傾國傾城

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Chinese[edit]

to make a nation collapse; to be destroyed; to collapse to make a city or state collapse
trad. (傾國傾城) 傾國 傾城
simp. (倾国倾城) 倾国 倾城
alternative forms 傾城傾國倾城倾国
Literally: “capable of causing the downfall of a city or state”.

Etymology[edit]

From the story of Consort Li, a concubine to the Emperor Wu of Han:

孝武夫人夫人歌舞感動
起舞:「北方佳人絕世獨立不知傾城傾國佳人!」
歎息:「?」
平陽女弟召見妙麗昌邑哀王
[Classical Chinese, trad.]
孝武夫人夫人歌舞感动
起舞:“北方佳人绝世独立不知倾城倾国佳人!”
叹息:“?”
平阳女弟召见妙丽昌邑哀王
[Classical Chinese, simp.]
From: The Book of Han, circa 1st century CE
Xiàowǔ Lǐ fūrén, běn yǐ chàng jìn. Chū, fūrén xiōng Yánnián xìng zhī yīn, shàn gēwǔ, Wǔ dì ài zhī. Měi wéi xīn shēng biàn qǔ, wén zhě mò bù gǎndòng.
Yánnián shì shàng qǐwǔ, gē yuē: “Běifāng yǒu jiārén, juéshì ér dúlì, qīng rén chéng, zài qīng rén guó. Nìng bùzhī qīngchéngqīngguó, jiārén nán zài dé!”
Shàng tànxī yuē: “Shàn! Shì qǐ yǒu cǐ rén hū?”
Píngyáng zhǔ yīn yán Yánnián yǒu nǚdì, shàng nǎi zhàojiàn zhī, shí miàolì shàn wǔ. Yóu shì dé xìng, shēng yī nán, shì wéi Chāngyì Āiwáng.
[Pinyin]
Consort Li, concubine to the Emperor Wu of Han, was originally a dancing performer. Her brother Yannian was a gifted musician and dancer, beloved by the emperor. Every time he composed something new, it never failed to move those listening to it.
One day, Yannian did a dance and sang, “There is a beauty in the north, who stands out among the generations. One look will topple the men of the city. A second look will topple the men of the country. I would rather not know about toppled cities and toppled countries, because a beauty of this caliber may not come around again!”
His majesty sighed and said, “Wow! Can there really be such a person in this world?”
Whereupon Pingyang mentioned that Yannian had a sister. His majesty summoned her, and she was indeed a sight to behold, and a good dancer. As a result, she received the emperor's favor, and bore him a son; this was Prince Ai of Changyi. (Wiktionary translation)

Pronunciation[edit]


Idiom[edit]

傾國傾城

  1. (figuratively, of a woman) to be devastatingly beautiful; to be drop-dead gorgeous

Descendants[edit]

  • Vietnamese: nghiêng nước nghiêng thành (calque)