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赴汤蹈火

Discussion in '中文+方言 (Chinese)' started by DernierVirage, Jun 14, 2013.

  1. DernierVirage

    DernierVirage Senior Member

    Beijing, Hong Kong
    English - United Kingdom
    Good afternoon,

    I am trying to identify a 成语 that I came across in a textbook nearly 20 years ago (I unfortunately cannot remember the name of the book or its author, who was an American professor of Chinese).

    The English translation, if I remember correctly, was "to swim in boiling water and dance in fire". I cannot find the Chinese version in any of my dictionaries and my on-line searches have not helped either.

    Can anyone confirm the exact wording and meaning of this 成语?

    Thanks in advance.
     
  2. gniaugnin New Member

    Shanghai
    Wu Chinese
    Are you talking about 赴汤蹈火?
     
  3. SuperXW Senior Member

    如蹈水火 Found this in an online dictionary, but I never used nor heard of it.
    赴汤蹈火 sounds more like it. :D
     
  4. DernierVirage

    DernierVirage Senior Member

    Beijing, Hong Kong
    English - United Kingdom
    Yes, that's it! Thank you very much.

    Can you tell me when you would use it - for example, could you use it to describe someone being willing to endure hardship for their boss?
     
  5. DernierVirage

    DernierVirage Senior Member

    Beijing, Hong Kong
    English - United Kingdom
    You are in good company - my wife, who is from Hubei, did not know what I was referring to.
     
    Last edited: Jun 14, 2013
  6. SuperXW Senior Member

    Sure. 为了老板,他们可以赴汤蹈火!
    Or, 为了这个女人,我宁愿赴汤蹈火!
    Or, 就算赴汤蹈火,我也要……

    I can't remember 赴汤蹈火 either until gniaugnin reminded me...
    For "to swim in boiling water and dance in fire", most Chinese would literally think about the words for "swim", "boiled water"...We won't get 赴汤蹈火 in this way.
     
    Last edited: Jun 14, 2013
  7. gniaugnin New Member

    Shanghai
    Wu Chinese
    Yes, you may use it in this way, although it sounds a bit exaggerating. It's a kind of "big words", i.e. used with abstract or collective concepts, and is always followed by 在所不辞/在所不惜, eg 为了穷苦百姓,赴汤蹈火,在所不惜。For the sake of the poor mass, (I'm willing to) risk and endure difficulties with no regrets.(hope I've expressed myself correctly)
     
  8. DernierVirage

    DernierVirage Senior Member

    Beijing, Hong Kong
    English - United Kingdom
    Thanks to you both for your help. I was searching for a phrase with 水, instead of 汤, which is why I couldn't find it on-line!
     
  9. zhg Senior Member

    Chinese
    It could be used ,but I won't use it ,I save it up for something worth sacrificing my life, obviously my boss isn't on the list.
     
  10. gniaugnin New Member

    Shanghai
    Wu Chinese
    汤 means originally "hot water". Now in Japan and in some Chinese phrases and placenames still shows this meaning, like 汤山(hot-water hill) near Nanjing, where is famous for its hot spring.
     
  11. SuperXW Senior Member

    Unless he is standing right beside you asking you to do some project. :D
     
  12. DernierVirage

    DernierVirage Senior Member

    Beijing, Hong Kong
    English - United Kingdom
    gniaugnin, SuperXW, zhg: thanks again to you all for your comments, it's really helpful and interesting

    I was planning to explain this in a speech to a non-Chinese audience to express the idea of commitment to their boss (who happens to be me in fact)...so I think I will use it :D
     
  13. zhg Senior Member

    Chinese
    It was originally used in swearing vows ,making resolutions to accomplish certain tasks which were handed to them by their superiors , like between lords and kings, servants and masters,that is to say, it indicates inequal social statues , from an ancient Chinese point of view, it is considered as admiring deeds, but I feel that it is over-exaggerating to use it to describe an employee-employer relationship in a modern situation, I can hardly remember anyone around me still making such a strong commitment to their bosses.(As far as I understand ,the point is sacrificing lives, because it literally means to jump into the boiling water and stepping on the fire)
     
    Last edited: Jun 14, 2013
  14. DernierVirage

    DernierVirage Senior Member

    Beijing, Hong Kong
    English - United Kingdom
    So it has a bit of an "old fashioned" sound these days?
     
  15. SuperXW Senior Member

    I could say this to my boss, although it would be an obviously over-exaggerated vow, half-joking flattering words.
    e.g.
    Boss: 你一定要把这事给我办好!
    Me: 放心!我赴汤蹈火,在所不辞!
    Boss: (Leave me alone with a happy face.)

    Seriously, no employee would be willing to 赴汤蹈火 for their bosses.
    As far as I know, some pity Chinese employees do sacrifice a lot for their companies, but they haven't realized they were being exploited, or they had no other choice but to keep on. It's not like they were "willing to" 赴汤蹈火. I often call them 逆来顺受.
     
    Last edited: Jun 14, 2013
  16. Lucia_zwl

    Lucia_zwl Senior Member

    Very interesting discussion here! I agree with zhg and SuperXW that 赴汤蹈火 might be a bit serious and exagerating in this context. I would use other expressions like 同舟共济 or 同心协力,共渡难关. They describe someone being willing to work together with their boss to endure hardship (as if they were sailing a same boat), which is slightly different from your context.:)
     
  17. xiaolijie

    xiaolijie MOD

    UK
    English (UK)
    You'd create another modern myth by doing this :)
     
  18. DernierVirage

    DernierVirage Senior Member

    Beijing, Hong Kong
    English - United Kingdom
    Thanks for your interesting comments...can you think of any current day situation where 赴汤蹈火 could be used without sounding strange or exaggerated?
     
  19. DernierVirage

    DernierVirage Senior Member

    Beijing, Hong Kong
    English - United Kingdom
    I may choose a different expression in that case ;)
     
  20. BODYholic Senior Member

    Singapore
    Chinese Cantonese
    If 赴汤蹈火 is "serious and exaggerating". I wonder how would you categorize 两肋插刀? :D:):p

    DV,
    赴汤蹈火/两肋插刀 is typically followed by 在所不辞, as seen in post#15. These terms were originally quite serious in nature. In contemporary Chinese, however, you often find people use it in a tongue-in-cheek way.
     
  21. DernierVirage

    DernierVirage Senior Member

    Beijing, Hong Kong
    English - United Kingdom
    Thanks a lot - this is the key point for me....I think I will actually use it in my speech to my staff, just to add something interesting to my talk (none of them have any knowledge of Chinese), but clearly I need to be careful of the context if I ever actually use it with Chinese speakers.
     

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