You know Sally sells seashells by the seashore, but what are the Chinese equivalents? Check out these 31 funny and challenging Chinese tongue twisters.
No matter what language you grew up speaking, you probably remember learning a few tongue twisters when you were younger. You might also remember having a good laugh with your friends as you all struggled to get through the toughest tongue twisters, even in your native language. Although it might be a bit embarrassing to get tripped up with a silly tongue twister, the absurdity of the situation is what makes tongue twisters so much fun!
I mean, really, when and why would you need to know how much wood would a woodchuck chuck? Or how many pecks of pickled peppers Peter Piper picked? Who cares! But that’s not the point, and messing around with tongue twisters and making silly mistakes has an essential place in any language learner’s journey. It’s a different skill than, say, knowing how to write a letter in Chinese.
Practicing how to say a few tongue twisters will help you practice your pronunciation and nail down tricky sounds. Even if you butcher entirely the tones the first few times, laughing about it will also help you improve your language skills. A 2023 study found evidence of the benefits of using tongue twisters, which can help you enjoy the learning process!
So, are you ready to learn your first 绕口令 (rào kǒu lìng), or tongue twister in Chinese? We’ll break them down into beginner, intermediate, and advanced levels, so you’ll be able to find something at your level, no matter where you’re at.
And don’t think about leaving this page halfway through if you find that they’re all too hard! We’re including five expert tips for learning Chinese tongue twisters at the very end, so make sure you read all the way through.
Let’s jump right in!
Beginner Chinese tongue twisters
Some of the simplest Chinese tongue twisters are just words. Because of the sounds of the characters, a simple word like taxi (出租车) can sound like a little tongue twister! Here are some of the most common tongue twisters for beginners:
|chū zū chē
|chu tzu che
|Red carp and green carp and donkey
|hóng lǐ yú yǔ lǜ lǐ yú yǔ lǘ
|horng lii yu yeu liuh lii yu yeu liu
|Four is four
Ten is ten
Fourteen is fourteen
Forty is forty.
|sì shì sì
shí shì shí
shí sì shì shí sì
sì shí shì sì shí.
|syh shyh syh
shyr shyh shyr
shyr syh shyh shyr syh
syh shyr shyh syh shyr.
|Xi Shi died at 44
|xī shī sǐ shí sì shí sì
|shi shy syy shyr syh shyr syh
|Eat grapes without spitting out the grape skins,
don’t eat grapes and spit out the grape skins.
|chī pú táo bù tǔ pú táo pí,
bù chī pú táo dào tǔ pú táo pí.
|chy pwu taur buh tuu pwu taur pyi,
buh chy pwu taur daw tuu pwu taur pyi.
|The old man brought the soup to the tower,
and poured the soup on the tower to scald the tower.
|lǎo tóu duān tāng shàng tǎ,
tǎ huá tāng sǎ tāng tàng tǎ.
|lao tour duan tang shanq taa,
taa hwa tang saa tang tanq taa.
|Black butterflies fly,
Gray butterflies fly,
The black butterflies have finished flying,
Gray butterflies fly.
|hēi hú dié fēi,
hūi hú dié fēi,
hēi hú dié fēi wán,
hūi hú dié fēi.
|hei hwu dye fei,
hu hwu dye fei
hei hwu dye fei wan,
hu hwu dye fei.
|hóng fèng huáng,
fěn fèng huáng,
fěn hóng fèng huáng huā fèng huáng
|horng fenq hwang,
feen fenq hwang,
feen horng fenq hwang hua fenq hwang
|If you know say you know,
if you don’t know say you don’t know,
don’t say you don’t know when you know,
and don’t say you know when you don’t know, do you know?
|zhī dào jiù shuō zhī dào,
bù zhī dào jiù shuō bù zhī dào,
bù yào zhī dào shuō bù zhī dào,
yě bù yào bù zhī dào shuō zhī dào,
nǐ zhī dào bù zhī dào?
|jy daw jiow shuo jy daw,
buh jy daw jiow shuo bu jy daw,
buh yaw jy daw shuo bu jy daw,
yee buh yaw buh jy daw shuo jy daw,
nii jy daw buh jy daw?
|On the tree is a pear
On the ground is mud
The wind knocks off the pear
The pear falls to the ground
The pear rolls in the mud
The mud moistens the pear.
|shù shàng yǒu lí
dì shàng yǒu ní
fēng guā lí
lí luò dì
lí gǔn ní
ní zhān lí.
|shuh shanq yeou li
dih shanq yeou ni
feng gua li
li luoh dih
li goen ni
ni jan li.
|There is a child named Qiaoqiao,
and Qiaoqiao's brother named Qiaoqiao.
Qiaoqiao takes Qiaoqiao boating,
Qiaoqiao and Qiaoqiao visit their grandma.
|yǒu gè xiǎo hái jiào qiǎo qiao,
qiǎo qiao gē ge jiào qiáo qiao,
qiáo qiao huá chuán dài qiǎo qiao,
qiǎo qiao qiáo qiao kàn lǎo lao.
|yeou geh sheau hair jiaw cheau chiau,
cheau chiau ge ge jiaw chyau chiau,
chyau chiau hwa chwan day cheau chiau,
cheau chiau chyau chiau kann lao lhau.
|The flowers of the yellow flowers are yellow,
The flowers are yellow, every blossom of the yellow flowers is yellow.
Every yellow flower is both yellow and fragrant,
The flowers of the yellow flowers are very fragrant, they grow towards the sun.
|huáng huā huā huáng huáng huā huáng,
huā huáng huáng huā duǒ duǒ huáng.
duǒ duǒ huáng huā huáng yòu xiāng,
huáng huā huā xiāng xiàng tài yáng.
|hwang hua hua hwang hwang hua hwang,
hua hwang hwang hua duoo duoo hwang.
duoo duoo hwang hua hwang yow shiang,
hwang hua hua shiang shianq tay yang.
Intermediate Chinese tongue twisters
If you’re a step above a beginner speaker, then you might be up for a slightly bigger challenge. The following tongue twisters are much more challenging than the one above, and even native speakers might struggle to get through them!
|Black fertilizer turns gray,
Gray fertilizer turns black.
If the black fertilizer turns gray, it will volatilize.
If the gray fertilizer volatilizes, it will turn black.
|hēi huà féi fā huī,
huī huà féi fā hēi.
Hēi huà féi fā huī huì huī fā,
huī huà féi huī fā huì fā hēi.
|hei huah feir fa huei huei huah feir fa hei hei huah feir fa huei huey huei fa huei huah feir huei fa huey fa hei.
|On the pink wall, a Phoenix was painted,
A Phoenix was painted on the pink wall.
Red phoenix, pink phoenix, red-pink phoenix and flowery phoenix.
|fěn hóng qiáng shàng huà fèng huáng,
fèng huáng huà zài fěn hóng qiáng.
Hóng fèng huáng,
fěn fèng huáng,
hóng fěn fèng huáng huā fèng huáng.
|feen horng chyang shanq huah fenq hwang fenq hwang huah tzay feen horng chyang horng fenq hwang feen fenq hwang horng feen fenq hwang hua fenq hwang.
|Eight hundred pacesetters rush to the north slope
On the north slope, eight hundred artillerymen have cannons.
The pacesetter is afraid of touching the artilleryman's cannons
Artillerymen are afraid of hitting the pacesetters.
|bā bǎi biāo bīng bèn běi pō,
běi pō bā bǎi pào bīng pào,
biāo bīng pà pèng pào bīng pào,
pào bīng pà bǎ biāo bīng pèng.
|ba bae biau bing ben beei po,
beei po ba bae paw bing paw,
biau bing pah penq paw bing paw,
paw bing pah baa biau bing penq.
|Grandma Liu is looking for Grandma Niu to buy milk. Grandma Niu gives Grandma Liu some milk. Grandma Liu says that Grandma Niu's milk isn't as good as Grandma Liu's milk.
|liú nǎi nai zhǎo niú nǎi nai mǎi niú nǎi,
niú nǎi nai gěi liú nǎi nai ná niú nǎi,
liú nǎi nai shuō niú nǎi nai de niú nǎi bù rú liǔ nǎi nai de niú nǎi.
|liou nae nhai jao niou nae nhai mae niou nae,
liou nae nhai shuo niou nae nhai de niou nae buh ru leou nae nhai de niou nae.
|Cowherd loves Maid Liu,
Maid Liu yearns for Cowherd.
Year after year, Cowherd loves Maid Liu.
Year after year, Maid Liu yearns for Cowherd.
Cowherd loves Maid, Maid yearns for Cowherd.
Yearning Maid loving Maid, yearning Cowherd, loving Cowherd.
Yearning, loving the Maid and the Cowherd.
|niú láng liàn liú niáng,
liú niáng niàn niú láng.
niú láng nián nián liàn liú niáng,
liú niáng nián nián niàn niú láng.
láng liàn niáng lái niáng niàn láng,
niàn niáng liàn niáng niàn láng liàn láng,
niàn liàn niáng láng.
|niou lang liann liou niang,
liou niang niann niou lang.
niou lang nian nian liann liou niang,
liou niang nian nian niann niou lang.
lang liann niang lai niang niann lang,
niann niang liann niang niann lang liann lang,
niann liann niang lang.
|There is a goose standing at the bottom of the slope, and there is a river at the bottom of the slope.
The river is wide, the goose is fat… The goose has to cross the river, and the river has to cross the goose.
Don’t know whether the goose crosses the river or the river crosses the goose.
|pō xià lì zhe yì zhī é,
pō xià jiù shì yì tiáo hé.
kuān kuān de hé,
féi féi de é,
é yào guò hé,
hé yào dù é,
bù zhī shì é guò hé,
hái shì hé dù é.
|po shiah lih je i jyy er,
po shiah jiow shyh i tyau her.
kuan kuan de her,
feir feir de er,
er yaw guoh her,
her yaw duh er,
buh jy shyh er guoh her,
hair shyh her duh er.
|There is a painter in the seventh lane and a tinsmith in the west lane.
The painter in the seventh lane used the tin from the tinsmith in the west lane, and the tinsmith in the west lane used the paint from the painter in the seventh lane.
The painter in the seventh lane was angry that the tinsmith in the west lane used paint, and the tinsmith in the west lane ridiculed the painter in the seventh lane for taking tin.
|qī xiàng yí gè qī jiàng,
xī xiàng yí gè xī jiàng.
qī xiàng qī jiàng yòng le xī xiàng xī jiàng de xī,
xī xiàng xī jiàng ná le qī xiàng qī jiàng de qī.
qī xiàng qī jiàng qì xī xiàng xī jiàng yòng le qī,
xī xiàng xī jiàng jī qī xiàng qī jiàng ná le xī.
|chi shianq i geh chi jianq,
shi shianq i geh shi jianq.
chi shianq chi jianq yonq lhe shi shianq shi jianq de shi,
shi shianq shi jianq na lhe chi shianq chi jianq de chi.
chi shianq chi jianq chih shi shianq shi jianq yonq lhe chi,
shi shianq shi jianq ji chi shianq chi jianq na lhe shi.
|After going out of the south gate and walking six steps, I met my sixth uncle and my sixth uncle, who lent me six buckets and six liters of good mung beans.
After autumn, I harvested the beans and returned to my sixth uncle and my sixth uncle sixty-six buckets and six liters of good mung beans.
|chū nán mén, zǒu liù bù,
jiàn zhe liù shū hé liù jiù,
jiè wǒ liù dǒu liù shēng hǎo lǜ dòu;
guò le qiū, dǎ le dòu,
huán wǒ liù shū liù jiù liù shí liù dǒu liù shēng hǎo lǜ dòu.
|chu nan men, tzoou liow buh,
jiann je liow shu her liow jiow,
jieh woo liow dow liow sheng hao liuh dow;
guoh lhe chiou daa lhe dow,
hwan woo liow shu liow jiow liow shyr liow dow liow sheng hao liuh dow.
|Mom rides a horse, the horse is slow, Mom scolds the horse.
A girl wants to drive the cow away, the cow resists, and the girl wrestles with the cow.
Uncle catches pigeons, Pigeons fly, and Uncle grabs the pigeons.
Grandma drinks buttermilk, Buttermilk spills, and Grandma scoops up the buttermilk.
|mā ma qí mǎ,
mǎ màn mā ma mà mǎ.
niū niu hōng niú,
niú niù niū niū níng niú.
jiù jiu zhuō jiū,
jiū fēi jiù jiù jiū jiū.
lǎo lao hē lào,
lào lào lǎo lao lāo lào.
|mha mha chyi maa,
maa mann mha mha mah maa.
nhiou nhiou hong niou,
niou niow nhiou nhiou niing niou.
jiow jiou juo jiou,
jiou fei jiow jiow jiou jiou.
lao lhau he law,
law law lao lao lhau law.
|There's a basin in the sky, and a shed underground.
The basin bumps into the shed, and the shed bumps into the basin.
The shed falls over, and the basin shatters.
Should the shed compensate the basin, or should the basin compensate the shed?
|tiān shàng yí gè pén, dì xià yí gè péng.
pén pèng péng, péng pèng pén.
péng dǎo le, pén suì le.
shì péng péi pén, hái shì pén péi péng?
|tian shanq i geh pern dih shiah i geh perng.
pern penq perng perng penq pern.
perng dao lhe pern suey lhe.
shyh perng peir pern hair shyh pern peir perng?
|Jingjing and Xinxin,
Look at the stars together.
The stars in the sky are bright,
Jingjing and Xinxin happily count the stars.
|jīng jīng hé xīn xīn,
yì qǐ kàn xīng xing.
tiān shàng xīng xing liàng jīng jīng,
jīng jīng xīn xīn shǔ xīng xing.
|jing jing her shin shin,
i chii kann shing shing.
tian shanq shing shing lianq jing jing,
jing jing shin shin shuu shing shing.
|Tianjin and Beijing, Jin and Jing have two pronunciations.
One is the front nasal sound, the other is the back nasal sound.
If you can't tell the difference, please listen carefully.
|tiān jīn hé běi jīng,
jīn jīng liǎng gè yīn.
yí shì qián bí yīn,
yí shì hòu bí yīn.
rú guǒ fēn bù qīng,
qǐng nǐ rèn zhēn tīng.
|tian jin her beei jing,
jin jing leang geh in.
i shyh chyan byi in,
i shyh how byi in.
ru guoo fenn bwu ching,
chiing nii renn jen ting.
|A pair of trousers has eight seams, with vertical seams above the horizontal seams.
After sewing the horizontal seams, sew the vertical seams.
After sewing the vertical seams, sew the horizontal seams.
|yì tiáo kù zi bā tiáo fèng,
héng fèng shàng miàn yǒu shù fèng,
féng le héng fèng féng shù fèng,
féng le shù fèng féng héng fèng.
|i tyau kuh tzy ba tyau fenq,
herng fenq shanq miann yeou shuh fenq,
ferng lhe herng fenq ferng shuh fenq,
ferng lhe shuh fenq ferng herng fenq.
Advanced Chinese tongue twisters
Lastly, if you consider yourself an expert Chinese speaker, the following tongue twisters might help you find even more respect for the language. These are some of the hardest tongue twisters in Chinese, and even highly educated Chinese native speakers will have a hard time (and a laugh!) trying to read these out loud. Give them a shot!
|The pole is long and the bench is wide
The bench is not as long as the pole
The pole is not as wide as the bench
The pole wants to be tied to the bench
The bench does not want the poles to be tied to the bench
The pole stubbornly wants to be tied to the bench.
|biǎn dan cháng, bǎn dèng kuān
bǎn dèng méi yǒu biǎn dan cháng
biǎn dan méi yǒu bǎn dèng kuān
biǎn dan yào bǎng zài bǎn dèng shàng
bǎn dèng bú ràng biǎn dan bǎng zài bǎn dèng shàng
biǎn dan piān yào biǎn dan bǎng zài bǎn dèng shàng.
|bean dan jaang baan denq kuan
baan denq mei yeou bean dan jaang
biǎn dan méi yǒu bǎn dèng kuān
bean dan yaw baang tzay baan denq shanq
baan denq buh ranq bean dan baang tzay baan denq shanq
bean dan pian yaw bean dan baang tzay baan denq shanq.
|Your grandmother lent my grandmother a bowl,
My grandmother broke your grandmother's bowl.
My grandmother bought a new bowl And returned it to your grandmother.
Your grandmother said she didn't want my grandmother to compensate for the bowl,
But my grandmother insisted on returning the newly bought bowl to your grandmother.
|nǐ pó po jiè gěi wǒ pó po yí gè bō bō,
wǒ pó po dǎ làn le nǐ pó po de bō bō.
wǒ pó po mǎi lái yí gè bō bō,
huán gěi nǐ pó po.
nǐ pó po shuō shén me yě bú yào wǒ pó po péi bō bō,
wǒ pó po yìng yào bǎ mǎi lái de bō bō huán gěi nǐ pó po.
|nii por po jieh geei woo por po i geh bo bo,
woo por po daa lann lhe nii por po de bo bo,
woo por po mae lai i geh bo bo,
hair geei nii por po.
nii por po shuo shern me yee buh yaw woo por po peir bo bo,
woo por po yinq yaw baa mae lai de bo bo hair geei nii por po.
|Xiaoguang and Xiaogang came to work carrying a water tank.
Go up the hill, take a rest, pick up the bamboo poles and play fighting.
Ping ping ping, pang pong pong, hitting it back and forth and smashing the water tank.
Xiaoguang blames Xiaogang, Xiaogang blames Xiaoguang, Xiaoguang and Xiaogang both blame the bamboo pole and the water tank.
|xiǎo guāng hé xiǎo gāng,
tái zhe shuǐ tǒng shàng gǎng.
shàng shān gǎng, xiē xiē liáng,
ná qǐ zhú gān wán dǎ zhàng.
pīng pīng pīng, pāng pāng pāng,
dǎ lái dǎ qù zá le gāng.
xiǎo guāng guài xiǎo gāng, xiǎo gāng guài xiǎo guāng,
xiǎo guāng xiǎo gāng dōu guài zhú gān hé shuǐ gāng.
|sheau guang her sheau gang,
tair je shoei toong shanq gaang.
shanq shan gaang shie shie liang,
na chii jwu gan wan daa janq.
ping ping ping, pang pang pang,
daa lai daa chiuh tzar lhe gang.
sheau guang guay sheau gang sheau gang guay sheau guang,
sheau guang sheau gang dou guay jwu gan her shoei gang.
|Coach Lan is a female coach and Coach Lv is a male coach.
Coach Lan is not a male coach, and Coach Lv is not a female coach.
Lan Nan is the main player of the men's basketball team, and Lv Nan is the main player of the women's basketball team.
Coach Lv trains Lan Nan on the men's basketball team, and Coach Lan trains Lv Nan on the women's basketball team.
|lán jiào liàn shì nǚ jiào liàn,
lǚ jiào liàn shì nán jiào liàn.
lán jiào liàn bú shì nán jiào liàn,
lǚ jiào liàn bú shì nǚ jiào liàn.
lán nán shì nán lán zhǔ lì,
lǚ nán shì nǚ lán zhǔ lì.
lǚ jiào liàn zài nán lán xùn liàn lán nán,
lán jiào liàn zài nǚ lán xùn liàn lǚ nán.
|lan jiaw liann shyh neu jiaw liann,
leu jiaw liann shyh nan jiaw liann.
lan jiaw liann bwu shyh nan jiaw liann,
leu jiaw liann bwu shyh neu jiaw liann.
lan nan shyh nan lan juu lih,
leu nan shyh neu lan juu lih.
leu jiaw liann tzay nan lan shiunn liann lan nan,
lan jiaw liann tzay neu lan shiunn liann leu nan.
|There are forty-four stone lions in front of the Shishi Temple,
and there are forty-four astringent persimmons on the trees in front of the temple.
The forty-four stone lions did not eat the forty-four astringent persimmons,
but the forty-four astringent persimmons ate the forty-four stone lions instead.
|shí shī sì qián yǒu sì shí sì gè shí shī zi,
sì qián shù shàng jié le sì shí sì gè sè shì zi.
sì shí sì gè shí shī zi bú chī sì shí sì gè sè shì zi,
sì shí sì gè sè shì zi dào chī sì shí sì gè shí shī zi.
|shyr shy syh chyan yeou syh shyr syh geh shyr shy tzy,
syh chyan shuh shanq jye lhe syh shyr syh geh seh shyh tzy.
syh shyr syh geh shyr shy tzy bwu chy syh shyr syh geh seh shyh tzy,
syh shyr syh geh seh shyh tzy daw chy syh shyr syh geh shyr shy tzy.
|Old Luo pulled a cart of pears,
Old Li pulled a cart of chestnuts.
Old Luo is known as Strong Luo,
Old Li is known as Li Strong.
Old Luo pulled pears to make pear wine,
and Old Li pulled chestnuts to exchange for pears.
|lǎo luó lā le yì chē lí,
lǎo lǐ lā le yì chē lì.
lǎo luó rén chēng dà lì luó,
lǎo lǐ rén chēng lǐ dà lì.
lǎo luó lā lí zuò lí jiǔ,
lǎo lǐ lā lì qù huàn lí.
|lao luo lha lhe i che li,
lao lii lha lhe i che lih.
lao luo ren cheng dah lih luo,
lao lii ren cheng lii dah lih.
lao luo lha li tzuoh li jeou,
lao lii lha lih chiuh huann li.
Chinese tongue twister videos
Some topics are better explained in a video, and few are clearer examples of this than tongue twisters. If you’d like to see a video of someone else giving a tongue twister a go before trying it yourself, we don’t blame you! Here are a couple of tongue twister videos that we think are pretty helpful:
University of Western Australia
If you’d just like a quick overview of how a native speaker approaches some of these tongue twisters, then take a look at the following under-one-minute-long video from the University of Western Australia:
Chinese with Jessie
For a longer video with a closer look at a handful of tongue twisters, then check out this video from Chinese with Jessie. She goes over a few tongue twisters and gives you some insightful advice to get them right!
Tips for practicing Chinese tongue twisters
Practicing tongue twisters doesn’t have to be a mindless repetition of tricky phrases. Even if you do struggle with tongue twisters, there’s no honor in just failing over and over again. The point is to face the challenge head-on (as silly as the tongue twister may be!) and try your best to master the pronunciation. Here are five expert tips to help you master Chinese tongue twisters.
1. Take your time
One of the biggest mistakes foreign speakers make is to try to get through the tongue twister as quickly as possible. Taking your time as you slowly make your way through a complicated tongue twister will let you better understand the meaning and sound out each phoneme more clearly. Remember to breathe and take your time!
2. Parse words carefully
Parsing words is one of the most important skills to nail in Chinese. That is, being able to separate characters into separate words since Chinese doesn’t use spaces between words like English does. When reciting a Chinese tongue twister, you need to know when words start and end so you don’t mix up the sounds.
For example, in the line 十四是十四 (shí sì shì shí sì), it’s helpful to know that you’re dealing with the following words:
- 十四 (shí sì)
- 是 (shì)
- 十四 (shí sì)
Breaking it up into three words can make it easier to pronounce each word correctly. This will be even more evident as you deal with longer and more complicated tongue twisters.
3. Forget pinyin
While pinyin can be an essential tool as you start practicing your tongue twisters, they can quickly become a crutch as pinyin might become repetitive, which can easily confuse your brain into thinking you’re saying the same thing over and over. This can make you lose track of where in the tongue twister you are, which can make you get tripped up. Reading the characters instead of pinyin will help you sound more natural.
4. Try handwriting
If you’re having trouble remembering the characters, then writing them down could help you memorize them. This could be a great strategy if you need to memorize a tongue twister for your Chinese class or just really want to impress your friends.
However, if you’ve read our guide to learning Chinese characters, you already know that thoughtless writing won’t be constructive. Instead, you should focus on being extremely mindful as you write each character, thoroughly repeating the pronunciation in your brain as you write. Bonus points if you can actually say the character out loud!
5. Record yourself
We get it, the thought of recording yourself while saying a Chinese tongue twister can feel incredibly intimidating. However, it’s important to remember that there’s no shame in learning a new language, especially when trying to learn a tongue twister! Just remember that tongue twisters are designed to be challenging to pronounce, and even native speakers will make silly mistakes when saying them out loud. That’s the whole point!
So, if you have a private Chinese tutor or a close friend willing to help you, you can record yourself making your best attempt at saying a tongue twister and get feedback from a native. That way, you’ll be able to pinpoint precisely where you need to improve (and what you’re doing well!).
Share these Chinese tongue twisters with your friends
The best part about tongue twisters is making silly mistakes. But what’s fun in that if there’s no one else around? Invite your Chinese-speaking (and learning!) friends to have a fun afternoon reading some of these tongue twisters out loud.
Still want more Chinese content? Then check out our Chinese blog for even more fun and exciting (and free!) Chinese articles. Some of our latest entries include a guide to marketing in Chinese and a quick way to never get lost in Chinese.