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Chinese Idiom Series: “One Speaks with a Flow of Eloquence”

“Words have power. Words are power. Words can be your power.” These words are related to one useful Chinese idiom.

Have you seen someone deliver a flawless speech that speaks to the heart and appeals to the soul? A delivery that is incredibly perplexing in that it changes your perspective. A performance at the highest level that all aspects of the speech fit perfectly.

If you’re a fan of competitive public speaking, such a presentation may not be new to you. After all, these speakers hone their skills to reach the pinnacle of human eloquence. People describe these individuals differently. Some people say they “speak roses.” Others classify them as “smart as a cookie.” In China, we say 口若悬河 (kǒu ruò xuán hé)

Chinese idiom of eloquence
Chinese idiom of eloquence

At first glance, this idiom may sound eccentric or perhaps an insult. After all, it literally translates into “a person’s mouth is like a spring.” Some may mistake that the idiom pertains to people who do not stop talking, like a spring forever flowing. However, it has a deeper meaning. The idiom 口若悬河 (kǒu ruò xuán héis one useful Chinese idiom and means “one speaks with a flow of eloquence.”

The idiom 口若悬河 (kǒu ruò xuán héis one of the idioms that are generally mistaken. People think that this idiom is an insult. However, that claim can’t be farther from the truth. That is one of the reasons why it is imperative to learn about idioms. It allows people to use the expression accurately, semantically, and syntactically. 

However, before everything, let us delve into the origin of this idiom. After all, like many idioms, 口若悬河 (kǒu ruò xuán hé) originated from a historical allusion. 

In the Jin Dynasty, there was a great scholar named Guo Xiang, whose courtesy name was Zixuan.

When he was young, he was already a very talented person. Especially, he can pay close attention to some phenomena he comes into contact with in his daily life, and then calmly think about the truth. Therefore, his knowledge is very profound, and he often has unique opinions about things. Later, he devoted himself to studying the theories of Laozi and Zhuangzi, and had a deep understanding of their theories.

Over the years, the court sent people to invite him again and again. He couldn’t refuse to drop it, so he agreed and went to the court to be an assistant minister of Huangmen. When he arrived in Beijing, because of his rich knowledge, he was able to speak eloquently about everything. Besides, his eloquence was very good and he liked to express his opinions very much, so whenever people listened to his talk, they felt with relish. At that time, there was a Qiu Wang Yan who greatly appreciated Guo Xiang’s eloquence. He often praised Guo Xiang in front of others, saying, “Listening to Guo Xiang’s words is like a river hanging upside down, pouring down endlessly and never running out.”

Now that we are well aware of the idiom’s origin, let us now examine its knowledge points.

Knowledge points

口若悬河 (kǒu ruò xuán hé): One’s words are like a river hanging upside down (waterfall), pouring down endlessly and never running out. This idiom is to praise a person for his eloquence.

  (kǒu): The third tone, means mouth.

 (ruò): The fourth tone. be like, resemble

悬河 (xuán hé): Both are second tones, which means waterfall.


Tā kǒuruòxuánhé, zú zú jiǎngle yí gè xiǎoshí.


He was eloquent and talked for a whole hour.

Now that we deeply understand the topic, try a short exercise to master the topic perfectly.


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