Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Tungusic-Altaic Proverbs & Folk Sayings From China


To see whether a horse is good or not, ride it; to see whether a friend is true or not, deal with him. ("The proof is in the pudding.")If you are not hospitable to your guests, no one will care for you when it is your turn to be out on the road. (In a nomadic, pastoral society, the last thing one might want to do is to alienate those in one's community.)

Those who are not aware of what is happening around them are like a wind without a direction.
(The key to survival in harsh regions is to be observant of the sometimes quickly changing world around you.)


A tongue has no bones but is still stronger than iron. (At least two possible interpretations: (1) "The pen is mightier than the sword"; (2) A vicious tongue-lashing at times can be worse than a physical lashing.)In times of adversity, a hero girds up his chest while a coward retracts his neck. (When trouble occurs, a true hero makes himself available.)

A true man talks of what he has seen, while a loafer talks of what he has eaten. (There is value in talking to the upright and the decent; the converse is also true.)

Parents place their hearts' desires in their sons, and sons place their hearts' desires in the wild plains. (A son, a young man, is bound to explore the limitless horizons; that is nature.)

The flood that takes sixty days to overflow may disappear in just six. (Nothing lasts forever, or "in like a lion and out like a lamb.")

Knowledge is like a jacket which never frays; wisdom is like a mine which is never exhausted. (A little knowledge goes a long way in life.)

Those who don't love their old horses finally end up walking. (Take a moment and be appreciative of the people and things that help you in your life. )

Reeds can't be found among grains of sand; shame can't be found among criminals. ("Leopards can't change their spots.")

A chicken dreams of pecking grains of yellow rice; a fox dreams of eating plump chickens. (Mandarin speakers might say, "Same bed--different dreams." English speakers might say, "To each his own," or as we might say in the US, thanks to Sly and the Family Stone, "Different strokes for different folks.")


The mountain you can see is not very far off. ("A journey of a thousand li begins with the first step.")

The lamb that leaves the fold is soon eaten by the wolf. ("United we stand; divided we fall." In life-and-death struggles, all must pull together; there is no time to play the maverick.)

You can't get any milk from a screaming calf. (All in due course; everything comes in its right time.)

Korean (Chaoxian)

Even a pile of dirt can eventually grow into a Mount Tai. (Those who work diligently will eventually be rewarded for their efforts. Mandarin speakers say, "The constant dripping of water can drill a hole through a rock.")

In a household of much squabbling, even the soy sauce tastes bitter. (The converse of "When you are in love, the whole world is beautiful.")

Only by wading in the water will you ever know how deep it is; only by spending much time with someone will you ever understand that person's heart. (It takes time to build a relationship!)

Honesty is a person's greatest treasure. (One's reputation of honesty will precede one wherever one goes. No one can ever rob another of such a reputation.)


A leopard without fangs is more timid than even a rabbit. (A person without without determination, inner strength, or confidence is just a shell.)

Sometimes it is easier to recover from a knife wound than a wound caused by words. (Words can hurt; they can ring in the ears and continue to slash the heart long after they were uttered.)

Consuming medicine that prolongs life isn't nearly as beneficial as laughing three times a day. ("Laughter is the best medicine!" as many have said.)

A bad dog fears a cudgel; a bad person fears the truth. (Just as Superman avoids kryptonite, the bad must flee from the truth.)

The smoothest road on a journey is the road you have already covered. (Rough times always lurk ahead, so be ready for them.)

The carpenter has no coffin of his own when he dies. (Who will care for those who have cared for everyone else when their time is up?)

It is better to break your bones than to break your reputation. ( A person's reputation is everything; it precedes that person wherever he/she goes, it makes his/her eligibility for employment irresistible, and it becomes the envy of others.)

The arrogant ants that climb to the tip of the bull's horn think they are on a mountain peak. (The smug and untalented are always easily satisfied with low standards and their own "accomplishments.")

When you eat what is sweet, take care not to forget what is bitter. (Remember what it took for you to get to wherever you are; moreover, never forget the sacrifices of those who came before you.)

Sibo/Sibe (Xibo)

Don't ever show a lazy cow where the well is! (The last thing lazy people need is for you to do everything for them.)

Whenever you cross a bridge, thank the builder a hundred times. (Be thankful for all the benefactors in your life.)

Too many carpenters on the job result in a lopsided house. (Too many cooks spoil the broth.)

One hundred hunters may chase a rabbit, but only one of them will end up catching it. (Life is full of chances and risks; only those who dare to take a chance or risk stand to win anything.)

Beneath an old saddle may be a fine stallion; beneath filthy rags may be a true saint. ("Don't judge a book by its cover.")The wealthy fear robbers; the poor fear guests. (We all have fears; they just differ from person to person.)

The child who doesn't cry doesn't get the milk. ("The squeaky wheel gets the grease.")

Even a snake can say it sometimes moves in a straight path. ("Every dog has its day"; also, "Even a broken clock is right twice a day" [often says Larry Elder, talk show host on AM 790, KABC] and "Even a blind squirrel can find an acorn once in a while [Al Rantel, talk show host on AM 790, KABC].)

A rich man's money is invested in medicine; a poor man's belongings are invested at the pawnbroker's. (Rich or poor, we all have to spend money.)


It is better to have nearby friends than faraway relatives. (In times of extreme need, we need to accept whatever help we can get.)


Sparrows that unite can defeat even a camel. (Anything is possible when people unite as one.)

Don't believe your enemy's tears. (In the West, we speak of "crocodile tears.")(from The Wonderful Treasure Horse)


All the proverbs are from the compilation of Zhang Dingya, Chen Zeping, Wang Huixiao, and Wen Qingbo.

No comments:

Post a Comment