A Funny Example of Using A Chinese Expression Incorrectly “干货 (Gānhuò)”: Don’t Take It Literally!

HSK 3 quiz

While learning Chinese expressions, it’s important that you understand the literal meaning and also the figurative meaning as well. Knowing the figurative meaning will help you apply the language to the appropriate situation, while knowing the literal meaning will help you avoid embarrassing or funny misuse of the expression or idiom. Just as with the English “foggy memory” or “break a leg”, we don’t actually mean that these things are a reality. It’s just an expression!
One Chinese expression that has gained popularity in the age of e-commerce is “干货 (gānhuò).” Before I explain how to use it correctly today, I’ll first explain how not to use it, based on a funny story from one of my Chinese classes. The teacher asked us to prepare and share, as homework, some Chinese learning tips. She asked us to:
Fēnxiǎng yìxiē zhōngwén cíhuì xuéxí de gānhuò.
分    享    一些    中    文    词汇  学习 的   干  货。
Share some Chinese vocabulary-learning “dry goods.”

As you might expect from the literal meaning of this sentence, one of my classmates actually brought in some Chinese dried foods to the following class. So, why was the teacher laughing?
“干货 (Gānhuò)” means dry goods, as in dehydrated meat jerky, dried mushrooms, or the dried bits of vegetables you can put into instant ramen noodles. However, recently “干货 (gānhuò)” has been used to describe skills, information, promotions and other media that is practical and useful. With the incredible rise of e-commerce in China, some sellers put out marketing and promotional material that is without flowery language, and therefore boiled down to its essence, or “干货 (gānhuò).”

HSK 3 quiz

Today, “干货 (gānhuò)” is used to describe presentations, lessons, instructions, or anything practical and useful. Of course, the literal meaning of “干货 (gānhuò)” is still used to describe dried goods as well!

Common structure:

Subject+ 分享 (fēnxiǎng) + 干货 (gānhuò)
分享 (Fēnxiǎng): to share.

干 (Gān): dry.

货 (Huò): goods.

干货 (Gānhuò): useful methods or experience.

Zhōu lǎoshī jīntiān fēnxiǎng le hěnduō gānhuò.
周      老 师  今 天   分  享     了 很   多   干  货。
Mr./Ms. Zhou shares lots of useful information.

Fēnxiǎng gānhuò: Sān tiān nèi xuéhuì hànyǔ pīnyīn!
分    享     干  货:   三   天   内   学 会   汉 语  拼 音!
Crash course: How to master pinyin in three days!

So, as with the example of my classmate unfortunately taking the use of “干货 (gānhuò)” literally when the teacher asked for practical information, you must be very careful to be able to understand when a figurative expression or idiom is being used. Beware!

HSK 3 quiz

Amy: Kàn, wǒ gěi nǐ dài lái le mǎn mǎn de ___ , bāo nǐ xuéhuì hànyǔ.
Amy:  看,我  给 你  带  来 了  满    满    的 ___, 包  你  学  会  汉 语。

Which of the following is the most appropriate?

A. 零食 (Língshí)

B. 干货 (Gānhuò)

C. 水果 (Shuǐguǒ)

―Written by Elena Trevino―

Elena Trevino is a Mandarin Chinese student in Beijing studying the language to get a head start in international trade. She is most interested in seeing how Mandarin is affecting the fashion industry throughout the world as Chinese shoppers are now such a large factor. She is frequently attending fashion industry events in Beijing and throughout China.

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