According to Traditional Chinese Medicine, emotions are connected to specific organs. When emotions are suppressed or inhibited this can cause disease or serious physical complaints. By ‘balancing’ the organ associated with that emotion, the emotion will also rebalance. In order to make a diagnosis, a practitioner of TCM will ask many questions about the patient’s personal life as well as health, as it may be an issue at home or at work that is causing the problem.
In Chinese medicine, fear is associated with the kidneys and can cause problems urinating, insomnia and hearing loss to name a few.
Expressing fear of something in Chinese is quite simple. Just use the following pattern:
Subject + 怕 (pà) + thing
我怕老鼠。(wǒ pà lǎo shǔ) I’m afraid of mice.
他怕胖。(tā pà pàng) He is afraid of putting on weight.
To tell someone not to be afraid use:
不要怕！(bù yào pà)
Both phrases can be used to mean ‘Don’t be afraid’ and can also be used in a sentence:
你不要怕我的狗。(nǐ bù yào pà wǒ de gǒu) Don’t be afraid of my dog.
There are several other common phrases that can be used, depending on the degree of fear.
我怕死了。(wǒ pà sǐ le) I am scared to death.
‘死了’ (sǐ le) is often used with a verb to describe being affected to the extreme.
For example, 累死了 (lèi sǐ le) Exhausted or literally ‘tired to death’ and 饿死了 (è sǐ le) which means starving. My personal favourite is 烦死了(fán sǐ le) meaning ‘to annoy to death’
我害怕！(wǒ hài pà) I’m afraid!
恐惧 (kǒng jù) means ‘to be terrified’ and is most frequently seen in formal literature rather than in spoken Chinese. It can also be used a noun to mean ‘terror’.
Interestingly, 恐惧 (kǒng jù) is often used to produce a ‘phobia’, for example, 幽闭恐惧 (yōu bì kǒng jù) is claustrophobia, the fear or confined spaces, and 广场恐惧 (guǎng chǎng kǒng jù) is agoraphobia, the fear of crowded public places.
恐惧来源于未知。(kǒng jù lái yuán yú wèi zhī) Fear comes from the unknown.
If something is scary, such as a movie or activity, use the bigram
可怕 (kě pà)
这部电影好可怕。 (zhè bù diàn yǐng hǎo kě pà) This movie is really scary.
To describe a thing as being scary, use:
恐怖的 (kǒng bù de) + noun
恐怖的房子. (kǒng bù de fáng zi) Scary house
恐怖的电视节目。(kǒng bù de diàn shì jié mù) Horror TV show
If you want to say that something scares someone, then you can use the following phrase:
Something + 吓 (xià) + someone
不要用虫子吓她。(bù yào yòng chóng zi xià tā)
Don’t use bugs to scare her.
Nervous & Anxious
Worry affects the spleen according to traditional Chinese medicine and may cause the following symptoms: loss of appetite, poor digestion, and bleeding disorders.
紧张 (jǐn zhāng) to be nervous
想到一会儿的比赛，我有点紧张。(xiǎng dào yī huìr de bǐ sài, wǒ yǒu diǎn jǐn zhāng)
I feel a little nervous about the interview later.
着急 (zháo jí) to feel anxious or worried
他很着急， 但没有表露出来。(tā hěn zháo jí, dàn méi yǒu biǎo lù chū lái)
He was nervous but didn’t show it.
If you are worried about someone or something, use:
担心 (dān xīn) which means ‘to worry about’.
你不用担心以后的事情。(nǐ bù yòng dān xīn yǐ hòu de shì qíng) You don’t need to worry about the future.
The follow sentence pattern can be used to express worry about something.
为 (wèi) + something + 着急 (zháo jí)
不用为他的工作着急，他自己会处理好的。(bù yòng wèi tā de gōng zuò zháo jí, tā zì jǐ huì chǔ lǐ hǎo de)
Don’t worry about his job, he can deal with it himself.
If you feel depressed or overly anxious, your heart will be affected in the following ways: insomnia, palpitations or poor memory.
高兴 (gāo xìng) happy, glad
见到你很高兴。(jiàn dào nǐ hěn gāo xìng) It’s so nice to meet you
开心 (kāi xīn) to feel happy
今天玩得开不开心啊？(jīn tiān wán de kāi bù kāi xīn a) Are you happy today?
Whereas 开心 (kāi xīn) and 高兴 (gāo xìng) are pretty much interchangeable, 幸福 (xìng fú) the meaning is of a longer lasting happiness of feeling content due to having one’s needs met.
幸福 (xìng fú) happiness
她在一个幸福的家庭里长大。(tā zài yī gè xìng fú de jiā tíng lǐ zhǎng dà) She grew up in a happy home.
Sadness is associated with the lungs in TCM and may show with a cough, runny nose and headaches.
You can negate many words that describe happiness to produce the opposite effect.
For example once negated, both 不高兴 (bù gāo xìng) and 不开心 (bù kāi xīn) mean unhappy.
难过 (nán guò) sad, hurt
我很孤单， 很难过。(wǒ hěn gū dān, hěn nán guò) I’m lonely and hurting.
悲伤 (bēi shāng) lament, grieve
悲伤使她心碎。(bēi shāng shǐ tā xīn suì) Her heart broke with sadness.
心酸 (xīn suān) to feel sad.
她的遭遇听着让我心酸。(tā de zāo yù tìng zhe ràng wǒ xīn suān) Listening to her experiences made me feel sad.
兴奋 (xīng fèn) excited
听到这首歌，他兴奋地跳了起来。(tīng dào zhè shǒu gē, tā xīng fèn dì tiào le qǐ lai)
He jumped excitedly when he heard the song.
活跃 (huó yuè) active and lively
他很文静， 但是他的妹妹实在太活跃了。(tā hěn wén jìng, dàn shì tā de mèi mei shí zài tài huó yuè le)
He is quiet, but his sister is extremely lively.
Using the word ‘love’ in Chinese culture is reserved for genuine feelings.
The following words can be used to describe something you are fond of or like:
爱 (ài), 喜欢 (xǐ huan), 喜爱 (xǐ ài) & 钟爱 (zhōng ài)
这是他最喜爱的一本书。(zhè shì tā zuì xǐ ài de yī běn shū) This is one of his favorite books.
热爱 (rè ài) & 酷爱 (kù ài) can be used to describe ‘passion’ for something or someone.
他天性浪漫，热爱艺术。(tā tiān xìng làng màn rè ài yì shù) He has a romantic nature and a great passion for art.
渴望 (kě wàng) to desire, long for
她渴望成为一位母亲。(tā kě wàng chéng wéi yī wèi mǔ qīn) She longed to be a mother.
崇拜 (chóng bài) adore
他很崇拜他的父亲。(tā hěn chóng bài tā de fù qīn) He adores his father.
羡慕 (xiàn mù) to envy or admire
她的美貌让众人羡慕不已。(tā de měi mào ràng zhòng rén xiàn mù bù yǐ) Her beauty was admired by everyone.
Whilst 羡慕 (xiàn mù) is used to express admiration for someone or something, 嫉妒 (jí dù) and 眼红 (yǎn hóng) would be used to express jealousy or hatred.
Someone + 嫉妒 (jí dù) + someone
她嫉妒她的朋友获奖。(tā jí dù tā de péng you huò jiǎng) She begrudged her friend the award.
眼红 (yǎn hóng) to be green with envy
他看到邻居的新车就眼红。(tā kàn dào lín jū de xīn chē jiù yǎn hóng) He was jealous when he saw his neighbour’s new car.
You probably already know how to say ‘I don’t like’ (我不喜欢) in Chinese, and this is probably the least serious type of dislike or disgust. The next few bigrams can be used to express disgust in varying degrees:
讨厌 (tǎo yàn)
我讨厌甜食。(wǒ tǎo yàn tián shí) I dislike dessert.
厌恶 (yàn wù) to be disgusted with something
他素来厌恶变革。 (tā sù lái yàn wù biàn gé) He loathed change.
嫌恶 (xián wù) is around the same as 厌恶 (yàn wù) on the animosity scale but is almost always used in written Chinese. 厌恶 (yàn wù) can be used in both spoken and written Chinese.
嫌恶 (xián wù) to loathe, be disgusted
他的行为找人嫌恶。(tā de xíng wéi zhǎo rén xián wù) Everyone was disgusted by his behaviour.
恶心 (è xīn) is the most ‘hurtful’ and is often used to express emotions about a person or thing.
恶心 (è xīn) bad habit, vice
你让我恶心。(nǐ ràng wǒ è xīn) You make me sick.
反感 (fǎn gǎn) is a polite and more educated way to describe emotions and or opinions towards a behaviour, especially ideological movements or discrimination. 反感 (fǎn gǎn) would not be used in a hurtful way, like 恶心 (è xīn) and can often be interchanged with 讨厌 (yàn wù).
他傲慢的态度让人反感。(tā ào màn de tài du ràng rén fǎn gǎn) His arrogance was detestable.
嫌弃 (xián qì) can be used to express the desire to avoid or reject someone or something. The tone of this word is quite light and is often used to distinguish that one thing is better than another. For example, if you have two pens, and one is better quality, you might say:
我嫌弃这支笔。 (wǒ xián qì zhè zhī bǐ) I dislike this pen.
Anger is associated with the liver and some of the symptoms of this organ being imbalanced are headaches, nausea and jaundice.
生气 (shēng qì) to get angry
我生气是因为你说谎了。(wǒ shēng qì shì yīn wèi nǐ shuō huǎng le) I was angry because you lied.
愤怒 (fèn nù) angry, indignant
他感到愤怒和极度的绝望。(tā gǎn dào fèn nù hé jí dù de jué wàng) He felt indignant and extremely desperate.
You can learn more words and phrases to describe anger and hate in our previous post Feeling Angry? Learn How to Insult Someone in Chinese.