Learn How to Identify “The Silent Type” in Chinese!

Chinese General silent

There are many types of people with many types of personalities. In Chinese we use different words to categorize different interpersonal characteristics. One such word is “闷葫芦 (mèn húlu)”. This type of person isn’t necessarily popular, because he/she is considered to be overall quiet, a silent type. It’s hard to know what exactly this person is thinking. Most of the time you have to guess at what he/she is thinking because he/she will not communicate it directly.
We use this word often in daily conversation around the office, at home, school, etc.
When I come across this type of person, I brace myself for a more difficult relationship–not because the person is a bad person, just because it can be harder to understand this type of person (since I am more outgoing), and keep a positive/healthy and open relationship.
So what does “闷葫芦 (mèn húlu)” mean, exactly?
闷葫芦 (mèn húlu): complete mystery; silent person.

How do we use it in daily conversation?
My friends and family often say: “他真是个闷葫芦,把什么都闷在心里。 (Tā zhēnshi gè mènhúlu, bǎ shénme dōu mèn zài xīnlǐ.) He is a really silent person and never talks things through with others.”
Let’s take a look at what each character means so we can understand this term better:
闷 (mèn): sealed; airtight; tightly closed.

The following is an image can help to learn the word “闷.” It’s an easy way to understand the meaning, “close/keep the heart with the door closed” → don’t talk things through with others.

Chinese General silent2

葫芦 (húlu): bottle gourd.

So does this word actually have anything to do with gourds? No! It is often used to refer to people. Remember that!

Here are examples you might use this word in daily conversation:

Nǐ kě búyào zhǎo gè mèn húlu dāng nánpéngyǒu.
你 可  不要    找   个   闷   葫芦   当      男朋友。
Don’t find a silent person and make him your boyfriend.

Wǒ bù xǐhuān gēn mènhúlu jiāo péngyǒu, yīnwèi huì hěn wúliáo.
我  不   喜欢     跟   闷葫芦   交     朋友,    因为    会  很   无聊。
I don’t want to make friends with silent people, because it will be very boring.

HSK 3 quiz

1. In the lounge, Lily and Judy are talking about the new staff Jack:
Lily: Nǐ juéde Jack zěnmeyàng?
Lily: 你  觉得  Jack    怎么样?

Judy: Jack shì gè mèn húlu, yì tiān dào wǎn nánde zhāngkǒu.
Judy: Jack 是  个  闷  葫芦,一 天   到   晚    难得     张口。

Which of the following statements is true according to the dialogue?
A. Jack often plays with the bottle gourd in the office.
B. Jack is a very silent person in the office.
C. Jack likes to talk in the office.
D. Jack doesn’t play with the bottle gourd in the office.

— Written by Jennifer Zhu —

Jennifer Zhu is a professional Chinese teacher from eChineseLearning. She has many years of Chinese language teaching experience and received her B.A. and M.A. in “Teaching Chinese as a Second Language.”

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