What does “上火(shànghuǒ)” mean in mandarin?

Chinese character – 火(huǒ)
The Chinese word “火 (huǒ)” literally means fire, but the word also has a few other meanings.

First, to describe something/somebody that is very popular.
For instance, “最近这个节目很火。 (Zuìjìn zhège jiémù hěn huǒ.) This show is really popular these days.”

Second, to refer to getting angry.
For example, “不要为了一点小事发火。(Bú yào wèi le yì diǎn xiǎo shì fāhuǒ.) Don’t get angry over such a trivial matter.”

Here is another instance when you might hear a “火 (huǒ)” phrase. If your friends or colleagues love to eat spicy food, you will probably hear them say “我上火了。(Wǒ shànghuǒ le. )”

“上 (shàng)” literally means “up.” When used in conjunction with “火 (huǒ),” a character which has many meanings, do you think “上火 (shànghuǒ)” also refers to something or somebody who is very popular, or does it refer to getting angry? Let’s have a closer look.

“上火 (shànghuǒ),” which is also called “热气 (rèqì),” is a term that is derived from Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). According to the theory of TCM, “上火(shànghuǒ)” is a symptom related to internal heat. TCM believes that the imbalance of yin and yang, and vigorous heat inside one’s body would lead to “上火 (shànghuǒ).” Here, the “火 (huǒ) internal heat” refers to some fever-like symptoms including red and swollen eyes, sore mouth and tongue, toothache, sore throat, etc.


Bié chī nàme duō lìzhī, róngyì shànghuǒ.
别 吃   那么 多    荔枝,容易  上火。
Don’t eat so many litchis, or you will suffer from excessive internal heat.

Nǐ yǎnjing zhème hóng, shì shànghuǒ le ba?
你 眼睛     这么     红,  是  上火        了 吧?
Why do your eyes get so red? Do you suffer from excessive internal heat?

Get to Know the Mandarin Phrase: 上火(shànghuǒ)

Besides internal body heat, “上火 (shànghuǒ)” can also be used to describe somebody who gets heated up, in the sense that he or she is angry.


Jīntiān chídào de rén tài duō le, jīnglǐ hěn shànghuǒ.
今天     迟到   的  人  太 多 了,经理 很    上火。
So many people came late today, and the manager is really upset.

Tā bǎ wǒ de huà dāng ěrbiānfēng, ràng wǒ hěn shànghuǒ.
她 把  我 的 话     当    耳边风 ,   让    我  很   上火。
She turns a deaf ear to what I say. It really makes me angry .

One thing to keep in mind is that, though the character “火 (huǒ)” can take on so many meanings, “上火 (shànghuǒ)” does not mean being popular. Now that it is summertime and the weather is burning hot, it’s easier than ever for people to suffer from excessive internal heat. Do you know any good way to get rid of all that heat that builds up in our bodies? Please let us know!
1. Which of the following is not a meaning of “上火 (shànghuǒ)”?
A. To be popular B.
To get inflamed
C. To suffer from excessive internal heat
2. The following are all symptoms of “上火 (shànghuǒ)” except ____.
A. Sore mouth and tongue
B. Toothache
C. Sneezing

2 thoughts on “What does “上火(shànghuǒ)” mean in mandarin?”

  1. elliot eckley

    非常有意思!谢谢你分享!但是,在最后的例子中,我觉得“她把我的话当耳边风,让我很上火”的“当”应该读为第四声(dang4)。上面写的是“dang1″。希望能尽早改正 :)

    1. Hi Elliot,

      谢谢你的留言。:). 我们也查证了,应该是当耳边风的读音应该是dāng ěrbiānfēng,原来没有问题的。

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