I was sent this image by somebody today and was told that it is a (close) story board of a famous idiom (of some language). The emoticons might not be in order of the idiom's words. Below is the image.

idiom image

  • $\begingroup$ What is the second emoticon, is it a hammock ? $\endgroup$ – user9543 Apr 3 '15 at 11:52
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    $\begingroup$ or reading this, The Japanese Tanabata festival celebrates the legend of Hikiboshi and his lover Orihime, the Emperor's daughter, who were permitted to meet only once a year. This Tanabata tree emoji depicts a bamboo stalk hung with a piece of paper on which wishes for the future are written., is it actually that tree and the idiom is about two people in love being together for once? $\endgroup$ – Ejaz Apr 3 '15 at 12:27
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    $\begingroup$ Any idea which language the idiom is from? $\endgroup$ – Ian MacDonald Apr 3 '15 at 19:31
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    $\begingroup$ I strongly suspect this is a Chinese chengyu, and that the words are indeed in order. $\endgroup$ – Joe Z. Apr 3 '15 at 22:15
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    $\begingroup$ Maybe I'm just crazy but I see Okie, for: Okie dokie urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=Okie+Dokie $\endgroup$ – Spacemonkey Apr 17 '15 at 21:22

Puzzle answer

The idiom is:


literally translated as

to hold an image of bamboo in one's mind


image1 - head or mind
image2 - bamboo
image3 - one
image4 - to hold

Language notes and cultural background

This is an instance of

a Chinese chengyu.

"Chengyu are mostly derived from ancient literature. The meaning of a chengyu usually surpasses the sum of the meanings carried by the four characters, as chengyu are often intimately linked with the myth, story or historical fact from which they were derived. As such, chengyu do not follow the usual grammatical structure and syntax of the modern Chinese spoken language, and are instead highly compact and synthetic."

- Wikipedia

The actual meaning of the proverb refers to

knowing what you intend to accomplish before you begin, and having a well thought out plan or design in your mind which ensures its success.

The story the proverb is based on:

There once was a scholar, Wen Tong, who was renown for his beautiful bamboo paintings. His pieces were requested almost daily, from near and afar, for it seemed the paintings were so beautiful, you could almost see the leaves fluttering in the wind.

Wen Tong loved bamboo, and would spend time every day observing it, whether in the forests or within his own gardens which were filled with bamboo. He would observe their stalks and leaves, the way they swayed in the wind or stood upright on calm days, how the colors changed with the light. He spent so much time observing bamboo, that when he sat down to paint it, he had a clear image of bamboo in his mind. That is why his paintings were so beautiful and sought after.

- Source

  • $\begingroup$ I'm afraid I have to disagree on this one if each figure represents one Chinese character in their literal meaning. 胸 - breast / chest, may mean mind metaphorically. 有 - has. 成 - complete or mature. 竹 - bamboo. The position of bamboo is wrong and the "one" is not justified. $\endgroup$ – user12205 May 8 '15 at 16:30
  • $\begingroup$ Thanks for the answer @starsplusplus. Your explanation fits the rebus quite well. Actually (since I do not know the actual answer) it is a tie between the "Japanese Tanabata" (see my comment above) and this. Thanks for the comment ace $\endgroup$ – Ejaz May 8 '15 at 16:47
  • $\begingroup$ @ace - The puzzle never said that it was one word per character, and it did say that the emoticons weren't necessarily in the right order. $\endgroup$ – starsplusplus May 8 '15 at 16:53
  • $\begingroup$ @Ejay The Tanabata is a nice story, but I thought the puzzle was meant to depict an idiom? $\endgroup$ – starsplusplus May 8 '15 at 16:54
  • $\begingroup$ It's just that most Chinese rebus I've seen are one character per image. It might be a non-typical one though. $\endgroup$ – user12205 May 8 '15 at 16:55

I am almost certain this isn't what you might be looking for, but I can't seem to 'unsee' this option.

image1 - cool
image2 - story
image3 - is best
image4 - bro (fist)

A common English slang idiom for when a friend tells you a story which you don't find interesting, in which you can sarcastically remark "Cool story bro".


The Idiom is: An empty vessel, makes more noise!!!


  1. A man sitting idle makes more noise.
  2. A man who does nothing but fights more.
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    $\begingroup$ Why do you think that is what the emoji mean? Can you give more details? $\endgroup$ – Deusovi Jan 1 '16 at 16:32

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