Idiom – China

?    ?    ?    ?

yi1 lu4 shun4 feng1

one road along wind

Wish you a smooth trip

My mother used this phrase when talking to my father before he left for a business trip. This phrase most likely originated from mainland China because her parents taught it to her when she grew up in Taiwan. Her parents were from Anhui, China before they moved to Taiwan because of the Civil war in the 1940s and 50s. Since this phrase existed before her birth, it is terminus ante quem 1949. My mother says that this phrase is mostly used when someone is leaving on a trip and you want to wish them well. Since sailing was a main mode of transportation in the past, going in the same direction as the wind was a good thing. And so, this phrase arose from that context, hoping that one’s travel path follows the direction of the wind so that they get there faster without as much turbulence. The Chinese are unsure about who came up with this phrase, but it must have been someone who lived by the sea or that sailed a lot. As more forms of transportation developed, it became widely used regardless of if it was by boat or not. My dad was going to take an airplane to China from Maryland, and so flying could also fit the context of the wind. If you fly in the same direction as the wind, you typically get to your destination faster. I have also heard this when people travel by car too, but that has nothing to do with the direction of the wind, demonstrating the extent to which this idiom is used.

I picked up this idiom just by hearing my mom say it and I also learned about it in Chinese school. It is a very common four-worded phrase that the Chinese like to use because it sends a warming message in very few words. The Chinese have many four-worded idioms that convey different ideas that originated thousands of years ago. Before in China, only scholars and poets would know about idioms, but as more and more people learned to read and write, they began to learn the idioms and began to use it in common speech.   It became a part of everyday speech and was not only limited to the upper class. In dynastical China, civil service examinations were also utilized to find new talent and intelligence within the country. This idiom may have arose from these examinations as well because people were compelled to make up new eloquent, four-worded phrases. I am sure that there were different variations of it before it was canonized into calligraphy scripts.

This idiom is also documented in A Chinese English Dictionary (Revised Edition) on page 1195. The definition that it gave was “have a pleasant journey; have a good trip, bon voyage.” Furthermore, the dictionary also says that this term is synonymous with ???? (yi1 lu4 ping2 an1), another four-worded idiom. Exactly translated it says “one road peace.” Chinese people came up with multiple ways to express the same idea.

Annotation: Hsiung, D.N. A Chinese English Dictionary (Revised Edition). Beijing, China: Foreign Language Teaching and Research Press: 1999. p. 1195.