If you have only just started learning Chinese you may want to read the following purely for the insight into the culture. If you have been learning for a while you may view learning them as an exercise to increase reading and listening comprehension. You may also find it fun to discuss them with your Chinese friends rather than attempting to skilfully drop them into everyday conversation!
The Frog at the Bottom of the Well
First please read the following psychedelic story:
“There was once a frog that lived at the bottom of a well. One day he saw a sea turtle passing by and began to boast how happy he was living in the well. He invited the sea turtle to come down but he was too big to fit through the opening. The sea turtle asked the frog whether he had ever seen the ocean and told him how vast and beautiful it is. The frog was stunned by the comment and sat there speechless.”
From this story a Chinese idiom was born that describes someone with a very limited outlook or view of things.
Don’t go any further until you have read the story and have the basic meaning of the idiom in mind.
The four character idiom is: 井底之蛙
- 井 – simply means ‘well’
- 底 – means ‘at the bottom of’.
- 之 – a more formal way of saying ‘的’
- 蛙 – means ‘frog’ (The full word is 青蛙)
So the 成语 directly translates as ‘a frog at the bottom of a well’.
This idiom often seems to be used with the word 做 in order to make the phrase 做井底之蛙 – be a frog in a well, or 像 to make the phrase 像井底之蛙 – like a frog in a well.
So an example sentence to memorise might be: 我不要总像井底之蛙，所以决定出国，这样可以扩大眼界 – I don’t want to be like a frog at the bottom of a well forever so I’ve decided to go abroad and broaden my horizons. For the pronunciation of 井底之蛙 you can visit here. You can also watch a cartoon of the story here
Please leave a comment if you find this helpful or have any suggestions and we will produce more Idiots Idioms in the near future.