The Year of the Ox starts on 12 February 2021. The Chinese zodiac of ox is characterized by hard work and endurance, yet lacking expressive emotions. The Chinese character for ox is 牛 (which also means ‘cow’). Famous people who were born in the Year of Ox include Jim Carey, Meryl Streep, , Barack Obama, Princess Diana, to name a few.
Let’s take a look at some common Chinese idioms that include the word 牛.
对牛弹琴 duì niú tán qín
Literally meaning playing zither to a cow. This phrase is used to ridicule someone who does not understand what the other person is saying. A close English equivalent is “to cast pearls before swine”.
牛郎织女 niú láng zhī nǚ
Literally meaning the cowherd and the weaver girl. This phrase is used as a metaphor for a couple who live in separate places, and is also used to refer to a pair of lovers.
牛马生活 niú mǎ shēng huó
Literally meaning the life of cows and horses, this phrase is an analogy to an exploited life.
汗牛充屋 hàn niú chōng wū
This phrase is used to describe a vast collection of books.
牛皮大王 niú pí dà wáng
This phrase refers to people who only brag but do not do the real thing.
牛不喝水强按头 niú bù hē shuǐ qiǎng àn tóu
This phrase means using coercion to subdue.
牛眠龙绕 niú mián lóng rào
This phrase is used to describe good feng shui. Feng shui believes that a location that resembles a sleeping ox or a curling dragon to be highly auspicious.
放牛归马 fàng niú guī mǎ
Literally, this phrase means oxen and horses used in war are released. It is a metaphor that a war has come to an end.
牛衣夜哭 niú yī yè kū
This phrase describes a couple that lead a poor life together.
牛不出头 niú bù chū tóu
This phrase is used sarcastically to refer to someone who does not show up.
黑牛白角 hēi niú bái jiǎo
Literally meaning black ox white horn. This phrase is used to describe that things must follow rules.
牛头马面 niú tóu mǎ miàn
This is a metaphor for all kinds of ugly, evil people. The phrase originates from the superstition of two ghost soldiers, one with a cow’s head, another one with a horse’s head.