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Do You Have the Heart of a Wolf? Learn This Chinese Idiom

Sep. 29, 2018

HSK 3 quiz

There are words that we use in Chinese mostly on dramas or TV shows because their meaning is pretty negative for daily life. This Chinese idiom phrase is one of those that I have never actually used when talking to a person, but I hear it on TV all the time. The phrase is: “狼心狗肺(lángxīngǒufèi) the heart of wolf and lungs of dog.”

Its meaning is derived from the characters that it uses:

狼心狗肺 (Lángxīngǒufèi): cruel and unscrupulous; be brutal and cold-blooded; ungrateful and heartless.

狼 (Láng): the wolf.

(Chinese Fable Story: Wolf Is Coming.)

心 (Xīn): heart; mind, intelligence.

(Know What Does “心塞” Mean in China!)

狗 (Gǒu): dog.

(Do You Know What Does “单身狗” Mean in Chinese?)

肺 (Fèi): lungs.

This idiom is used to describe a particularly cruel or cold person, who has no empathy or sympathy for others. In dramas and TV shows, this type of person is usually a villain of some sort.

So how did this idiom come to be?

Well, legend has it that there was a folk doctor who lived during the“Warring States Period,” who was called Bian Que. He often went to Funiu Mountain to treat his local patients. One day, as he was walking to Funiu Mountain, he was walking up a hillside on the northeast side of the Dongliubei and something caught his eye. It looked to be the body of a person, but this person was lying very still. As he walked closer he could see the person was dead. When he examined the body he determined the man had very recently been attacked. He could see the man was still breathing and knew there was hope he could be saved. He just needed a new heart and lungs. Bian Que knew his own heart and lungs were not healthy enough to save him.

Suddenly, a wolf passed by them. Bian Que attacked the wolf, used a scalpel to kill the wolf and take its heart. He opened the man’s cavity and put the heart into it. Then he saw a dog walk past. He ran after it, caught and took its lungs. He put the lungs into the man’s cavity and suddenly the man began to breathe. He was alive!

You would think the man would be very grateful to Bian Que, but after the rescue, the man sat up and said, “You thief! You stole my money!” Bian Que was shocked. He retorted: “I just saved your life, how could you possibly say I’m a thief?” The man held onto Bian Que and shouted: “Return my belongings, now!” Bian Que was helpless and so he went to Yangcheng to consult with the governmental officials about the matter.

After the county magistrate listened to the two complaints, he said to Bian Que: “You stole his belongings while he was asleep, and before you left, he woke up and seized them. You should return them to him as soon as possible.” Bian Que said: “This person has a heart of wolf and a lung of dog. If you do not believe me, check it for yourself.” The county magistrate nodded. Bian Que said: “Open his internal organs to see.” The man was timid and unwilling. Bian Que said: “Look at the wound that I stitched up.” The man untied his shirt and saw that there was a new stitch in his body. The county magistrate was stunned, and the man still wanted to argue. At that moment, Bian Que stamped his feet and ran away.

The county magistrate ran after him. He followed his footsteps, going to the highest peak of the stone gorge. He saw him facing east, sitting cross-legged and putting his face up to the heavens. He called to him, but he wouldn’t answer. The county magistrate asked the townspeople to find out where Bian Que had treated the man. He wanted to see if there were signs of a dead wolf and dog around, ones missing a heart and lungs. When the county magistrate realized what Bian Que had said was true he said: “That man really has the heart of a wolf and lungs of a dog!”

Examples:

Tā piàn zǒu le tā péngyǒu suǒyǒu de qián, zhēnshì lángxīngǒufèi.
他骗走了他朋友所有的钱,真是狼心狗肺。
He cheated his friend of all money. How brutal and cold-blooded he was!

Tā shì yígè lángxīngǒufèi de rén.
他是一个狼心狗肺的人.
He is a cruel and unscrupulous person.

HSK 3 quiz

1. Which of the following behaviors has the characteristic of “狼心狗肺 (lángxīngǒufèi)?”

A. Zhōu Xiǎohóng doesn’t take care of his parents.
B. Liú Méi has two pets: a wolf and a dog.
C. Lì Xiǎojūn is generous in giving help.
D. Sūn Lì likes to eat wolf heart and dog’s lungs.

See Answer Analysis

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狐假虎威 (Hújiăhŭwēi) To bully others by flaunting one’s powerful connections
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画饼充饥 (Huàbǐngchōngjī) Drawing Pancakes to Stave off Hunger (Beginner)

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