As the water recedes, the rocks appear – 水落石出


shuǐ luò shí chū
as the water recedes, the rocks appear
the truth comes to light/ murder will out

Suggested by Raymond (wordsummit). Took me awhile because I couldn’t come up with a joke or gimmick so I put it aside. But looking at it again recently I figured there’s nothing wrong with a straightforward illustration every now and again.

Note: For pretty much every Chinese idiom there is a whole bunch of related information (origin, variants…) that I am not able to provide here. You should be able to find something with these links. In particular, linguee is good for finding usage examples, which are important. (For instance, some idioms are used almost exclusively sarcastically.)
Perhaps also bear in mind that these illustratiofns are not necessarily authentic to the origin of the idioms. I sort of try to take that into account when I can, but it’s not a top priority and not even always possible due to changes in meanings. For instance, the above idiom started out as a nature description with no particular link to “truth revealed”. That’s totally the the reason I did not draw rocks in a river at night, and not because that would be more difficult.
Lastly, I just put spaces between each syllable in pinyin for these idioms, even though that’s not quite correct orthography. Someday I’ll do an extended rant about things that I find annoying about pinyin. (pīnyīn/pin1yin1/whatever)

Idioms Index Idioms Links

Last panel by itself:



8 thoughts on “As the water recedes, the rocks appear – 水落石出

    1. I thought of one more— not a four-character idiom, but a visual common expression for sure—- “Kill the chicken to show/warn the monkey” 杀鸡给猴看. I remember learning this one from a friend who was explaining why someone we knew was acting so angrily….. they were yelling at someone who didn’t really seem to have done anything *that* bad…. “actually…” my friend said, “he’s actually trying to tell that person over there that he’s upset”. The idea here being that, by yelling at the other person (i.e. the chicken), one can display the appropriate emotion, without directly laying into the actual recipient of the message (i.e. the monkey).

      Anyway, I’ve interpreted liberally with this explanation– someone might disagree with me, but that’s how I use the phrase.
      You can see a Chinese explanation here:


      1. Thank you for your kind words. I like that suggestion too. I can draw chickens and monkeys (at least so they’re recognizable as such) so I should be able to do something with that. And there’s violence in it, which is helpful. Should be ready in… let’s say about three or four weeks, give or take.

        Liked by 1 person

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