Officer Stevens pried open the warehouse door and slipped into the musty interior. Although armed solely with a knife, he was not the least concerned about his lack of firepower. More pressing in his mind was the far-off wail of sirens, an audible sign the rest of his squad was closing in on this complex. In perhaps fifteen minutes the entire compound would be surrounded by uniformed officers, at which point the escape options for everyone would narrow considerably.

Learning Chinese? This lesson has been a long time in coming, but today we're pleased to present a lesson on verbs which are "secretly gei". And our point here is simple but unexpected. Because while most verbs in Chinese take 给 as either a coverb or complement when they want to communicate the idea of giving something to someone, there are a few curious outliers which can still go-it-alone.
 said on
July 11, 2012
Great lesson!

By the way, what does 同归于尽 mean?
 said on
July 11, 2012
I think the Chinese idiom means that fight with enemies and die together.

Is there any Gaoshou could comment that? Let me "抛砖引玉" first。
 said on
July 12, 2012
@jasper.obviar,

That means to die together.同 means 'together', 归 means 'to go back', 于 has several meanings, but here it means 'to', 尽 means 'end'. So together it means 'to go back to the end together'. Ancient Chinese people believe in transmigration of souls and lives, so they thought if people die, that means they go back to the place to where people originally belonged as well.

--Amber

amber@popupchinese.com
 said on
July 12, 2012
@amber,

Thanks!

I like the way you broke down the set phrase into its individual character's meanings. The meaning of the 成语 itself is very nice to know and it usually becomes the subject of discussion with my Chinese friends. Knowing more about each character gives more opportunity in several new sentence patterns.

In this case the 尽 used in this set phrase has a different meaning compared to how it is used in 尽快 and 尽管.

-- Jasper
 said on
July 12, 2012
These days, as Shanghainese and Amber said, 同归于尽 means "to take someone down with oneself" or "to end in mutual destruction."

The background is actually kind of interesting, though. The saying originally referred to the transmigration of the spirit -- it comes from Chapter 1 of the fourth-century text 《列子》. Unfortunately I haven't got my copy of the A.C. Graham translation (Lieh-tzu -- worth looking for if you've got a good library near you), but the passage goes on to say that the word 鬼, "ghost," comes from "归" :

精神離形,各歸其真,故謂之鬼。鬼,歸也,歸其真宅。

The spirit departs the body and each returns to its truest nature, which is why we say gui (ghost). "Ghost" is "[the spirit's] return" -- a return to its true dwelling place.

(Quickie lunch-hour translation from Classical Chinese; all disclaimers apply.)

The saying assumed its current meaning -- I'm guessing -- because people started seeing it out of context more and more often, and analyzed it in terms of the characters (which mean "together + end up at/return to + end/extremity/death") rather than in terms of the saying's original context.
 said on
July 13, 2012
Here are a few examples I found, which illustrate how 同归于尽 is used. These are taken from magazine articles on the Web, and the translations are from the same source. From these, it does indeed seem to be "to die together" or "to take each other down", as Brendan and Amber say.

1) 这时鼠群中有只年轻的老鼠因鼠爸被吃掉,便将全身涂满农药,告知鼠群牠准备慷慨赴义与猫同归于尽,猫吃掉这只老鼠后果然暴毙

"One young mouse, angry that his father had been eaten, covered himself with pesticide and told his fellow mice that he was sacrificing his life for the cause. According to plan, the cat died upon eating him."

2) 但如果是由居住于斯的人类「手刃地球」,不仅是一种杀鸡取卵、终至同归于尽的自杀行为,更是道德上无法容忍的罪愆

"However, when the extinction of life forms and damage to the planet's ecosystems are caused by human beings, it becomes a form of suicide, and a morally unconscionable crime."

3) 「我对爱情独占慾很强,如果我爱上了这个人,他又不属于我,我会宁可玉石俱焚、同归于尽!」花心男人当场受到惊吓,打了退堂鼓。

"I take matters of love very seriously and am quite possessive! When I have my heart set on somebody, if I can't have him, than I would rather that we both die!"

4) [A doctor's thoughts] 是否会成事不足败事有余?会不会因一个差错和命运的安排毁了自己的前程和存在的价值?是不是将走上一条毁灭之路,和那病危的病人同归于尽?」

"Am I about to botch something up? Will I, in one quick stroke of ineptness and fate, bring my career crashing down around my feet, and with it my sense of what I am? Am I on my way to destroy an unknown patient and myself at the same time?"
 said on
July 13, 2012
@richwarm

Great examples! This will certainly make the afternoon tea conversations with friends really interesting.
 said on
July 14, 2012
好啊,“送,还,分”这些动词都不需要加“给”这个介词, 不过 “找钱”的“找”也算是这样的动词吗? 可不可以说:“喂!骗子啊你! 还找我七块钱啊!”
 said on
July 14, 2012
@Brendan

@amber

@jasper.obviar

@Shanghainese

Here are some further examples, which I believe demonstrate that 同归于尽 really just means "to perish together" (as Amber said) and that it's reading a bit too much into it to say means "to take someone down with oneself" or "to end in mutual destruction" or "fight with enemies and die together" (although any of these may be the situation in *some* contexts). In the following examples, there is no antagonism between the ones who perish, so it's not appropriate to say there is "mutual destruction", nor is there any sense that somebody is taking somebody else down with him.

1) 他死了,一切计划,一切希望,也同归于尽。

2) 一对非法同居者相约殉情 .... 当天上午9时许,罗然约阿兰到村后山上的一座庙里谈心。阿兰说:“父母不同意我们的婚事,我们还是分手吧。”罗然说:“与其这样,还不如我们两人同归于尽算了。”阿兰说:“好啊。”

3) 尽管他对元首忠诚,但是只要他能避免的话,他是不想同元首一道同归于尽的。

And, of course, in the case of the doctor-patient example (#4 above) as well, there is no adversarial relationship. It's simply that the doctor is thinking that if he makes a mistake, his career and sense of self-worth could perish along with the patient.
 said on
July 14, 2012
@richwarm - Good examples! I first encountered the expression about six years ago, in a deeply sad news story about a migrant worker named 艾绪强 who killed a cabbie and hijacked a cab at Wangfujing, then drove the cab into a crowd because "Wangfujing is where rich people go." News coverage quoted him as saying "... 我无法在社会生存,我要报复,我选择了与王府井同归于尽!" My impression of it is probably mostly shaped by that.
 said on
July 15, 2012
@Brendan

Actually, on further investigation, I think you were more right than me. After seeing the discussion here on this page, and noticing that 同归于尽 was not in CC-CEDICT (of which I'm an editor), I submitted it to the dictionary as "perish together". But my fellow editors rejected that -- rightly so, I think. They said that, for example, you wouldn't say 同归于尽 of soldier comrades who died together in an enemy bomb attack, and I think that's correct. But it's also true that the ones who perish are not necessarily antagonists, as "to take someone down with oneself" suggests (see my three examples above).

So I'm now proposing "to die in such a way that someone (or something) else also perishes". Of course, that's not very idiomatic, and I think maybe something like what you said -- "take someone down with oneself" -- should be added to the definition.

Speaking of idiom, Brendan, I love the richly idiomatic way you explain the meaning of words in the podcasts, as well as your expressiveness in acting out the line-by-lines and your wicked sense of humour.
 said on
July 16, 2012
@richwarm,

Yes, it's not necessarily used between antagonists.

--Amber

amber@popupchinese.com
 said on
July 16, 2012
@amber ~ Thanks, Amber. Can you confirm that 同归于尽 is normally only used when at least one of those who perish does so as a *consequence* of the death of another? That is, I think it's asymmetrical -- at least one of those involved takes the other(s) along to death.

I think that's the case in all my examples above -- even when it's *not* a case of "taking somebody down" in a murder-suicide-type scenario. The doctor's career ends as a *result* of the death of his patient, the man's hopes perish as a *result* of his physical death, and the servant may die, presumably as a *result* of his association with the head of state. As for the lovers, if you read on, it turns out, sadly, that the guy kills his girlfriend first, and then himself.

So, if I'm not mistaken, in the following scenario, you probably wouldn't use 同归于尽 ~ "They say the men died together when the boat they hoped would help them escape to Europe overturned and sank after a collision with a Tunisian coastguard patrol boat."
 said on
July 16, 2012
@rbagnarol,

对,非常好!“找”也是这样的动词 :) 不过你的句子需要稍微改变一下:“喂!骗子啊你! 还没找我七块钱呢!”。

--Echo

echo@popupchinese.com
 said on
July 19, 2012
你们好! 我很喜欢今天的课文,而且更喜欢的是课文前头 的歌曲 歌曲叫什么?

 said on
July 20, 2012
@ashourmai,

王菲的《不留》。

--Amber

amber@popupchinese.com
 said on
July 20, 2012
I recently got my subscription in Popupchinese... Are you Amber, the Amber that was in Chinesepod a couple of years ago ?
 said on
July 23, 2012
@aires.marques,

No, I'm not that Amber.:)

--Amber

amber@popupchinese.com
 said on
July 26, 2012
amber 非常感谢你! 我祝 popup chinese 不断地进步。。。。。
 said on
July 26, 2012
@ashourmai,

别客气。:)

--Amber

amber@popupchinese.com
 said on
October 18, 2012
Sorry to be three months late, but what is that music that plays in the beginning of the podcast?
 said on
October 18, 2012
@ambi_sinistrous,

It's one of Wang Fei's songs. You can find an annotated version here:

http://popupchinese.com/lessons/ktv-wednesday/wang-fei-nothing-remains

 said on
October 19, 2012
Ah, thank you! So beautiful...
 said on
May 26, 2013
人不为己rénbùwéijǐ or rén bú wèi jǐ ?
 said on
May 27, 2013
@etbaccata,

It's "rénbùwèijǐ". I changed "wèi". Thank you! The tone sandhi should not be marked when you write pinyin, so we don't write "bù" as "bú".

--Echo

echo@popupchinese.com

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