gallery of the Shanghai Museum
Wood-Carved Fishing Boat
(photo by Dennis Jarvis)
Reward of the Western King Coin
(photo by Bill Taroli)
Belt Plaque with Dragon and Peonies
(photo by CIT)
Flying Apsara in the Jade Gallery of the Shanghai Museum Model of a Mountain with Figures in the Jade Gallery of the Shanghai Museum
Flying Apsara, jade
(photo by CIT)
Model of a Mountain with Figures, jade
(photo by CIT)
Rectangular Table and Throne Chair in the Furniture Gallery of the Shanghai Museum Strange cartoon figure that adorns some displays in the Shanghai Museum
Rectangular Table and Throne Chair
(photo by CIT)
Strange cartoon figure adorning some displays
(photo by CIT)

Shanghai Museum-Related Words

Study the words below on Quizlet:
Complete List: Characters, Pinyin, and English
Detailed Lists: Characters and English | Pinyin and English
Reversible Lists: Characters and English | Pinyin and English | Characters and Pinyin
Chinese Language Resources page

上海博物馆 (Shànghǎi Bówùguǎn): the Shanghai Museum, world-class museum located in the People’s Square in downtown Shanghai with a collection of approximately one million pieces, including nearly 130,000 pieces classified as national treasures

  • 人民广场 (Rénmín Guǎngchǎng)
    the People’s Square, public space in downtown Shanghai near several important cultural centers
  • 古物 (gǔwù)
    ancient object; antique; antiquities
  • 文物 (wénwù)
    cultural relic; historical relic; artifact (measure word: 件, jiàn, or 个, )
  • 珍贵文物 (zhēnguì wénwù)
    masterpiece; museum piece officially recognized as a masterpiece according to a grading system including first-class (一级, yījí), second-class (二级, èrjí), and third-class (三级, sānjí) rankings
A spiked bronze food vessel in the Shanghai Museum
Bronze food vessel
(photo by
Dennis Jarvis)
  • 出土 (chūtǔ)
    to be unearthed or excavated; to come up out of the ground
  • 收藏 (shōucáng)
    to collect; collection (e.g., museum collection)
  • 艺术品 (yìshùpǐn)
    artwork; art piece; work of art (measure word: 件, jiàn)
  • 展览 (zhǎnlǎn)
    display, exhibit; to put on display, to exhibit, to show

中国古代青铜馆 (Zhōngguó Gǔdài Qīngtóngguǎn): Ancient Chinese Bronze Gallery, ground-floor gallery in the Shanghai Museum featuring displays of bronze relics

  • 古代 (gǔdài)
    the period in Chinese history from remote antiquity to the mid-19th century; also, ancient times in general

中国古代雕塑馆 (Zhōngguó Gǔdài Diāosùguǎn): Ancient Chinese Sculpture Gallery, ground-floor gallery in the Shanghai Museum featuring displays of Chinese sculptures

Wooden Head of Kasyapa in the Shanghai Museum
Head of Kasyapa
(photo by Khalid Albaih)

中国古代陶瓷馆 (Zhōngguó Gǔdài Táocíguǎn): Ancient Chinese Ceramics Gallery, second-floor gallery in the Shanghai Museum featuring displays of Chinese pottery and porcelain

  • 陶瓷 (táocí)
    pottery and porcelain; ceramics

中国历代绘画馆 (Zhōngguó Lìdài Huìhuàguǎn): Chinese Painting Gallery, third-floor gallery in the Shanghai Museum featuring displays of Chinese paintings

  • 历代 (lìdài)
    successive dynasties; past dynasties (refers to the various dynastic periods of imperial China)

中国历代书法馆 (Zhōngguó Lìdài Shūfǎguǎn): Chinese Calligraphy Gallery, third-floor gallery in the Shanghai Museum featuring displays of Chinese calligraphy

  • 书法 (shūfǎ)
    calligraphy; penmanship

中国历代印章馆 (Zhōngguó Lìdài Yìnzhāngguǎn): Chinese Seal Gallery, third-floor gallery in the Shanghai Museum featuring displays of Chinese seals

中国古代玉器馆 (Zhōngguó Gǔdài Yùqìguǎn): Ancient Chinese Jade Gallery, fourth-floor gallery in the Shanghai Museum featuring displays of Chinese jade artifacts

  • 玉器 (yùqì)
    jade artifact
Spear with Cloud and Thunder Pattern in the Shanghai Museum
Bronze spear
(photo by Dennis Jarvis)

中国历代货币馆 (Zhōngguó Lìdài Huòbìguǎn): Chinese Currency Gallery, fourth-floor gallery in the Shanghai Museum featuring displays of Chinese coins and other forms of currency

中国明清家具馆 (Zhōngguó Míng-Qīng Jiājùguǎn): Chinese Ming and Qing Furniture Gallery, fourth-floor gallery in the Shanghai Museum displaying antique furniture from the Ming and Qing dynasties

中国少数民族工艺馆 (Zhōngguó Shǎoshù Mínzú Gōngyìguǎn): Chinese Minority Nationalities’ Art Gallery, fourth-floor gallery in the Shanghai Museum featuring displays of clothing, artworks, and handicrafts from many of China’s ethnic minorities

  • 工艺 (gōngyì)
    arts and crafts; handicrafts; technology

For many more Chinese vocabulary lists and information about tools and resources for learning Chinese,
visit our Chinese Language Resources page.

CIT Tour Packages Featuring the Shanghai Museum

The standard tour packages below include a visit to the Shanghai Museum. Although our current value tour packages (EBIV and EBXF) do not include the Shanghai Museum, it’s easy to fit in a visit to the museum at the end of your tour. Contact us for details and options.

包括上海的中文特價團更豐富!請觀看特價團網頁的中文版
如果您想要在上海多呆一天,參觀上海博物館,請與我們聯絡

Open the CIT001 tour information page
China Highlights 11-Day Tour
Beijing – Xi’an – Guilin/Yangshuo – Shanghai
Open the information page for our China Highlights 15-Day Tour
China Highlights 15-Day Tour
Beijing – Xi’an – Guilin/Yangshuo – Shanghai – Zhouzhuang – Suzhou – Wuxi – Hangzhou
CIT003 icon - 75 x 75
Jiangnan Gourmet Cuisine / Yellow Mountain 10-Day Tour
Shanghai – Zhouzhuang – Suzhou – Wuxi – Hangzhou – Hong Village – Huangshan (Yellow Mountain)
Open the information page for our Magnificent Yangtze / Ancient Capitals Deluxe 15-Day Tour (CIT005)
Magnificent Yangtze/Ancient Capitals Deluxe 15-Day Tour
Beijing – Three Gorges (Yangtze Cruise) – Xi’an – Guilin/Yangshuo – Shanghai
Open the information page for our Mysterious Tibet 16-Day Tour (CIT008)
Mysterious Tibet 16-Day Tour
Beijing – Three Gorges (Yangtze Cruise) – Xi’an – Lhasa – Shanghai
Open the information page for our China Discovery 11-Day Tour (CIT011)
China Discovery 11-Day Tour
Beijing – Xi’an – Shanghai – Hong Kong
CIT012 tour icon - 75 x 75
Ancient and Modern China
13-Day Tour
Beijing – Xi’an – Guilin/Yangshuo – Shanghai – Hong Kong
CITSH1 icon - 75 x 75 Shanghai 3-Day Tour Extension

Beloved for centuries as a peaceful refuge from the stresses of life and a source of artistic and literary inspiration, West Lake is perhaps the most famous lake in China. It is located among the hills just west of downtown Hangzhou, the capital of Zhejiang Province, about 100 miles southwest of Shanghai. Originally a lagoon connected to the Qiantang River, it was dredged and converted into a lake in the 8th century CE. Over the centuries, various local government projects have added to and improved the lake and its surroundings, creating a vast, picturesque garden-like environment ideal for strolling about, boating, drinking tea, or simply contemplating nature’s beauty.

One side of the lake is bordered by bustling downtown Hangzhou; the other three by verdant hills containing temples and tea fields. Within and around the lake are numerous major attractions, including three major causeways that cross that lake, islands, temples, and hilltop pagodas. Leifeng Pagoda, popularized in legend as the place where the immortal Madame White Snake (or Lady White Snake) was cast into a well as punishment for falling in love with a mortal, is perhaps the most iconic structure. The causeways, renowned as peaceful places for strolling and admiring the view, were built with dredged silt and beautified with flowering plants and trees. Two famous poet-officials were responsible for the construction of the causeways that take their names: Bai Juyi ordered the construction of what is now called the Bai Causeway during the Tang Dynasty (618-907 CE), and Su Dongpo (or Su Shi) followed suit about 200 years later when he built a longer causeway extending across the entire lake from north to south.

Sampans float on the surface of West Lake in front of Leifeng Pagoda and Jingci Temple in Hangzhou, China
Leifeng Pagoda and Jingci Temple
(photo by Louisa Salazar)

Even centuries ago, the attractions and scenic spots in and around West Lake were so numerous as to make it impossible to see them all. The most popular and significant sights became codified into an official list called the Ten Scenes of West Lake (西湖十景, Xī Hú Shí Jǐng) when Hangzhou served as the capital of the Southern Song Dynasty (1127-1279 CE), an especially prosperous period for the city. Rather than simply a list of places, the Ten Scenes also incorporate the element of time, as the time of day and the changes of the seasons are important factors in West Lake’s beauty.

That beauty, seen as the perfect blend of the human and the natural, has inspired countless painters and poets to attempt to render its power in art and verse. Marco Polo called Hangzhou “the most beautiful and elegant city in the world” after he visited it, and the famous Chinese saying “Up above there is Heaven, down here there are Suzhou and Hangzhou,” is attributed in large part to the lake’s scenery. For examples of art and poetry about West Lake, see the list of further reading and resources below.

Tips for visitors to West Lake:

  • Hangzhou, like other cities in the Jiangnan region, is quite hot and humid during the summer months.
  • As West Lake is a very popular tourist destination, and most traffic around the lake travels along one small road, traffic can be excruciatingly slow. Weekdays are a better time to visit than weekends or holidays. Be sure to allow plenty of time if you expect to visit different sites around the lake.
  • For independent travelers, bike rentals are a good way to get around the lake and avoid traffic.
  • Recommended activities: drinking local “Dragon Well” green tea as you admire the view, cruising around the lake in one of the many small gondola-like sampans available for hire.

Further reading and resources:

Like this page? Please share it with your friends!


West Lake Photo Gallery
West Lake-Related Words

Study the words in this section on Quizlet:
Detailed Lists: Characters and English | Pinyin and English
Reversible Lists: Characters and English | Pinyin and English | Characters and Pinyin
Chinese Language Resources page

西湖 (Xī Hú): West Lake, freshwater lake west of downtown Hangzhou surrounded on three sides by hills and on one side by the downtown area; featured in many poems and other works of art, it has a long history of cultural significance in China

Leifeng Pagoda on a hill overlooking West Lake in Hangzhou, China
Leifeng Pagoda and West Lake
(photo by Gustavo Madico)
  • 西湖十景 (Xī Hú Shí Jǐng)

    Ten Scenes of West Lake, an official list of ten poetically named sights and activities around the lake dating back to the Southern Song Dynasty (南宋, Nán Sòng, 1127-1279 CE) marked by stelae in the calligraphy of the Qing Dynasty Qianlong Emperor (乾隆帝, Qián Lóng Dì), who composed a poem for each scene; there is also an official New Ten Scenes of West Lake (西湖新景, Xī Hú Xīn Jǐng) list chosen in 1984

  • 雷峰塔 (Léifēng Tǎ)

    Leifeng Pagoda (literally, “Thunder Peak Pagoda”), a tower on Sunset Hill (夕照山, Xīzhào Shān) on the southeastern shore of West Lake originally built in 975 CE during the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms (五代十国, Wǔ Dài Shí Guó) period; Leifeng Pagoda in the Sunset (雷峰夕照, Léifēng Xīzhào) is one of the Ten Scenes of West Lake

  • 白蛇传 (Bái Shé Zhuàn)

    Legend of the White Snake, a Chinese legend about Madame White Snake (白娘子, Bái Niángzi), a thousand-year-old white snake who takes on human form and falls in love with a man; because their love is forbidden, she is cast into a deep well at Leifeng Pagoda

  • 净慈寺 (Jìngcí Sì)

    Jingci Temple (literally, “Temple of Pure Compassion”), a temple on Nanping Hill (南屏山, Nánpíng Shān) near Leifeng Pagoda originally built in 954 CE; Evening Bell Ringing at Nanping Hill (南屏晚钟, Nánpíng Wǎnzhōng), the nightly ringing of the temple’s large bronze bell, is one of the Ten Scenes of West Lake

West Lake and downtown Hangzhou at night
West Lake and downtown Hangzhou
(photo by Lu Yu)
  • 三潭印月 (Sāntán Yìnyuè)

    Three Pools Mirroring the Moon, a group of three small towers in the water south of Lesser Yingzhou Island (小瀛洲, Xiǎo Yíngzhōu) that emit candlelight on the night of the Mid-Autumn Festival (中秋节, Zhōngqiū Jié); one of the Ten Scenes of West Lake, it is located in the south-central part of the lake

  • 花港观鱼 (Huāgǎng Guānyú)

    Red Carp Pond (literally, “Viewing Fish at the Flower Pond”); one of the Ten Scenes of West Lake, it is located on the southwestern shore

  • 柳浪闻莺 (Liǔlàng Wényīng)

    Liulang Wenying Park or Orioles Singing in the Willows (more literally, “Listening to Orioles in the Waving Willows”); one of the Ten Scenes of West Lake, it is located on the eastern shore

  • 断桥残雪 (Duànqiáo Cánxuě)

    Broken Bridge (literally, “Lingering Snow on Broken Bridge”); one of the Ten Scenes of West Lake, it is located on the northeastern shore

  • 保俶塔 (Bǎochù Tǎ)

    Baochu Pagoda, a slender pagoda on Baoshi Hill (宝石山, Bǎoshí Shān, “Precious Stone Hill”) on the northern shore of West Lake

Tourists relax in covered rowboats on Hangzhou's West Lake at sunset
Boats on West Lake at sunset
(photo by Ricky Qi)
  • 白堤 (Bái Dī)

    Bai Causeway, a long dyke and walkway in the northern part of West Lake named after the renowned Tang Dynasty (唐朝, Táng Cháo, 618-907 CE) poet and government official Bai Juyi (白居易, Bái Jūyì), who ordered the construction of the original causeway

  • 孤山 (Gū Shān)

    Solitary Hill, a large island in the northwestern part of West Lake; connected to the northern shore by Bai Causeway, it is the location of a number of attractions, including the internationally famous restaurant Lou Wai Lou (楼外楼, Lóuwàilóu)

  • 苏堤 (Sū Dī)

    Su Causeway, a long dyke and walkway in the southwestern part of West Lake named after the renowned Song Dynasty (宋朝, Sòng Cháo, 960-1279 CE) poet and government official Su Dongpo (苏东坡, Sū Dōngpō), or Su Shi (苏轼, Sū Shì), who ordered its construction; Dawn on the Su Causeway in Spring (苏堤春晓, Sūdī Chūnxiǎo) is one of the Ten Scenes of West Lake

  • 杨公堤 (Yánggōng Dī)

    Yanggong Causeway, a long walkway in the western part of West Lake

  • 湖心亭 (Húxīn Tíng)

    Mid-Lake Pavilion, pavilion on an island in the middle of West Lake

  • 印象西湖 (Yìnxiàng Xī Hú)

    Impression West Lake, a popular show produced by director Zhang Yimou (张艺谋, Zhāng Yìmóu) that is performed on the lake

A densely packed cluster of red and white carp in West Lake's Red Carp Pond, also called Viewing Fish at the Flower Pond
Red Carp Pond
(photo by Brian)
  • 龙井问茶 (Lóngjǐng Wèn Chá)

    Dragon Well Tea Village (literally, “Inquiring About Tea at Dragon Well,” its name in the New Ten Scenes of West Lake), the site of the spring from which Dragon Well tea gets its name

For many more Chinese vocabulary lists and information about tools and resources for learning Chinese,
visit our Chinese Language Resources page.

CIT Tour Packages Featuring West Lake

包括西湖的中文特價團更豐富!請觀看特價團網頁的中文版

What is known as the Great Wall of China is in fact not one unbroken wall, but a sprawling series of walls built by various states and dynasties over many centuries. Tremendous efforts were made during the Qin Dynasty (221-207 BCE) and the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644 CE) to link these walls together. Its name in Chinese, 万里长城 (Wànlǐ Chángchéng), more literally means “long wall of ten thousand li” (a li is a traditional Chinese unit of distance equivalent to half a kilometer), which is actually a drastic understatement of the length of the wall. One survey calculated the combined length of all the sections of the wall to be over 13,000 miles.

Beijing - Great Wall - Badaling - Rafael Gomez - 187 x 140
The Great Wall at Badaling
(photo by Rafael Gomez)

The primary purpose of the wall was to protect the Chinese empire from attacks by “barbarians” to the north (though it was not always successful in doing so), but it also facilitated travel and transportation, communication, trade, and taxation. One of humankind’s most impressive achievements, it was made possible only by engineering expertise, an advanced administrative system, sustained political will, vast resources, and the labor (and suffering) of countless individuals—not to mention the imagination and audacity necessary to envision such an undertaking in the first place.

Some of the more popular sections of the wall in the Beijing area are Badaling (八达岭, Bādálǐng), Juyongguan or Juyong Pass (居庸关, Jūyōngguān), and Mutianyu or Mutian Valley (慕田峪, Mùtiányù). Our tour packages that feature Beijing usually include a visit to either Badaling or Juyongguan. They do not include Mutianyu and some other Beijing-area sections of the wall because they are too far away from the city to fit into an itinerary with other popular attractions. However, if you wish to visit one of these other, less crowded sections of the wall, we will gladly make custom arrangements for you.

Other notable sections of the wall include Shanhaiguan (山海关, Shānhǎiguān), the easternmost section where the wall meets the ocean, and Jiayuguan (嘉峪关, Jiāyùguān), the westernmost extant section of the wall in Gansu Province. Silk Road-oriented tour packages, such as our Silk Road 16-Day Tour (CIT007), often include a trip to Jiayuguan.

Facts about the Great Wall:

  • The oft-repeated claim that it can be seen from the moon with the naked eye is not true.
  • The first sections of the wall were built during the Spring and Autumn Period (776-403 BCE).
  • As early as the Qin Dynasty (221-207 BCE), construction involved hundreds of thousands of laborers.
  • The Ming Dynasty construction project continued for more than 100 years, but the wall failed to prevent the Manchus from conquering China and establishing the Qing Dynasty.

Tips for visiting the Great Wall:

  • Be sure to wear good walking shoes, or even hiking boots for more adventurous walks along the wall.
  • The more touristy sections of the wall have the advantage of cable cars. Cable car rides up the wall are included in most of our tour packages, and they allow you to avoid a strenuous climb in what can be very hot conditions.
  • Good planning is essential, as Beijing-area Great Wall trips entail a substantial drive outside the city, and you will want to make sure you have adequate time to fully enjoy your visit.

Further reading and resources:

  • Read more general information about the Great Wall on Wikipedia.
  • Peter Hessler’s fascinating book, Country Driving: A Chinese Road Trip, recounts (among other experiences) his visits to many sections of the wall, including remote, unrestored, and almost forgotten sections seldom visited by anyone. He also wrote an article called Walking the Wall for the New Yorker (subscribers only).
  • The Great Wall is listed as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO, the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization. Its UNESCO page has information and resources related to the history and preservation of the wall.

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Great Wall of China Photo Gallery

Click on any photo below to see a full-sized version.

The Great Wall of China climbing up the side of a hill at Badaling near Beijing Snow-covered stretch of the Great Wall of China at Badaling near Beijing
The Great Wall at Badaling
(photo by Rux)
The Great Wall at Badaling in winter
(photo by Inyucho)
Great Wall of China at Badaling Old Dragon's Head, the eastern end of the Great Wall of China at Shanhaiguan
A stretch of the wall at Badaling
(photo by Brian Snelson)
Old Dragon’s Head at Shanhaiguan
(photo by Like Yesterday)
Old Dragon's Head, the eastern end of the Great Wall of China at Shanhaiguan Chenghai Tower, part of the Great Wall of China at Shanhaiguan
Another view of Old Dragon’s Head
(photo by Caitriana Nicholson)
Chenghai Tower at Shanhaiguan
(photo by Daniel Ng)
The Great Wall of China at Shanhaiguan A gate at Jiayuguan, the western end of the Great Wall of China
The Great Wall at Shanhaiguan
(photo by Daniel Ng)
Gate at Jiayuguan
(photo by Kevin Hale)
Fortress at Jiayuguan, the western end of the Great Wall of China Tower atop the wall at Jiayuguan, the western end of the Great Wall of China
Fortress at Jiayuguan
(photo by Kevin Hale)
A tower at Jiayuguan
(photo by Tom Thai)
Great Wall-Related Words

Study the words below on Quizlet:
Detailed Lists: Characters and English | Pinyin and English
Reversible Lists: Characters and English | Pinyin and English | Characters and Pinyin
Chinese Language Resources page

万里长城 (Wànlǐ Chángchéng): Great Wall of China (literally, “long wall of ten thousand li”), actually not one wall but a series of fortifications extending across northern China built during various dynasties as a defense against invaders, among other purposes; usually referred to simply as 长城 (Chángchéng)

Trees and plants with multicolored leaves in front of the Great Wall of China at Badaling near Beijing
The Great Wall at Badaling
(photo by Faqiang Wu)
  • 居庸关 (Jūyōngguān)
    Juyongguan or Juyong Pass, a mountain pass northwest of Beijing through which the Wall passes
  • 云台 (Yúntái)
    Cloud Platform, a gate at Juyongguan constructed of white marble and decorated with Buddhist carvings of figures, symbols, and texts
  • 八达岭 (Bādálǐng)
    Badaling, the most-visited section of the Wall; further northwest of Beijing from Juyongguan
  • 山海关 (Shānhǎiguān)
    Shanhaiguan or Shanhai Pass, the eastern endpoint of the Wall in Hebei Province (河北省, Héběishěng); shanhai means “Mountain and Sea”
  • 嘉峪关 (Jiāyùguān)
    Jiayuguan or Jiayu Pass, location of the westernmost extant section of the Wall in Gansu Province (甘肃省, Gānsùshěng); jiayu means “excellent valley”
  • 春秋时代 (Chūn-Qiū Shídài)
    Spring and Autumn Period (776-471 BCE or 776-403 BCE), the historical period during which the earliest sections of the Wall were built
  • 明朝 (Míngcháo)
    Ming Dynasty (1368-1644 CE), the period during which most of the extant wall was built; a total of 5,500 miles of wall were built during the Ming
  • 丝绸之路 (Sīchóu Zhī Lù)
    Silk Road, ancient trade route protected by some stretches of the Wall in western China
  • 匈奴 (Xiōngnú)
    Xiongnu, nomadic people traditionally identified with the Huns whose military conflicts with China during the Qin Dynasty (秦朝, Qíncháo, 221-207 BCE) led to the building of long stretches of the Wall

For many more Chinese vocabulary lists and information about tools and resources for learning Chinese,
visit our Chinese Language Resources page.

CIT Tour Packages Featuring the Great Wall

包括長城的中文特價團更豐富!請觀看特價團網頁的中文版

When you travel to a faraway, fascinating land, you want to make the most of the experience. China, in particular, is a country both so rich in culture and history and so different from Western nations that engagement with the Chinese language opens up vast new possibilities for your journey—plus, speaking Chinese is just plain fun.

yes - 180 x 120

Homework on vacation? YES.”
Ok, we know this isn’t for everyone,
but learning Chinese is truly rewarding.

As a serious student of Mandarin and a frequent traveler to China, I’ve always been frustrated by the lack of tools available to properly pursue this kind of immersive travel experience. On all the trips I’ve taken there, I’ve wished that I had detailed resources to tell me the Chinese names of the places on my itinerary, along with related historical events and figures; provide me with relevant vocabulary to enrich my conversations during the trip; and, most uniquely, make it convenient for me to study this information so that I could remember it and really put it to use. While a lot of websites and books provide detailed information about China and its tourist destinations, I haven’t seen anything ready-made to enhance a specific tour experience that is also presented in a convenient (and easily portable) format for learning.

Now China International Travel CA is making materials like this available to you.

Whether you’re a tourist simply seeking the correct pronunciations of names on your itinerary or a student of the language who wants to be able to converse with the people you encounter on your tour, these learning resources will help you achieve your goal:

In the future, we will be adding further information and features to the existing pages, as well as resources for more itineraries and more of the destinations featured on our tours.

How to use these resources: Given that our clients and visitors to this website will have widely varying goals for their study of Chinese, we have put together a brief guide for three basic levels of ambition.

Study Plan A: The Curious Tourist

If you just want to learn a little Chinese to enhance your trip, consider these suggested steps:

  1. Learn how to read and pronounce Hanyu Pinyin*: Since learning how to read and write Chinese characters is a very time-consuming process, don’t worry about that if your time is limited. Stick with pinyin, which will enable you to engage in some spoken communication and read many signs and names written in pinyin. Our Resources for Learning Pinyin section will help you understand how to pronounce Mandarin words.

  2. Consult phrase guides for travelers: See the “pocket guides” (books and downloadable documents), which include useful phrases and everyday vocabulary, in our Basic Resources for Travelers section.

  3. Read our Language and Culture Learning Resources pages: Learn about the destinations featured on your tour, including their Chinese names and related Chinese terms. If you can’t read pinyin, simply click the pinyin pronunciation for each name or expression to hear what it sounds like.

  4. Use the vocabulary lists on our Quizlet page: Each page and section of our Chinese Language Resources has links to individual lists. You can also import our lists (which have pinyin-only versions) into your Quizlet account or Quizlet-compatible app and simply delete any terms you’re not interested in reviewing. If you’d like, create your own lists with additional words and expressions you want to memorize. If you can’t read pinyin, Quizlet and some Quizlet-compatible apps (such as Quizlet’s own app and Flashcards++) have audio pronunciation features.

  5. Use an electronic dictionary to facilitate communication and study: The Pleco Chinese Dictionary, available for both Apple and Android mobile devices, is a thorough, well-designed, and free dictionary that allows you to make flashcards out of words that you look up. If you can’t read pinyin, you can purchase an audio pronunciation add-on for the Pleco dictionary; you might also try the $4.99 Qingwen dictionary, which has audio pronunciations as a standard feature.

* Even if you don’t have the time or inclination to learn how to read pinyin, you can still follow steps 3-5 above since they all involve audio pronunciation options.

Study Plan B: The Novice or Casual Student

If you already have some experience with and understanding of the language, but you are either a beginner or just a casual student, consider these suggestions:

  1. Make sure you have a solid understanding of pinyin.  Review or practice with the resources listed here.

  2. Give yourself a good foundation in understanding written Chinese.  If you are learning how to read and write characters, consider using the resources in our Resources for Learning Chinese Characters section to help in memorizing individual characters and basic vocabulary. Also check out the sections on Chinese-English dictionaries and vocabulary building tools.

  3. Choose a systematic curriculum to follow.  If you are not taking a Chinese course in school, consider using one of the courses introduced in our Courses of Study for Students of Chinese section.

  4. Read our Language and Culture Learning Resources pages: Before (or during) your trip, learn about the destinations featured on the tour, including their Chinese names and related Chinese terms. Use our Quizlet lists and/or a compatible mobile app to facilitate retention of this information.

Study Plan C: The Budding Scholar

If you’re a serious, experienced student with an intermediate or higher level of proficiency, you should be able to skip some of the above steps and proceed directly to using our lists. Consider these suggestions:

  1. Explore our Chinese Language Resources page: With the wealth of information we’ve provided, you’re sure to find helpful new tools and materials with which to supplement your study. The Chinese Vocabulary Building Resources and Resources for Intermediate and Advanced Students sections should be particularly helpful.

  2. Practice, practice, practice: Make sure you avail yourself of every opportunity to actually put your knowledge to use. Through online communities like those at Livemocha, ChinesePod, and Chinese-forums.com, you can engage in discussions with people online and find language partners to practice with.

  3. Read our Language and Culture Learning Resources pages: Learn more about the destinations featured on your tour so that you can discuss them in detail during the trip. Use our Quizlet lists and/or a compatible mobile app to facilitate retention of this information.

If you have any questions about these Chinese language resources or about our tours, please don’t hesitate to contact us by phone or e-mail. Happy studying!

Here is another collection of Mandarin slang expressions—some of the more commonly used expressions I’ve come across in chatting with and listening to native speakers, and in books like Eveline Chao’s Niubi! The Real Chinese You Were Never Taught in School, Zhou Yimin and James J. Wang’s Mutant Mandarin, James J. Wang’s Outrageous Chinese: A Guide to Chinese Street Language, and Li Shujuan and Yan Ligang’s Chinese-English Dictionary of Modern Slang of China.

For more Chinese slang expressions, read my previous post, Contemporary Chinese Slang Part 1. Comprehensive learning resources, advice, reviews, and links for people interested in Chinese can be found on our Chinese Language Resources for Travelers and Students page.

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Click on the pronunciation key for each expression to hear an MP3 recording of it. (Warning: Keep in mind that although my pronunciation is considered very good, I am not a native speaker of Chinese.)

Flirting and Dating Behavior, Compliments and Insults

调情 (tiáoqíng): to flirt

泡妞 (pàoniū): to pick up girls; to flirt with, hit on, or hook up with girls

辣妹 (làmèi): hot chick; sexy girl (literally, “spicy little sister”)

帅哥 (shuàigē): hunk; handsome guy (often used to address a man in a flattering way)

倍儿棒 (bèir bàng): northern Chinese slang for “really awesome”; one common use of this expression is to describe someone’s body

花瓶 (huāpíng): a beautiful person who is not intelligent, capable, or talented; eye candy (literally, “flower vase”)

绣花枕头 (xiùhuā zhěntou): synonym for 花瓶; someone (or something) beautiful but useless (literally, “embroidered pillow”)

撒娇 (sǎjiāo): [of females] to act like a spoiled child, speaking in the voice of a little girl, whining, pouting, acting clingy and dependent; such behavior on the part of a woman to her boyfriend or husband is considered charming in Chinese culture

女人小坏,男人疼爱 (nǚrén xiǎohuài, nánrén téng’ài): “If a woman behaves mischievously (more literally, “is a little bit bad” or “does little bad things”), a man will love her dearly.”

老牛吃嫩草 (lǎoniú chī nèncǎo): a relationship between two people with a large age gap (literally, “old cow eating tender grass”)

装嫩 (zhuāng nèn): to “pretend to be tender”; to act, speak, and/or dress much younger than one’s actual age

(huā): an adjective used to describe a player; horny, womanizing

花心 (huāxīn): to be fickle in love; to have a tendency to be unfaithful

花花公子 (huāhuā gōngzi): playboy; “player,” often one who dresses up like a dandy (literally, “flower prince”)

麦芽糖女人 (màiyátáng nǚrén): clingy, possessive woman (literally, “malt sugar woman,” as malt sugar is sticky)

约会 (yuēhuì): to have a date [with someone]; to make an appointment [with someone]; also, a date or appointment (noun)

网恋 (wǎngliàn): Internet dating

AA (AA zhì): “going Dutch”; each person paying his or her share (often used as just “AA” in sentences, e.g. 我们 AA 吧。)

有异性,没人性 (yǒu yìxìng, méi rénxìng): “Once you have a boyfriend or girlfriend, you forget your friends”; used to complain about a friend’s failure to spend time with you after starting to date someone new. (More literally, “Once you have someone of the opposite gender, you lose your humanity.”)

Romance

暗恋 (ànliàn): to have a crush (on); literally, “secretly love”

谈恋爱 (tán liàn’ài): to date; to “go steady” with; to have a relationship with

来电 (láidiàn): to have a romantic spark, feel electricity, have chemistry [with someone]

一见钟情 (yí jiàn zhōng qíng): love at first sight; to fall in love at first sight
(Note: The character “” takes the second tone when spoken before a fourth-tone character.)

宝贝 (bǎobèi): “baby” or “dear”; a term of endearment for a loved one

Marriage

老公 (lǎogōng): affectionate term for husband, originally from Cantonese but now in widespread use

老婆 (lǎopó): affectionate term for wife, originally from Cantonese but now in widespread use

私房钱 (sīfángqián): money kept secret from a wife or husband; e.g. for use after leaving one’s spouse or in case one is left by one’s spouse, or as personal spending money

床头儿柜 (chuángtóurguì): a hen-pecked husband (literally, “bedside cabinet”; 柜 is a homophone for 跪, suggesting a man who kneels beside the bed in deference to his wife)

Cheating and Heartbreak

吃醋 (chīcù): to be jealous (literally, “eat vinegar”)

醋坛子 (cù tánzi): jealous person (literally, “vinegar jar”)

三角恋 (sānjiǎo liàn): love triangle

(): girlfriend; lover; mistress (literally “honey”)

有一腿 (yǒu yì tuǐ): to have an affair (literally, “to have one leg,” suggesting the entwined legs of lovers)
(Note: The character “” takes the fourth tone when spoken before a third-tone character.)

戴绿帽子 (dài lǜ màozi): to be cuckolded (literally, “wear a green hat”)

包二奶 (bāo èrnǎi): to have a mistress (“二奶” is a term meaning “second wife” from the days when polygamy was practiced in China)

小老婆 (xiǎo lǎopó): mistress (literally, “little wife”)

外遇 (wàiyù): affair; extramarital relations (literally, “outside/external meeting”)

心碎 (xīnsuì): brokenhearted

One fascinating effect of China’s continuing growth and modernization on its popular culture is the explosion in slang expressions that has occurred in recent years, in large part because of the use of the Internet by ever-larger numbers of Chinese citizens. As in the United States, wildly creative, funny, and vulgar new slang expressions can become popular overnight as a result of mass exposure online. Posts tagged with “China” on the Schott’s Vocab blog in the New York Times will give you a brief taste of recent developments in Mandarin slang.

If you’re interested in learning much more about Chinese slang, either as part of a serious course of study or just for the hell of it, I highly recommend Eveline Chao’s book Niubi! The Real Chinese You Were Never Taught in School, which I’ve been enjoying lately. Many expressions I’ve heard my Chinese friends and in-laws use quite frequently (disclaimer: not the dirty ones!) but didn’t fully understand are given a clear and thorough explanation in the book. If you want to really speak like a native and have fun with the dynamic, living language that is contemporary Mandarin, this book is a great resource. Here is a selection of some widely used expressions, along with some of my personal favorites that I’ve come across so far, in both my own daily life and her book.

For more Chinese slang expressions, read my later post, Contemporary Chinese Slang Part 2: Flirting, Dating, Romance, Marriage, and Heartbreak. Comprehensive learning resources, advice, reviews, and links for people interested in Chinese can be found on our Chinese Language Resources for Travelers and Students page.

Like this post? Share it with your friends!


Click on the pronunciation key for each expression to hear an MP3 recording of it. (Warning: Keep in mind that although my pronunciation is considered very good, I am not a native speaker of Chinese.)

加油 (jiāyóu)
literal meaning: “add fuel” (add + fuel)
colloquial usage: “Go!” or “Let’s go!” (a way of offering encouragement, e.g. to players in a sporting event)

()
literal meaning: ruthless, strong (e.g. wine)
colloquial usage: “cool” (a loanword from English slang)

给力 (gěilì)
literal meaning: “give power” (give + power)
colloquial usage: “cool,” “awesome,” “exciting” (northern slang)

无聊 (wúliáo)
literal meaning: “nothing to chat (about)” (nothing/lacking + chat)
colloquial usage: “boring” or “bored”; also used to playfully scold someone who’s making a joke of questionable taste

郁闷 (yùmèn)
literal meaning: “melancholy,” “depressed” (melancholy + depressed)
colloquial usage: “boring”/“bored,” “depressing”/“depressed,” “(I’m) bored/depressed!”

白吃 (báichī)
literal meaning: “blank imbecile” (white/blank + stupid/imbecile)
colloquial usage: “idiot,” “dumbass”

笨蛋 (bèndàn)
literal meaning: “stupid egg” (stupid + egg)
colloquial usage: “dummy” (not necessarily harsh; often affectionate)

滚蛋 (gǔndàn), 滚开 (gǔnkāi)
literal meaning: “roll egg,” “roll away” (roll + egg, roll + away)
colloquial usage: “Go away!”, “Get out of here!”, “Get lost!”

(), 土包子 (tǔbāozi)
literal meaning: 土 = “dirt” or “earth”; 包子 = “steamed bun,” a common food in poor and rural areas (“dirt”; “dirt” + “steamed bun”)
colloquial usage: 土 = “ignorant,” “uncultured,” “rural,” “untrendy,” “out”; 土包子 = “yokel” or “bumpkin” (also, anyone out of touch with or ignorant about modern or trendy things)

土得掉渣 (tǔdediàozhā)
literal meaning: “so rural that [one is] shedding dirt”
colloquial usage: “What/Such a bumpkin!”, “So ignorant/untrendy!”

狗屁 (gǒupì)
literal meaning: “dog fart” (dog + fart/butt)
colloquial usage: “BS!”, “Nonsense!”

废话 (fèihuà)
literal meaning: “wasted words” (waste + words/speech)
colloquial usage: “Nonsense!” or “Duh!” (“Well, of course, you dummy!”, “Thank you, Captain Obvious!”)

瞎说 (xiāshuō)
literal meaning: “speak blindly” (blind + speak)
colloquial usage: “to speak nonsense,” “Nonsense!”

拜托 (bàituō), 帮帮忙 (bāngbāngmáng)
literal meaning: “please”; “help [me] out”
colloquial usage: “Oh, please!”, “Yeah, right!”, “Come on!”, “Gimme a break!” (sarcastic)

吹牛 (chuī niú) [from 吹牛皮 (chuī niúpí)]
literal meaning: “to blow up (inflate) a cow” [“blow up a cowhide”]
colloquial usage: “to brag” (especially when making exaggerated or false claims)

(niú)
literal meaning: cow, ox
colloquial usage: “awesome,” “badass” (For an explanation of the surprisingly vulgar origin of this widely used expression, see Eveline Chao’s book.)

拍马屁 (pāi mǎpì)
literal meaning: “pat the horse’s butt” (pat + horse + butt)
colloquial usage: “flatter” (especially to flatter someone in a position of authority or someone with the power to help you with something)

没劲 (méijìn)
literal meaning: “lacking strength” (lacking/no + strength)
colloquial usage: “lame”

(miàn), 面瓜 (miànguā)
literal meaning: “noodles”; “noodle melon” (noodles + melon)
colloquial usage: “wimpy,” “timid,” “weak”; “wimp,” “wuss,” “coward” (northern slang)

傻瓜 (shǎguā)
literal meaning: “foolish melon”
colloquial usage: “little fool,” “silly billy” (usually affectionate)

三八 (sānbā)
literal meaning: “three eight” (three + eight)
colloquial usage: “silly” (often used to describe feminine silliness), though it can have a stronger, more insulting meaning among some Mainland Chinese

书虫 (shūchóng), 书呆子 (shūdāizi)
literal meaning: “bookbug” (book + bug/insect), “bookish fool” (book + fool/idiot)
colloquial usage: “bookworm,” “nerd,” “a person with no social skills”

In her book, Eveline Chao doesn’t pull any punches; she includes a wide array of vulgar and extremely insulting expressions that I’ve elected to leave out of this post. So if you want to know when people are saying bad things about or to you (or want to be able to dish it out in return), you’ll find her book extremely useful.

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