Since I posted a month ago about the The Weirdest (and most beautiful) Chinese Idiom I’ve seen, I have since stumbled onto another crazy Chinese peculiarity. This time in the form of a poem.

Lion-Eating Poet in the Stone Den

This poem is about a man in a stone den who likes to eat lions. Yes it is a bit odd, but that’s not the strange thing. The poem consists entirely out of shi syllables. Here is the Hanzi:

《施氏食狮史》 石室诗士施氏,嗜狮,誓食十狮。 氏时时适市视狮。 十时,适十狮适市。 是时,适施氏适市。 氏视是十狮,恃矢势,使是十狮逝世。 氏拾是十狮尸,适石室。 石室湿,氏使侍拭石室。 石室拭,氏始试食是十狮。 食时,始识是十狮,实十石狮尸。 试释是事。

And here is the Pinyin:

« Shī Shì shí shī shǐ » Shíshì shīshì Shī Shì, shì shī, shì shí shí shī. Shì shíshí shì shì shì shī. Shí shí, shì shí shī shì shì. Shì shí, shì Shī Shì shì shì. Shì shì shì shí shī, shì shǐ shì, shǐ shì shí shī shìshì. Shì shí shì shí shī shī, shì shíshì. Shíshì shī, Shì shǐ shì shì shíshì. Shíshì shì, Shì shǐ shì shí shì shí shī. Shí shí, shǐ shí shì shí shī, shí shí shí shī shī. Shì shì shì shì.

What a tongue twister! However, this is not particular to Chinese. One gets a similar sentence Buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo in English as well. Here is a video of someone reading the poem:


I’m not even sure if native speakers of Chinese will be able to grasp every detail. If you managed to follow the story, you are surely well on your way to fluency! If you want to check out the full translation check the wikipedia page for more info.

Occurences like this just makes me adore languages so much more.