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“七上八下(qī shàng bā xià)” and Why Do Chinese Hate It?

Mar. 20, 2014

While learning Chinese, we have become familiar with the numbers “七(seven," “八(eight," and the two verbs “上 (shàng) up," and “下 (xià) down." Such as, “七天 (qī tiān) seven days, ” “八点(bā diǎneight o’clock," “上楼 (shànglóugo upstairs," and “下山 (xiàshāngo down the hill.

But have you ever heard that someone feels “七上八下 (qīshàngbāxià)” in their heart? What kind of feeling it is? And what’s the meaning of “七上八下(qī shàng bā xià)” in Chinese culture“七上八下 (qīshàngbāxià)” is an idiom in Chinese. It is an adjective and literally means “seven up, eight down.” Chinese people use it to refer to an unsettled state of mind. This idiom was first used in one of the most famous classical Chinese novels “《水浒传》(shuǐ hǔ zhuàn),” written hundreds of years ago. In the novel, a man felt very uneasy in his heart, which he described in a tale about carrying 15 buckets of water up a mountain: “七上 (qī shàng), seven up” and “八下 (bā xià), eight down.” From then on “七上八下 (qīshàngbāxià)” has been used as an idiom in the Chinese language to mean an uneasy state of mind.


Mary xiànzài xīn lǐ  qī shàng bā xià, bù zhīdào gāi zěnme bàn.
Mary 现在    心 里 七 上       八 下,不 知道     该  怎么    办。


Mary felt agitated and did not know what she should do.

Miànshì jiéshù hòu, Lǐ Qiáng xīn lǐ  qī shàng bā xià, bù zhīdào jiéguǒ zěnme yàng.
面试      结束    后, 李  强     心 里 七 上       八 下,不  知道   结果     怎么     样。


After the interview, Li Qiang felt uneasy and did not know what the result is.

What’s more, the idiom “七上八下 (qīshàngbāxià)” also has an influence on how Chinese people choose their new houses. They prefer to choose the seventh floor over the eighth. This is related to the Chinese belief in the classical Chinese philosophy known as “风水(fēngshuǐ);" if you live on the seventh floor your fortunes will “上 (shàng), rise up” and if you live on the eighth floor, your fortunes will “下 (xià), sink down.”


1. Which of the following cannot describe “七上八下 (qī shàng bā xià)?”

A. calm

B. uneasy

C. agitated

2. If someone said that he felt “七上八下 (qīshàngbāxià),” then ___.

A. He might not have had a good sleep last night.

B. He was worrying about something.

C. He was hungry.

See answer


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