The popular Chinese idiom "对症下药" (duì zhèng xià yào) can be roughly translated as “prescribe medicine based on the illness” in English.
In this blog, we will share with you both the Chinese and the English versions of the story behind the idiom "对症下药" (duì zhèng xià yào), what it means, as well as how to use it in a sentence.
Let’s dive in!
During the Eastern Han dynasty, about 1900 years ago, there was a doctor named Huà Tuó. When he treated his patients, he treated them differently based on their symptoms, prescribing specific medicines. It didn't matter what type of illness it was, he was always able to treat it. So, he became known as the “mighty doctor.”
One day, two patients showed up. One was called Ní Xún, the other was Lǐ Yán. They both had the same symptoms - a headache and a fever. Huà Tuó asked about their symptoms separately, enquired about their eating habits, checked their pulse, and prescribed them medicine individually. Ní Xún got a laxative, and Lǐ Yán got a sudorific (to induce sweating).
Ní Xún and Lǐ Yán saw their prescriptions and were puzzled. They asked Huà Tuó: “Doctor, did you prescribe the right medicine? We both have a headache and fever, it must be the same illness. Why do we have different medicines?” Huà Tuó smiled and said: “It may look like you have the same illness, but it has different causes. Ní Xún's illness is internal, his symptoms come from indigestion, so he needs a laxative. As for Lǐ Yán, your illness is external, you’ve caught a cold, so you need a sudorific. The symptoms may be the same, but the causes are different. We should prescribe medicine based on your specific illness, that's why you have different prescriptions.”
Ní Xún and Lǐ Yán both thought this was very logical and felt confident with the diagnosis. Not long after, they both made a full recovery. From then on, when people are prescribed medicine for their specific symptoms, we call this “duì zhèng xià yào”
This story tells us that we need to tailor the solution to the problem.
对 duì (to match)
症 zhèng (illness)
下 xià (prescribe, down)
药 yào （medicine）
例句 (Example Sentences):
Liǎojiě zhōng xiǎoxuéshēng xīnlǐ wèntí chǎnshēng de yuányīn, duìzhèngxiàyào de jìnxíng xīnlǐ zhǐdǎo jiàoyù, yǒu zhù yú zhōng xiǎoxuéshēng de jiànkāng chéngzhǎng.
Understanding a student’s mental wellbeing and providing appropriate support will help our pupil's development.
Yù dào wèntí shí, shǒuxiān yào zhǎo wèntí bèihòu de yuányīn, zhǐyǒu zhǎo chū yuányīn, cáinéng duìzhèngxiàyào.
When met with a problem, we need to first understand the cause. Only when we know how it started can we remedy the situation appropriately.
Yīshēng xiángxì xúnwènle tā de bìngqíng yǐhòu, duìzhèngxiàyào, zhì hǎole tā de bìng.
After the doctor asked about his symptoms, he prescribed the medicine that fit the cause and cured his illness.
Tā dāng lǎobǎn yǐhòu, duì gōngsī cúnzài de suǒyǒu wèntí dōu jìnxíngle shēnrù diàochá, zhǎo chūle kuīsǔn de zhǔyào yuányīn, ránhòu duìzhèngxiàyào, zhúyī jiějué.
After I become the boss, I looked into the problems that the company was having. I found why they were losing money and resolved the situation based on the cause.
How would you use the idiom? Do you have an idiom you'd like us to explain?
About the Writer
Inner Mongolia University For Nationalities graduate; 10+ years experience in teaching Chinese. Hou laoshi is loved for her caring and patient teaching style.