Tag Archives: edible idioms

Chinese Weather Wisdom

From south to north, temperatures on 2014/02/11.
From south to north, temperatures from yesterday, 2014/02/11.

The blissful weather from the Chinese New Year break and the following days just couldn’t keep going, could it? Just as I was getting ready to put away all my winter clothes, preparing for a trip to the hairdresser to get some layers trimmed off and planning to go shopping for some summer clothes, here comes the cold and rain again. Although, seeing on twitter how temperatures in Taipei were around 8°C when it was about 16°C in southern Taiwan, I knew better than to complain. Nonetheless, with all the coverage reports of this miserable weather, my mind also turned cloudy and I started to think of how fitting the Beatles’ hit song “Here comes the rain” would be at this moment, except for the fact that the title is actually “Here comes the sun”.

Had I been in Europe, I would have known better than to excitingly anticipate the summer days to arrive this soon. Continue reading Chinese Weather Wisdom

Edible Idiom: 酒池肉林

Saw this edible idiom on my timeline recently,  酒池肉林 jiǔ​chí​ròu​lín, literally meaning Wine Pools Meat Forest, but figuratively describing acts of debauchery or profane excess of consumption, especially luxurious objects or pleasures.
According to the short Wikipedia blurb and italki,  the expression originates from the Shang dynasty era, where the last ruler, a corrupted man leading a luxurious life, went on a lust and gluttony extravaganza by having ponds filled with wine, surrounded by all kinds of meat hanging on trees, and naked men and women to entertain.

I searched Google Images, hoping to find a cool old painting illustrating such scene, and actually landed on some NSFW images, even with Safe Search turned on, explicitly depicting scenes of debauchery. Digging further, I found a recent illustration by Hongnian Zhang, titled Fall of the Shang, though reminding me more of scenes from some ancient Roman orgies. Continue reading Edible Idiom: 酒池肉林

吃醋 (chīcù) – Eating Vinegar

蘋果冰醋, Apple Vinegar – flirck/Chopper Kuo

[en] In the Tang era, the emperor Taizong (太宗), also known as Li Shimin (李世民) wanted to reward one his chancellor, Fang Xuanling (房玄齡) with some concubines. Fan Xuanling, historically famous for being a henpecked man did not dare accept such a gift. Having thought ahead of this issue, Li Shimin sent an eunuch with a kettle of poisoned liquor to Fan Xuanling’s wife with an ultimatum: accept the concubines or drink the fatal beverage.

Against all expectations, the wife, scared and with teary eyes went ahead and drank the poison. However, she did not de, it turns out that the emperor wanted to test her with this little prank. The emperor went on to explain the whote story to his chancellor, expressed some admiration for this tough woman, and even told Fang Xuanling to consider her advices in the future.

This is how the expression 吃醋 literrally translated as “eat vinegar” has come to express romantic jealousy.

[fr] Pendant la période de la dynastie Tang, l’empereur Taizong (太宗), de son vrai nom Li Shimin (李世民) avait voulu récompenser son chancellier Fang Xuanling (房玄齡) en lui offrant des concubines, malgré le fait que celui-ci était avait une femme plutôt manipulatrice. Fang Xuanling n’osa donc pas accepter un tel cadeau. Ayant anticipé ce point là, Li Shiming envoya un eunuch à la rencontre de la femme de Fang Xuanling, il apporta une théière contenant une liqueur empoisonné et l’ultimatum de l’empereur: accepter le cadeau charnel de son mari ou consommer la boisson fatale.

Contre toute attente, la femme, malgré sa peur et avec des yeux sanglotants, buva le poison en une gorgée. Cependant, elle ne mourra pas, et pour cause, l’empereur avait voulu la testé en lui jouant ce petit tour. Par la suite, Li Shiming expliqua toute l’histoire à son chancellier, lui exprimant de l’admiration pour sa femme qui n’a pas eue froid aux yeux, et en lui conseillant de l’écouter dans le futur.

C’est donc ainsi que l’expression 吃醋, “manger du vinaigre”, est devenue un synonyme de jalousie sentimentale.

吃豆腐 – Want some of my tofu?

All kinds of tofu! – flickr/nadja_robot
中文 Pinyin English Français
chī to eat manger
豆腐 dòufu tofu tofu
吃豆腐 chīdòufu to flirt; to make sexual advances draguer; faire des avances

[en] Legend has in it that in the early days, the streets of Chang’an (長安), now known as Xi’an (西安), were the home of a tofu shop ran by a couple. The wife boasted a natural beauty which she maintained by eating tofu, this smooth and silky food was believed to have cosmetic benefits, and indeed, her skin became just as delicate and earned her the name of “tofu beauty” (豆腐西施). Using her beauty as a marketing weapon, she seduced male passerbys, attracting them towards her tofu shop. Answering her invitation, men would take their ease, flirting back and sneak a carress on the wife’s delicate hands when handing her the coins to pay. As expected, the men’s wives grew jealous and scolded their husband by asking them “Were you once again eating tofu today? “, suspecting that their husbands had once again spent their time flirting with the “tofu beauty”.

Nowadays, the expression can be used for both genders, it describes what I’d call invasive flirtatious behavior when one physically flirts with his/her counterpart.

For an illustrated explanation, check the video below, in the famous Taiwanese TV show 康熙來了, hostess S tests American-Taiwanese Anthony Neely about the expression, and shows him what she meant by wanting to eat tofu 吃豆腐.

[fr] D’après la légende, jadis, dans les rues de Chang’an (長安), connu de nos jours sous le nom de Xi’an (西安), se trouvait une boutique de tofu tenu par un couple. La femme possédait une beauté naturelle qu’elle entretenait en s’alimentant de tofu, cet aliment doux et soyeux et qui d’après certains était aussi doté de bienfaits cosmétiques. Vrai ou pas, cela lui aura certainement réussit, car sa peau douce et délicate lui valu le surnom de “beauté de tofu” (豆腐西施). Gardant l’esprit commerçant, elle utilise sa beauté à son avantage et séduit les hommes qui passe dans la rue. La ruse est efficace, les hommes mordent à l’hameçon et se prennent aussi au jeu de séduction. Ils flirtent avec la patronne, et profite de moments opportuns pour lui glisser des caresses sur sa douce peau. Comme l’on peut s’y attendre, de retour au bercail, les femmes de ces hommes mariés, suspicieuses de tout ce temps passé au magasin de tofu, leur assaillent d’une question: “Es-tu encore aller manger du tofu aujourd’hui?”, car elles ne sont bien sûr pas dupe du faible de leur maris face à la “beauté de tofu”.

De nos jours, cette expression s’applique aussi à la gent fémine. Elle décrit quelqu’un qui flirte avec ardeur et avec parfois avec des carresses ou atouchements.

Pour illustrer cette expression, voici l’extrait de la célèbre émission TV taïwanaise 康熙來了, où la présentatrice S teste l’americano-taïwanais Anthony Neely sur cette expression, et lui montre le genre de tofu qu’elle aime manger.