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“泡汤 (pàotāng)”: For When Nothing Is Going Your Way

Mar. 29, 2017

Chinese General PaoTang

Plans Foiled? “泡汤 (pàotāng)”!
“泡汤 (pàotāng)”? Pick Yourself Up and Move Ahead!

Our lives are filled with hopes and dreams. Unfortunately, part of our life experience is to watch those hopes dashed to pieces! On a positive note, we can learn from heartbreak and approach our future challenges with more wisdom and experience in our next effort.

As a Mandarin Chinese student, I’m always faced with challenges and doubts. Here’s my story:

I took my first Chinese class during my junior year of college. Over the next 12 months I crammed Chinese at school and learned from books and tapes in my spare time. Before going into the workforce, I decided to travel to China for one month after graduating from college. I was confident that I’d “hit the ground running” and be conversing with Mandarin speakers on the streets of Beijing, Shanghai and Hangzhou. As it turns out, I hadn’t learned the tones of Mandarin properly. No one understood me. At a restaurant, I thought I was ordering dumplings “水饺 (shuǐjiǎo)” but actually I was ordering sleep “睡觉 (shuìjiào)” . My plans for landing in China and speaking Chinese with locals were destroyed!

Later on, as my Chinese improved, I learned a word to describe this heartbreak: “泡汤 (pàotāng)”.

“泡汤 (pàotāng)” can be discouraging, but we can learn from it and pull ourselves back up! After my expectations of speaking Chinese in China were “泡汤 (pàotāng)”, I decided to take a few online classes with native teachers back in the U.S. and am now a student here in China and will soon take my HSK Level 4 proficiency test in Mandarin.

When your dreams are “泡汤 (pàotāng)”, consider it a learning experience and move forward with more perspective. As a student in China, surrounded by native speakers and with qualified native teachers, I have seen my Mandarin Chinese progress grow far faster than I ever did back in the U.S.!

“泡汤 (pàotāng)” is a common, everyday Chinese word that Chinese learners can use when we see our “hopes dashed to pieces”, or when things “fall apart”.

Where does “泡汤 (pàotāng)” come from; what does it mean?

The meaning of the word “泡汤 (pàotāng)” is literally to cook your food too long and make it turn bad.

泡 (pào): to linger, soak or waste time (v.); something that is shaped like a bubble (n.)
汤 (tāng): soup, broth (n.)

Examples of “泡汤 (pàotāng)” used in a sentence:

Zhīqián de jìhuá yǐjīng pàotāng le.
之前     的  计划  已经   泡汤    了.
The original plan has been capsized.

Yīnwèi zhè chǎng yǔ, suǒyǐ wǒmen de jiāoyóu huódòng pàotāng le.
因为    这     场    雨,所以   我们   的  郊游     活动       泡汤       了.
Rain wreaked havoc on our picnic.

Wǒ de lǚxíng jìhuà pàotāng le.
我   的  旅行  计划    泡汤   了.
I failed to carry out my travel plans.


It’s appropriate to use “泡汤 (pàotāng)” in all of the following situations, except:

A. Your business idea fails to get funding to start up.
B. You move to a new house.
C. The beach vacation you planned was during rainy season.
D. You baked a cake but forgot the most important ingredient.
See Answer

—Written by Philip Reed—
Philip Reed is a Mandarin Chinese student in Beijing. Philip has been studying for one year in China and before that had an interest in Chinese at university in the U.S. He loves Chinese music and culture and can sing a few Mandarin songs at the KTV when he has free time!

Chinese Popular Words (Fun Stuff) 

General Chinese (Beginner Level) 

General Chinese (Intermediate Level) 

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