When you face a moment where it would help to dish out a compliment, say to a male partner or a friend or a friend’s son, China Simplified wants you to be armed and ready!
The current trendy expressions – 小鲜肉 xiǎo xiān ròu a hot guy (lit. little fresh meat), 男神 nán shén male god, and 高富帅 gāofù shuài tall, rich and handsome – are great among friends to show you know the latest pop culture sayings. In other settings, however, you may want to reach for a more sophisticated compliment, one able to communicate a degree of respect and intellectual substance.
Styles of expression come and go. Check out this translation from one of China’s greatest novels in description of Baoyu, its popular male protagonist:
“His face resembles the mid-autumn moon. His features hover like a flower on a spring morning. Sideburns trimmed sharp, as if cut by a knife. Eyebrows as if painted in ink. His cheeks are like peach blossoms, eyes like autumn ripples. When angry he seems to smile, and when he frowns, he still endears.”
— from Dream of Red Mansions by Cao Xueqin (1715-1763)
A wee bit of overkill? Perhaps. Lets explore five other male classic compliments, all still alive and well in the culture, to better prepare you with some praiseworthy firepower:
cái mào shuāngquán
Blessed with both talent and looks. Source: The Tales of the Serene Mountain by Hong Pian, Ming Dynasty.
To be eligible for this compliment, a man must score at least “8” on a 1-10 scale. Only through his pleasantness and generosity, however, can he earn a “10.” Originally male oriented, this phrase now applies to both genders.
Nǐ shàngbèizi jī de dé ba, nán péngyǒu zhēnshi cái mào shuāngquán!
“You must have done something amazing in your last life. Your boyfriend’s blessed with both talent and looks.”
Decent as a jade tree facing the wind. Source: Song of the Drunken Eight Immortals by Du Fu (712-770).
In praise of his outward demeanor, yet implying deep inner character, since the Chinese culture treasures jade.
Nǐ yùshù línfēng de yàngzi, ràng wǒ pēng rán xīndòng
“I’m moved by how well you hold yourself.”
Talented and unrestrained. Source: Slapping in the Table in Amazement by Ling Mengchu (1580-1644).
To praise a laid-back man who doesn’t fuss over details and isn’t easily annoyed. He’s also easy on the eye.
Nǐ niánqīng shí zhēnshi fēngliú tìtǎng, xiànzài yīrán.
“You’re still as cool as when you were young.”
A fine young man. Source: Records of the Grand Historian by Sima Qian (145-86BCE).
Implies delightfulness, sharpness, independence, and more. Applies to teens up to early twenties.
Tā zhuǎnyǎn yǐ zhǎng chéngyī wèi piānpiān shàonián.
“He’s grown into a delightful young man.”
Humble and gentlemanly. Source: I Ching (Book of Changes)
Again, if a man is score on a 0-10 scale, this refers to those who are scoring at least around 9. The pending one point depends on if he’s also a talented person. Compared with any of the above, he is a pleasure to be with guaranteed.
Tā shì qiānqiānjūnzǐ, cóng bù yǔ rén jìjiào.
“He is humble and gentleman, never being calculative when dealing with people.”
Good luck and don’t be afraid to give these phrases a go! Chinese idioms (成语 chéngyǔ) can be a fun way to get your point across. And feel free to visit our matching female post – Appreciating and Complimenting Female Beauty.
Download our book China Simplified: Language Gymnastics for more entertaining chéngyǔ. We call them four-character, less-is-more mini-poems providing writers and speakers with instant shortcuts to conveying their deeper meanings. Why elaborate when you can fire one of these laser-guided linguistic missiles into the fray and run for cover?