What exactly does it mean to borrow flowers to present to Buddha – Chinese idiom 借花献佛?

Posted by Grace Feng on May 23, 2012

Chinese idiom 借花献佛A frequently used Chinese idiom 借花献佛 jiè huā xiàn fó might have bewildered you if you didn’t understand it’s meaning. Judging from it’s literal translation, it’s not that easy to guess out what exactly it means. 借花 jiè huā, to borrow flowers, 献佛 xiàn fó, to present to the Buddha. To borrow flowers to present to Buddha, does it make much sense to you?!

If not, I’ll help you out here. The original story was about a poor man. He wanted to thank Buddha who helped bring rain to his village in drought (people were superstitious in ancient China). However he was too poor to buy anything to present to Buddha. So he borrowed some money from others and bought flowers to present to Buddha.

Today this idiom just means to use other people’s stuff to do your own favor. Is it a negative idiom? Not necessarily. As a matter of fact, it is used positively in lots of cases.

Let’s see some examples :

jìrán bùxiǎng qù, jiù bǎ biéren sòng de diànyǐngpiào sònggěi nǐ jiějie, tā huì hěn kāixīn de. zhè jiào jièhuāxiàn Fó.

既然不想去, 就把别人送的电影票送给你姐姐, 她会很开心的. 这叫借花献佛.

Since you don’t want to go, you can give the ticket that others gave you to your sister, she’ll be really happy.  This is called “using other people’s stuff to do your own favor”.

[mp3j track=”jie-hua-xian-fo-e1.mp3″]


zài shāngyè jiāowǎng zhōng xuéhuì jièhuāxiàn Fó yě shì yīzhǒng běnshi.


In socializing with your business partners, learn to reuse the benefit or favor you received is also a strategy of a kind.

[mp3j track=”jie-hua-xian-fo-e2.mp3″]


Have you ever done 借花献佛 before? It could be as simple as resend a gift you received to others as a gift from yourself. If you did, then try to describe what happened by using this Chinese idiom.

Like always, feel free to leave your sentence in the comment area for other people to learn and share if you can type Chinese, thank you!


Related posts:

Expression in Chinese to describe people that share similarities (物以类聚, 英雄所见略同)
A bad day word: Chinese idiom 哀声叹气
A word for the unforgettable - Chinese idiom 刻骨铭心


Category: Chinese idioms

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