Happy Mother’s Day! In Chinese, that’s 母亲节快乐 (mǔqīn jié kuàilè)！
For this special day, we’ve made a list of 成语 (chéngyǔ) Chinese Idioms for Mother’s Day along with interesting short clips that you and your kids might enjoy!
6 Chinese Idioms for Mother’s Day
Let’s start with a Chengyu about the great Chinese philosopher Mencius’s Mom.
mèng mǔ sān qiān
Literal Meaning: Mencius’ mother moved 3 times
Definition: The great efforts mothers make for their kids’ welfare
Story behind the Chengyu:
Mencius lost his father when he was little, and was brought up by his mother alone. When Mencius was a child, they lived near a cemetery, and Mencius started imitating the adults performing burial rituals. Mencius’s mother thought, “This is not the right place to raise a child.” So they moved to a place beside the market. This time, Mencius started mimicking the butchers and merchants in the market, pretending to yell and sell provisions. Seeing this, Mencius’s mother moved again, this time near a school, where Mencius started learning etiquette and courtesy, and eventually became the great scholar we now know. Here’s a video featuring the story:
When it comes to Chinese idioms for Mother’s Day, we have to find one that describes the care our moms give us.
wú wēi bú zhì
Literal Meaning: No detail too insignificant
Definition: To take care of every detail; in every possible way; meticulous
A related movie:
The Oscar-winning animated short film Bao talks about the meticulous care mothers give their children. Just like in the film, a mother’s care or worries can sometimes seem annoying or controlling, but let’s not forget that their starting point is always the love they have for us.
As for moms (and let’s not forget they include grandmas!) with wonderful cooking skills, let’s praise their cooking with this chéngyǔ!
chū shén rù huà
Literal Meaning: Enter the realm of the spirit
Definition: To reach a divine state; a superb and wonderful achievement
Check out this cute video—in English!—of some Chinese grandmas trying each other’s dumplings!
And to describe a mom full of wisdom and intelligence we can use…
zú zhì duō móu
Literal Meaning: To be full of knowledge and have plenty of ideas
Definition: Resourceful; be wise and full of strategems
A related character:
A great model for this idiom is the heroine Huang Rong (黃蓉) from Jin Yong’s novel 射鵰英雄傳 The Legend of the Condor Heroes (often described as the Chinese world’s equivalent of The Lord of the Rings). She is a wife, a mother of three kids, but also the chief of the “Beggars’ Sect”. Check out this trailer for a 2017 tv adaptation of the novel! Huang Rong gets plenty of screen time demonstrating her wuxia/kungfu skills!
Then, for resourceful moms who can deal with all kinds of situations and problems…
jí zhōng shēng zhì
Literal Meaning: Wisdom during a crisis
Definition: To come up with a solution during a pressing situation
A related video:
Here’s a clip from a Chinese drama about a quick-witted emergency room doctor who finds a way to communicate with a deaf patient—using cartoons! A bit cheesy, but it demonstrates the 成语 very well. Plus: cartoons!
Finally, let’s thank our great moms and always remember to be grateful!
yǐn shuǐ sī yuán
Literal Meaning: When you drink water, think of the source
Definition: To be grateful; to appreciate; to remember the person or organization who helped
The Chengyu comes from one of the lines of the Chinese scholar Yu Xin’s (庾信) poetry. In the stanza, he wrote 「落其實者思其樹，飲其流者懷其源」which means “When eating fruits, think of the tree that nourishes it; and when drinking water, think of the source of the river.” Over time, the latter half of the stanza became abbreviated as 饮水思源, reminding ourselves to be grateful for those who have helped us along the way.
In the meantime, here’s a sweet (if button-pushing) Malaysian short film in Chinese from 2015 that really expresses 饮水思源!
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Also: click here to check out this awesome bilingual story we made for Mother’s Day!
It’ll be up in the app soon, but we thought it’d be fun to let you have a sneak peek!