Chinese Idiom: 四面楚歌


Working with kids is one of the hardest things to do. You have to keep them under control, deal with tantrums, deal with petty conflicts, and so on. I have respect for those who can truly say they love working with kids. I find that I cannot say the same.



The worst nightmare is being surrounded by yelling and scrambling kids trying to get your attention about someone they want “to tell on”. As several try to jump on your back, you try to call out to get their attention but it’s not match for the collective shouting of toddlers.


This aptly describes what it is like to facing hostility or difficulty on all sides. In Chinese, this is called 四面楚歌 (sì miàn chǔ gē). This literally means “four sides enemy songs”. This is pretty much like having 20 kids all over you screaming.

The story behind this Chinese idiom came from battle. In Ancient China, there was a battle between two states, Chu and Han. General Xiang Yu of Chu was defending the city of Gai Xia but was losing battle after battle. When the opposing general was on the verge of victory, he had his troops sing songs in a Chu accent.

The enemy had surrounded the city of Gai Xia so there was enemy singing on all sides in the accent of the Chu. There was no hope of winning anymore and this is where the idiom came about.

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