Human Face, Beast’s Heart – No-nonsense Chinese Idioms

Today’s idiom, as its direct translation so succinctly tells us, is used to describe a person who has the heart of a monster. Someone who is as cruel as a beast, yet wears the mask of a human.


Pinyin: rén miàn shòu xīn
English: human face, beast’s heart; two-faced / malicious and duplicitous

I’ve wanted to do a short “c-hack” on this for ages and ages, but I could never decide on an image; who best to embody one of my favourite idioms. Then along came Game of Thrones. A series so full of horrible bastards that I was spoilt for choice (it’s deliciously good and I cannot recommend the show and the books enough). So here we have Cersei Lannister who plays the queen, and all-round royal c*nt. Mother to Prince Joffrey, another little sh*t, and brother to Jamie, also a complete… you get the picture. Anyway, so this idiom can be used to describe someone who is extremely cruel and malicious, or someone who is two-faced. Let’s do a couple of short sentences.

Tā shìgè rén miàn shòu xīnde rén
He is a two-faced person.

Zhōngguó hái yǒu qiān qiān wàn wàn gè xiàng báo xī lái yīyàng rén miàn shòu xīn de guānyuán
China still has tens of thousands of officials who are as two-faced as Bo Xilai (I just stole this from a blog, sorry if you like good-old Bo Xilai).