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Slow Chinese 每周漫闻 is an entertaining weekly dose of interesting words, phrases and idioms from the week’s news for learners of Chinese who want to take their language skills to the next level.
Business Idioms

Chinese Idioms about urgency – burning eyebrows (火烧眉毛 – huǒ shāo méi máo )2 min read

27 February 2021 < 1 min read


Chinese Idioms about urgency – burning eyebrows (火烧眉毛 – huǒ shāo méi máo )2 min read

Reading Time: < 1 minute

If you get things done in China, you are not just a “do-er”, you are a “take action-ist” (行动派 – xíng dòng pài) – a member of an entire movement of people across China that make things happen.

Just as in English we have -ists and -isms, in China there are take action-ists.

A successful entrepreneur in China is normally a xíng dòng pài. To be part of this movement is to seize opportunity.

In President Xi’s 2017 New Year speech, he coined a phrase:

撸起袖子加油干 (lū qǐ xiù zǐ jiā yóu gàn) – “roll-up your sleeves, and get to it”

There is nothing like starting a business presentation with wise words from the President.

There are also some ‘must-have idioms to say when something is urgent.

Not sure why, but eyebrows (?) and fire figure heavily in the visuals of Chinese idioms about urgent-ness. I suppose there is nothing like the threat of of burning eyebrows as a motivation to get something done!

The following seven idioms all mean URGENT with a different visual attached to them. All are commonly used.

迫在眉睫 (pò zài méi jié ) – in-the-eyebrows-and-eyelashes URGENT

火烧眉毛 (huǒ shāo méi máo ) – fire-burning-eyebrows URGENT

燃眉之急 (rán méi zhī jí ) – igniting-eyebrows URGENT

当务之急 (dāng wù zhī jí) – most-urgent-task-at-the-moment URGENT

迫不及待 (pò bù jí dài) – pressing-and-cannot-wait URGENT

刻不容缓 (kè bù róng huǎn ) – cannot-forgive-any-delay URGENT

急如星火 (jí rú xīng huǒ) – like-the-fire-of-the-sun URGENT

When something is REALLY urgent, you could reel off a mix of these – something can be as urgent burning eye brows.

Chinese language creates a sense of movement, and a tendency towards taking action, quickly. There is a push (burning eye brows), and a pull (the attraction of joining China’s ‘taking action-ist’ movement).

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