Time Is Water: A Metaphorical Conceptualization of Time in Chinese

Hongxiao WANG, Phyllis Wilcox


A conceptualization of abstract time in Chinese can be instantiated by ‘Time is Water’. Time is universally important in a human being’s daily life, yet it is conceptually abstract. This abstraction of time can be understood through the concept of metaphor. Although the English and Chinese languages share many metaphorical conceptions of time, there is one particular metaphor in China that is not as commonly instantiated in English – Time Is Water. Three reasons can be provided for the conceptualization of this metaphor and will be discussed in this paper: water is one of the five basic elements in Chinese philosophy; conceptualization of time as water in Chinese is quite systematic and time and water share many similarities; Confucius’ words have a great effect for the metaphor of time as water to be pervasive in Chinese. Cultural understandings of the Chinese people will be shown to impact their language production through metaphorical conceptualization.

Full Text:



Chen, Y., & Huang, X. T. (2006). A review on time metaphor. Advances on Psycholigical Science, 4(14), 604-609.

Günter, R. (2003). The Metaphor TIME AS SPACE across languages. In Baumgarten, Nicole/Böttger, Claudia/Motz, Markus/Probst, Julia (Eds.), Übersetzen, Interkulturelle kommunikation, spracherwerb und sprach-vermittlung - das leben mit mehreren sprachen. Festschrift für Juliane House zum 60. Geburtstag. Zeitschrift für Interkulturellen Fremdsprachenunterricht [Online], 8(2/3), 1-14.

Hu, Z. L. (2004). Metaphor and cognition. Beijing University Press.

Janda, L. (2002). The conceptualization of events and their relationship to time in Russion. The Slavic and East European Language Resource Center, 2, 1-10.

Jing, C. (2003). The principle of time in Chinese. A Paper for International Seminar of Time and Aspect in Chinese.

Lakoff, G. (1993). The contemporary theory of metaphor. In A. Ortony (Ed.), Metaphor and thought (2nd ed., pp.202-251). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Lakoff, G., & Johnson, M. (1980). Metaphor we live by. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Li, J. E. (2006). A Cognitive study of before/after temporal metaphor in English and Chinese (Thesis For MA Degree). Hua Zhong Normal University.

Liu, X. H. (2004). Mysterious five elements. Nanning, China: Guanxi People Publishing Company.

Lü S. X. (1984). Asymmetry in language: Language miscellanies. Shanghai Education Press.

Xu, S. L. (2001). A research of the expressive forms of time in Zuo’s commentary. collections of papers for political researchers (pp.82-109). Beijing University Press.

Yu, N. (1995). Metaphorical expressions of anger and happiness in English and Chinese. Metaphor and Sybolic Activity, 2(10), 59-92.

Yu, N. (1998). The contemporary theory of metaphor: A perspective from Chinese. Amsterdam: John Benjamins Publishing Company.

Zhang, J. L., & Ding, Z. P. (2003). Comparative study of temporal metaphor in Chinese and English. Foreign Languages and Their Teaching, 9, 31-34.

Zhao, Y. F. (2001). An introduction to cognitive linguistics. Shanghai Foreign Language Education Press.

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.3968/n


  • There are currently no refbacks.

Copyright (c)

Share us to:   


Online Submissionhttp://cscanada.org/index.php/sll/submission/wizard


How to do online submission to another Journal?

If you have already registered in Journal A, then how can you submit another article to Journal B? It takes two steps to make it happen:

1. Register yourself in Journal B as an Author

Find the journal you want to submit to in CATEGORIES, click on “VIEW JOURNAL”, “Online Submissions”, “GO TO LOGIN” and “Edit My Profile”. Check “Author” on the “Edit Profile” page, then “Save”.

2. Submission

Go to “User Home”, and click on “Author” under the name of Journal B. You may start a New Submission by clicking on “CLICK HERE”.

We only use three mailboxes as follows to deal with issues about paper acceptance, payment and submission of electronic versions of our journals to databases: caooc@hotmail.com; sll@cscanada.net; sll@cscanada.org

 Articles published in Studies in Literature and Language are licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 (CC-BY).


Address: 1055 Rue Lucien-L'Allier, Unit #772, Montreal, QC H3G 3C4, Canada.
Telephone: 1-514-558 6138 
Website: Http://www.cscanada.net; Http://www.cscanada.org 
E-mailoffice@cscanada.net; office@cscanada.org; caooc@hotmail.com

Copyright © 2010 Canadian Academy of Oriental and Occidental Culture