All 6 entries tagged Proverb

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January 23, 2007

Chinese Idiom of the Day #7: 井底之蛙

井底之蛙 - Jing Di Zhi Wa 

Literal Meaning - Well-bottom's Frog (Frog at the bottom of the well)

Figurative Meaning - A Person with a very limited outlook

Story Behind the idiom:

A frog once lived in an abandoned well along the East Sea. Once, the frog saw a turtle at the edge of the well, and it boasted to the turtle "I can jump around in the mud and swim in the water. What a carefree life! Come down here and join me in my paradise!"

The turtle wanted to go into the well, but it was too big for the well-opening. Then it told the frog, "I live in the ocean which is so wide that you cannot tell the sky from the sea, and it is so deep that you cannot see its bottom. Even if there was a flood lasting several years, the water level would not rise. If it did not rain for years, the ocean would not become shallow. Only when you live in such an ocean can you truly enjoy a carefree life!" The frog was stunned.  

January 22, 2007

Chinese Idiom of the Day #6 : 临渴掘井

临渴掘井 - Lin Ke Jue Jing

Literal Meaning - Reach Thirst Dig Well

Figurative Meaning - Leaving things to the last minute

Story behind idiom:

In the Spring and Autumn Period, Duke Zhao of the State of Lu fled to the State of Qi, following palace turmoil. He admitted his mistakes to Duke Jing of Qi. Duke Jing advised him to go back to Lu, as he might become a wise ruler, since he recognised his faults. But Yanzi, an official of Qi, said, "It is too late to make weapons when one is endangered, and to dig a well when one needs water desperately."

This idiom warns against not being prepared, but seeking help at the last moment.  

January 21, 2007

Chinese Idiom of the Day #5 : 盲人摸象

盲人摸象 - Mang Ren Mo Xiang

Literal Meaning - Blind Men Touch Elephant

Figurative Meaning - Take a part for the whole

A group of blind men gathered around an elephant, trying to find out what the creature looked like. One of them happened to touch one of the tusks, and said: "An elephant is just like a turnip." Another touched one of the elephant's ears, and said, "It is like a big fan." One put his arms around one of the beast's legs, and said: "It is like a column." One who happened to place his hands on the body of the elephant said, "It is like a wall." But the one who got hold of the tail said, "It is like a snake." They then fell to arguing with each other.

This idiom is used to satirize those who know only a part of a thing and not the entirety or essence.  

January 20, 2007

Chinese Idiom of the Day #4 : 手不释卷

手不释卷 - Shou Bu Shi Juan

Literal Meaning -  Hand Not Release Book

Figurative Meaning - Diligent in Study

Western Equivalent - Bookworm, Always with a book in hand

Story Behind Idiom:

Lv Meng was a meritorious general of the State of Wu during the Three Kingdoms Period. He came from a poor family and had not had the chance to go to school when he was young. When he became a general, the duke of Wu encouraged him to read some books. Lv Meng took his advice, and started to study hard. Even when he was marching or fighting, he would find time to study. There was always a book in his hand. Finally, Lv Meng became a learned general.

(nb Lv is a pinyin representation of an L followed by a short and sharp Oo sound. So it would sound a bit like Lew or Lieu)

January 19, 2007

Chinese Idiom of the Day #3 : 指鹿为马

指鹿为马 - Zhi Lu Wei Ma

Literal Meaning - Point (at) Deer as horse.

Figurative Meaning - Calling a stag a horse

Western Equivalent - Calling black white.  

Story behind idiom:

In the Qin Dynasty, the prime minister, Zhao Gao, plotted to usurp the throne. Fearing that the other ministers would oppose this, he though of a way of testing them. He presented a deer to the emperor, and said, "This is a horse." The emperor laughed and said, "You must be joking; this is a deer." Then Zhao Gao asked the ministers present. Some kept silent, some said that it was a deer, and others agreed that it was a horse.

Later Zhao Gao had all the ministers who had not said that it was a horse killed.

This metaphor describes distorting facts by calling white black. 

January 17, 2007

Chinese Idiom of the Day #2 : 对牛弹琴

对牛弹琴 - Dui Niu Tan Qin

Literal Meaning - Face cow, play (stringed) instrument.

Figurative meaning - Reasoning with Stubborn people or talking to the wrong audience

 Western Equivalent - Presenting a pearl before a swine.


 Story behind idiom:

 In ancient times there was a man who played the zither very well. Once, he played a tune in front of a cow, hoping that the cow would appreciate it. The tune was melodious, but the cow showed no reaction, and just kept on eating grass. The man sighed, and went away. 


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