If you didn’t already know, it’s the year of the snake, but rather than talk about new year traditions or the Chinese zodiac, we’re just going to get down to business. Here’s some useful, as in commonly used, Chinese idioms to do with snakes.
The good thing about all of these idioms, is that if you already have a beginner to intermediate level of Mandarin vocabulary, then you should be able to guess the meanings without much help. That is, they aren’t mysterious idioms that require an in-depth knowledge of Chinese history to understand, which makes them easy to remember, and perfect for beginners, too.
The Head of a Tiger and Tail of a Snake
An excellent idiom, one you can really visualise. The strong head of a tiger followed by the slim weak body of a snake.
Xué zhōngwén wèile bìmiǎn hǔtóushéwěi yào chíxù nǔlì
Learning Chinese needs continued effort, to avoid starting off strong and finishing weak
The example above is a little strange in English, so here’s one that sounds more natural in English:
Gōngsī gǔpiào jià jīntiān hǔtóushéwěi
The company’s stock value started strong but finished weak today
Words of a Buddha, Heart of a Snake
This idiom shows a negative perception of the snake – to have the good words of a Buddha, but the evil heart of snake.
Wǒ bù zhīdào tā shuō de shì zhēnchéng háishì fókǒushéxīn
I don’t know if he’s being sincere of two-faced
To Beat the Grass and Scare the Snake
On first look, seeing the inclusion of 惊, you’d be forgiven for thinking this meant to scare an enemy away. Though it actually means to alert an enemy to your presence.
Yào cōngmíng yīdiǎn, cai bù huì dǎcǎojīngshé
You’ve got to be smart to not give yourself away
Here’s a bonus word that contains the snake character, not an idiom, but a word I find interesting nonetheless:
If you know of any other interesting idioms, or words, that use the character for snake then you know what to do.