We all decided it would be really funny to prank our teacher for April Fool’s Day. We had painted Easter Eggs as an activity with some local children and they were sitting in the window of our classroom. We thought it would be hilarious to replace the eggs with some baby chicks a classmate had and trick the teacher into thinking our Easter Eggs had hatched. What happened instead was a classmate accidentally knocked over the eggs and broke some of them as we heard the teacher coming into the room. The classmate with the live chickens had not made it into the classroom yet, so we sat in our seats pretending like nothing had happened. The teacher discovered the broken eggs and ended up blaming the kid who sat by the window and knew nothing about our joke. Later we felt very guilty and told the teacher what had happened, she said the classmate that got in trouble for no reason was “背黑锅 (bēi hēiguō) carrying a black cooking pot.”
背黑锅 (bēi hēiguō): take the blame for others; be made a scapegoat; be unjustly blamed.
背 (bēi): to carry on the back or shoulder.
黑锅 (hēiguō): black-cooking pot.
The expression (literally, to carry a black wok) is a metaphor for taking the blame for the faults of others. It has quite an interesting origin story! In ancient times, a thief snuck into a bachelor’s home. Upon being able to find a wallet or other valuables, he snuck into the kitchen to steal kitchenware. At this time, the bachelor was awakened and gave chase to the thief shouting, “Stop thief!” The thief dropped the knife and quickly ran away with the wok over his shoulder. The bachelor picked up the knife and gave up chase, returning to the kitchen to see what the thief had stolen. He discovered the wok was still in the kitchen—and that the thief had just taken the hard case it was kept in! Afterwards, people used “背黑锅 (bēi hēiguō) carry a black wok” as a metaphor for suffering for the fault of others. It is when you are blamed for a crime or mistake that someone else has committed and even punished for it.
Màikè tì érzi bēi hēiguō.
迈克 替 儿子 背 黑锅。
Mike took the blame for his son.
Wéishénme chū le shì zǒng ràng wǒ bēi hēiguō?
为什么 出 了 事 总 让 我 背 黑锅?
Why do I always get the blame for everything that goes wrong?
Búyào ràng wǒ bēi hēiguō.
不要 让 我 背 黑锅.
Don’t make me take all the blame.
1. Which of the following is a scenario in which “背黑锅 (bēi hēiguō)” could be used?
A. Lily got punished for breaking the glass.
B. Jared got away with stealing cookies from the kitchen.
C. James was blamed when Lily broke the glass.
D. Jared and James thought it was funny when Lily got in trouble.
Learn more Useful Chinese Sayings:
—Written by Elizabeth Brown—
Elizabeth Brown works in China and has studied Chinese for 4 years. She has been a student at eChineseLearning for 2 years and is preparing to take the HSK 5.