Chinese Idiom: 反复推敲 (fǎn fù tuī qiāo)


One of the most difficult things in life is to find your true passion, and then immediately after is when you need to decide what to eat.


I would first like to say that this is a first world problem and that many people across the globe don’t have such a privileged dilemma. This makes it all the more baffling, it shouldn’t be that hard!

In groups, this gets infinitely harder as different people like different things and they also might be “feeling” like eating certain things. After half an hour of deliberation, you’ve already lost half of your lunch break.

This conundrum is called 反复推敲 (fǎn fù tuī qiāo) in Chinese. Except this is something much more sophisticated than deciding what to stuff to put in your mouth and then having it come out as waste.

This phrase originated when a poet had difficulty deciding between two phrases for his poem: push on a door or knock on a door.

Jia Dao, the poet, asked a fellow poet and decided that “knock” was better than “push”. Upon hearing the other poet’s opinion, Jia Dao was grateful for his companion’s help in his problem and thanked him. And so, the friendship between the two men became stronger.

Jia Dao’s actions led to people using the idiom 反复推敲 (fǎn fù tuī qiāo) to describe the pains of coming up with the right word for a certain description. Literally, the idiom means “to repeatedly push and knock”.

This idiom can also be used to describe someone taking a long time to decide on something – just like how Jia Dao took quite a long time to decide on which word to use.

Next time you’re deciding on what to eat, don’t make it too hard! It isn’t as hard a problem as writer’s block, and many people don’t have a choice for food either!

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