Discussing the latest hit TV show, dropping idioms like a chairman and how to talk about your problems in Chinese

Slow Chinese 每周漫闻


I have some excellent ‘words of the week’ to help you maintain, improve and stay up to date with your Chinese language skills…

  1. Discussing the latest Chinese hit TV show

    trending conversations about Call me by Fire

  2. Dropping business idioms like a chairman

    interview with investor and entrepreneur Yan Li

  3. How to talk about your problems in Chinese 

    practice listening with Li Chengxuan interview 

  4. Idioms for describing rapid political change

    interview with Chinese entrepreneur in Kabul’s China Town

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1. Discussing the latest hit Chinese TV show

Chinese reality show, Call Me By Fire, has become a hit after its premiere on Mango TV last week. The Chinese title is 披荆斩棘的哥哥 which uses the idiom:

  • 披荆斩棘 (pī jīng zhǎn jí) - overcoming obstacles

    这倒不是说哥哥们没有困境或者不需要披荆斩棘 - it’s not to say they don’t have obstacles to overcome

One reason the media reckon it’s done so well is:

  • 去油 (Qù yóu) - ‘removing oil’; avoiding cheesy-ness

    “去油”是这档节目给观众的第一印象 - the first impression of the audience is that the cheesy-ness has been removed

Trending words

Reading into the show’s success is a great way to pick up some current Internet words and trending phrases online.

  • 王炸 (wáng zhà) - ‘fried king’; a killer punch, an ace or one’s best move (which comes as a surprise)

    该节目成为了芒果的王炸综艺 - surprisingly, the show has become Mango TV’s most watched show

    • Wáng zhà is from from the popular Chinese card game Dou Dizhu (斗地主)

  • 路人缘 (lù rényuán) - ‘road people fait’, popular with the fans

    33位哥哥都有擅长的领域和代表作品,本身的路人缘都不差 - all 33 contestants are talented and are liked by their fans

  • 回忆杀 (huíyì shā) - ‘memory suicide’, remembering an awkward moment

    既有回忆杀,又有演唱会质感 - there are entertaining awkward moments and concert-like dramatic bits

Recommendation: read more about reactions to Call Me By Fire in Whatsonweibo.

2. Dropping business idioms like a chairman

Interviews with successful entrepreneurs are a good resource to improve your business vocab, especially idioms.

In an interview in 36Kr, Eastern Bell Venture Capital (钟鼎 - Zhōng dǐng) founder, Yán Lì (严力), talks about how he’s built a successful venture capital fund.

His investment philosophy is influenced by entertaining childhood experiences:


It’s like when you want to squeeze yourself onto a packed bus, it’s best to get in front of someone who’s fat that wants to get on more than you; you’ll be pushed into the bus with ease

Business idioms and phrases

Yan drops a good colloquial phrase about entrepreneurs being too full of themselves:

  • 一览众山小 (Yīlǎn zhòng shān xiǎo) - All mountains in a single glance, can see clearly

    投资人老说自己牛,以为一览众山小,99%都是差一度 - investors have an overly high opinion of themselves, they think they understand the bigger picture, but actually 99% of them are not quite there yet

He uses idioms to talk about big numbers, small numbers, making hard decisions and seeing things clearly.

  • 不胜枚举 (bùshèng méi jǔ) - too many to list

    美元基金募人民币的先例不胜枚举 - there are many USD funds that have also raised RMB

  • 屈指可数 (qūzhǐ kě shǔ) - can be counted on one hand (opposite to above idiom)

    由人民币基金转型双币的却屈指可数 - there are very few RMB funds that have evolved into double-currency funds

  • 肉眼可见 (ròuyǎn kějiàn) - visible to the naked eye

    一些基金也肉眼可见地扩规模、扩赛道、扩阶段 - some funds are clearly expanding their scale, sectors and stages (they invest in)

  • 壮士断腕 (zhuàngshì duànwàn) - a hero cutting his wrist off; cutting losses quickly without emotion, ruthless

    抱着“壮士断腕”心态将投资目标锁定在物流领域 - ruthlessly focus on the logistics sector as targets for investment

  • 孤注一掷 (gūzhù yīzhì) - bet everything, put all eggs in one basket

    孤注一掷的状态其实只持续了两年 - the [high risk] approach of only focussing on one thing only lasted for two years

3. How to talk about your problems in Chinese

A great way to practice your Chinese listening skills is by watching interviews with people talking about their problems.

In an interview last week, singer Lǐ Chéngxuàn (李承铉) shares challenges of being a full time dad (全职奶爸).

He speaks slowly so it’s easy to understand and there are some good alternative words which you can drop into your spoken Chinese to sound more authentic.

Useful words

  • 结 (Jié) - ‘knot’, problem (instead of 问题)

    主动把这个结说出来 - actively talking about your problems

  • 耗 (Hào) - use up, expend (instead of 花)

    他其实耗的时间和精力非常多 - he spent a lot of time energy [doing it]

  • 不踏实 (Bù tàshí) - uncertain, worried (instead of 担心)

    当时心里是不踏实的 - I didn’t feel comfortable

  • 煎熬 (Jiān'áo) - tortured, stressed (instead of 着急)

    你有没有煎熬这样的心情?- Did you feel stressed?

4. Life in Kabul’s China Town

An interview in Yicai with Kabul-based Chinese entrepreneur, Yú Mínghuī (余明辉), is worth a read (there’s also audio).

Yu talks about what life in the China Town in Kabul. Established in 2019, Yu says it’s not just about selling cheap goods:

  • 摊贩 (tānfàn) - market stall

    流动摊贩的早餐车又来了 - the mobile breakfast market stall has arrived again

  • 地摊货 (dìtān huò) - cheap goods

    卖的东西也有可能被认为是‘地摊货’ - the goods sold there might be misunderstood as cheap goods sold on roadside stalls

  • 一锤子买卖 (yī chuízi mǎimài) - one-off sale; short-signed sale

    原来我们和阿富汗当地客户是一锤子买卖 - previously we would do one-off sales to Afghan customers

Yu discusses the Taliban takeover using the following words and idioms:

  • 变天 (biàn tiān) - ‘changing the sky’, restoration of previous ruling party

    中国商人亲历阿富汗“变天” - Chinese bsinessman experiences first hand the regime change in Afghanistan

  • 风云突变 (fēngyún túbiàn) - a sudden change of weather, sudden change

    阿富汗及首都喀布尔局势风云突变 - the situation in Kabul and Afghanistan changed suddenly

  • 尘埃落定 (chén'āi luòdìng) - the dust settles, the situation becomes clear

    一切似乎尘埃落定了 - the dust has pretty much settled

  • 趁火打劫 (chènhuǒ dǎjié) - loot a burning house; looting

    有人可能会在这个时候趁火打劫 - some people may take the opportunity to loot and steal at this time

Recommendation: Read more about Chinese media reactions to Afghanistan situation in the ChinaTalk Substack and Panda Paw Dragon Claw blog.

That’s it for this week. 

Thanks for reading. 

If you’ve got all they way down here that means you’ve picked up the following:

  • General words and phrases: 7

  • Internet / social media words: 4 

  • Idioms: 9

  • Slang: 1

  • Colloquialisms: 2

  • Total: 23

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