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The Knowledge of “昙花” and “昙花一现”

There are many set phrases in Chinese language. Just like any other kind of language, set phrases inChinese language carry great cultural background. If students who study Chinese want to understand the meaning they should know the cultural background first.

“昙花一现” is a well-known phrase in China, which is noted in “The Contemporary Chinese Dictionary” as “the broad-leaved epiphyll, which will wither away soon after bloom. It is frequently used as a metaphor that something rare or somebody illustrious not last long.” Students who study in China should know that majorities of people are so familiar with such kind of flower that this explanation is acceptable for them.

However, the flower of “昙花一现” is not the familiar one in our daily life of today originally, but originated from the Buddhist Scriptures. 昙花is a transliteration of the Sanskrit “dumber” . Here is an ancient book studentslearn Chinese should know: 《法华经•方便品第二》. It says “佛告舍利弗,如是妙法,诸佛如来,时乃说之,如优昙钵花,时一现耳。” Another one is 《法华经•文句四上》, which says “优昙钵花三千年一现,现则金轮王(统治四大部洲的佛)出”.

Those sayings above are helpful for students to learn Mandarin Chinese, especially the phrase “昙花一现”. They tell us that the bloom of dumber is related to the appearance of 金轮王,so it’s hard to see for common people. Hence be cast a layer of mystery. In such case, someone call it “天花”while someone think it is just “想象中的植物(an imaginary plant)”.

When attending the one-on-one Chinese learning programs, more knowledge about it will be explained. Actually, judging from the description of《一切经音义》, dumber is not nonexistent in this world, it described the flower as“叶似梨,果大如拳,其味甘。无花而结实”. Therefore, we can deduce it is a plant belongs to fig class according to this description.

Maybe everyone who study Mandarin Chinese in China knows the famous book named “本草纲目” by a great pharmacology 李时珍of Ming Dynasty, in which he firmly confirmed “无花果乃映日果,即广东所谓优昙钵”. And the blossom of dumabara does not take so long time as three thousand years.

A famous poetry Su Shi in Song Dynasty is familiar to students who learn Chinese in China. He also have a verse of “优钵昙花岂有花,问师此曲唱谁家” in his poet ”赠蒲涧信长老诗”. He thought the blossom of dumabara is absolutely wrong according to above saying.

When attending Chinese learning programs, teachers will explain the dumber, which is a kind of fig plant whose pattern is varies from different sexuality, we can just see its fruit but not flower because the flower is concealed under the receptacle. This strange pattern makes people have many supernatural imaginations about its appearance.

If you want to know more extended knowledge about the phrase “昙花一现”, you can learn Chinese online free to get more information. But The “昙花” in 昙花一现” is exactly dumber. This phrase carries the meaning of a rare thing or something is hard to be seen. But the meaning is changing gradually as time goes on and always used as a metaphor to describe something disappeared very soon after appearing.

In order to be corresponding with this meaning, the dumber of fig plant is replaced by the epiphyll of the cactus accede. Another common sense students who learn Mandarin should know is that this plant was originally grown in the Tropical America. Nowadays, you can see them in many places in China. It blossom at night. It is beautiful and fragrant, but keeps too short. It will wither and fall after several hours’ blossom. So it is very suitable that people use it to describe things fade away very soon.

Students can deeply understand the meaning of the phrase “昙花一现” and can use it into daily conversation. The best way of understanding set phrases is to know more cultural background knowledge.
 

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