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How Do You Compliment an Artist’s Work? Simply Use This Idiom!

Feb. 1, 2019

HSK 3 quiz

画龙点睛 (Huàlóngdiǎnjīng)

“画龙点睛 (Huàlóngdiǎnjīng)” is a Chinese idiom that translates literally as “dotting the eyeball when painting a dragon.” It’s used to describe adding that finishing touch that brings a work of art to life, or adding a word or two to clinch the point.

Let‘s Break down This Chinese Idiom

画 (Huà) draw

龙 (Lóng) dragon

点 (Diǎn) point, dot, spot

睛 (Jīng) eyeball (It’s often paired with “眼 (yǎn) eyes,” hence “眼睛 (yǎnjīng) eyes.”)

To Learn Further the Chinese Character: 龙 (Lóng) Dragon

The Origin Story:

Chuánshuō gǔ shíhòu yǒu gè huàjiā jiào Zhāng Sēngyóu,
传说古时候有个画家叫张僧繇,
There is a legend that says in ancient times there was an artist named Zhang Sengyou,

Tā huà lóng huà de tèbié hǎo.
他画龙画得特别好。
He was good at painting dragons.

Yǒu yí cì, tā zài Ān Lè Sì de qiángbì shàng huà le sì tiáo jù lóng,
有一次,他在安乐寺的墙壁上画了四条巨龙,
On one occasion, he painted four giant dragons on the walls of the An Le Temple.

Nà lóng huà de xiàng zhēn de yíyàng,
那龙画得像真的一样,
The dragons he painted looked real.

Zhǐshì tāmen dōu méiyǒu yǎnjīng.
只是它们都没有眼睛。
The only thing was, they didn’t have eyes.

Rénmen wèn tā: “Wèishénme bù bǎ yǎnjīng huà chūlái.”
人们问他:“为什么不把眼睛画出来。”
People asked Zhang Sengyou, “Why don’t you draw the eyes?”

Tā shuō: “Yǎnjing kě bùnéng huà ya! Yí huà le, lóng jiù huì fēi zǒu de!”
他说:“眼睛可不能画呀!一画了,龙就会飞走的!”
He said, “The eyes can’t be painted! Once painted, the dragon will fly away! ”

Dàjiā tīng le, shuí yě bú xìn, dōu rènwéi tā zài shuōhuǎng.
大家听了,谁也不信,都认为他在说谎。
When everyone heard it, no one believed him, and they thought he was lying.

Hòulái, rénmen yí zài qǐngqiú,
后来,人们一再请求,
Later, people kept on asking it of him,

Zhāng Sēngyóu zhǐhǎo dāyìng bǎ lóng de yǎnjīng huà chūlái.
张僧繇只好答应把龙的眼睛画出来。
So Zhang Sengyou had to agree to draw the dragons’ eyes.

Qíguài de shìqing guǒrán fāshēng le,
奇怪的事情果然发生了,
Then, something really strange happened,

Tā gānggang huà chū dì èr tiáo lóng de yǎnjīng,
他刚刚画出第二条龙的眼睛,
When he had just drawn the eyes of the second dragon,

Tūrán guā qǐ le dà fēng, tiānkōng kāishǐ dǎléi shǎndiàn.
突然刮起了大风, 天空开始打雷闪电。
Suddenly there was a strong wind and it began to thunder and lightning.

Liǎng tiáo jù lóng zhuǎndòng zhe yǎnjing hòu chōngtiān ér qǐ, téngkōng ér qù.
两条巨龙转动着眼睛后冲天而起,腾空而去。
The two giant dragons‘ eyes turned and they rose into the sky, flying away.

Wéiguān de rén, gège jīngyà jí le, duì Zhāng Sēngyóu gèng pèifú le.
围观的人,个个惊讶极了,对张僧繇更佩服了。
All onlookers were astonished and admired Zhang Sengyou.

Cultural Background:

The idiom “画龙点睛 (huàlóngdiǎnjīng) draw the eyes on the dragon” comes from this legend. It is now commonly used to describe using a word or a sentence at a critical point to point out the deeper meaning when you are writing or talking, which makes the content more vivid and powerful. This technique is also known as the “点睛之笔 (diǎnjīngzhībǐ) the finishing touch.”

New Words:

画家 (Huàjiā) painter; artist; penman

墙壁 (Qiángbì) wall

眼睛 (Yǎnjīng) eye; ocular

说谎 (Shuōhuǎng) tell a lie; to lie

奇怪 (Qíguài) strange

辣眼睛 (Là yǎnjīng) Spicy Eyes—Hilarious Internet Slang

Key Learning Points:

1. 发生 (Fāshēng) n./v. occurrence. / to occur; appear; take place; happen

Examples:

Jìn jǐ nián lái wǒ de jiāxiāng fāshēng le jùdà de biànhuà.
近几年来我的家乡发生了巨大的变化。
Great changes have taken place in my hometown in recent years.

Nǐ bù kěnéng zǔzhǐ zhè jiàn shì de fāshēng.
你不可能阻止这件事的发生。
You can’t stop this from happening.

2. 答应 (Dāyìng) v. promise; answer; reply; respond

Examples:

Nǐ dāyìng le wǒ, jiù yào shuōhuà suàn huà.
你答应了我,就要说话算话。
If you promise me, you will keep your word.

Bàba zuìzhōng háishì dāyìng dài wǒ qù lǚyóu.
爸爸最终还是答应带我去旅游。
Dad finally promised to take me on a trip.

Let’s have you try to think of a few different ways to use this idiom! Remember to use this when you’re explaining a piece of art to your friends.

HSK 3 quiz

1. Please choose the best answer according to this Chinese sentence.

Wénzhāng zuìhòu yí duàn shífēn jīngcǎi, zài wén zhōng qǐ dào le huàlóngdiǎnjīng de zuòyòng.
文章最后一段十分精彩,在文中起到了画龙点睛的作用。

What does the Chinese idiom “画龙点睛 (Huàlóngdiǎnjīng)” mean according to this sentence?

A. Explaining and illustrating
B. Bringing the painted dragon to life
C. Bringing the article to life

See Answer Analysis

Most Popular Chinese Idiom Stories You Don’t Want To Miss:
Chinese Idiom: 哪壶不开提哪壶 (Nǎ hú bù kāi tí nǎ hú) To Touch A Soft Spot
Chinese Idiom: 纸上谈兵 (Zhǐshàngtánbīng) Armchair Strategy
Chinese Idioms: Be Humble Enough to Consult One’s Inferiors (Elementary)

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