The appreciation of beauty is a universal trait, and provides an engaging topic of conversation. The Mandarin Chinese phrase for “beautiful” or “pretty” is ►piàoliang, and can be used to describe people, places, or objects.

Piàoliang consists of two characters: 漂亮. The first character, 漂 (piào) means “elegant” or “polished.” The second character, 亮 (liàng) means “light,” or “bright.” Note that the second character is often pronounced with a neutral tone.

The literal translation of piào liàng, then, is “elegant and bright.”

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►Nǐ de yī fu hěn piào liàng.
Your clothes are very pretty.

►Táiwān de tài lǔ gé fēng jǐng hěn piào liàng.
Taiwan’s Taroko Gorge is a beautiful place.
There are other ways of saying "beautiful" in Mandarin, and perhaps one of the most common ones that students encounter early on is 美 (měi) which also means "beautiful" and can be used on its own or in the common word 美丽/美麗. It's hard to find a single principle that keeps these two words apart, but 美 usually refers to more permanent, lasting beauty, while 漂亮 is more transcendent. Exactly how to use the words comes from seeing them in context a lot!