bù èr fǎmén
Literal meaning: “[The] Dharma Door of Non-duality”
Idiomatic meaning: “the one and only way”
The original Buddhist meaning is very different from the common vernacular meaning today. “Non-duality” refers to the Middle Path of Buddhism, which threads between two extremes. This particular chengyu is derived from the Vimalakīrti Nirdeśa Sūtra, and the following passage illustrates the non-duality of existence and non-existence.
qiè ér bù shě
Literal meaning: “To carve without giving up.”
Idiomatic meaning: To persevere, to stick with it.
This is an excerpt from a longer sentence in the Xunzi:
“If one carves and gives up, even rotten wood will be uncarvable. If one carves without giving up, even metal and stone can be engraved.”
shū tú tóng guī
Literal meaning: “Different routes, same endings.”
Idiomatic meaning: “All roads lead to Rome, different paths produce the same results.”
xuán yá lè mǎ
Literal meaning: “rein in the horse from the precipice”
Actual meaning: “to avert disaster, to avoid doing something before it’s too late”