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Meat is Not Always Meat in China

Do you like eating meat, such as beef, pork, and mutton? In Chinese, meat is called “ròu” (肉). Beef is “niú ròu” (牛肉), pork is “zhū ròu” (猪肉), and mutton is “yáng ròu” (羊肉). So you see, you can put any kind of animal’s name before the meat, which contributes to the meaning of animals’ meat, and that represents the word formation of Chinese. In Chinese, “ròu” also has another meaning, which indicates the parts of fruits and vegetables that you eat. We often say “guǒ ròu” (果肉) in Chinese to express the parts that we can eat in fruits and vegetables. There are some Chinese words related to meat, such as “ròu má” (肉麻), “ròu sè” (肉色), and “gǔ ròu” (骨肉). And their meanings are nauseating, incarnadine, and flesh and blood. Especially the last one—“gǔ ròu”—is related to kindred, which can always be used to describe one’s child, such as the Chinese phrase “Qīn shēng gǔ ròu” (one’s own flesh and blood).


Example A:

nǐ xǐ huān chī niú ròu ma
你 喜  欢  吃  牛  肉 吗?
do you like beef?


Example B: 

Zuì jìn wǒ jīng cháng chī lì zhī, tā de guǒ ròu zhēn shì duō zhī xiān měi ya.
Recently, I often eat lychee and its “meat” is juicy and fresh.

Helen Fang

Helen is a master of Teaching Chinese as A Foreign Language. She worked in South Korea for one year to teach Chinese in Confucius Institute. She has published some thesis relating to teaching Chinese on “Chinese teaching and research”. Many years learning and teaching make her put the theories into practice. Now, she is working as senior Mandarin teacher at TouchChinese.

This Post Has One Comment

  1. Thanks Helen! As you say, 肉 generally means meat, flesh or pulp.

    肉眼 (ròuyǎn) is an interesting expression, it means ‘naked eye’, I suppose in this case 肉 conveys the meaning of ‘naked’ or ‘raw’.

    I always wondered why 肉 appears in the word for cinnamon: 肉桂 (ròuguì). Do you know? My guess is that here, 肉 also means ‘naked’ or ‘raw’, since cinnamon comes from the raw bark of certain trees.

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