Sunday, January 26, 2014

Chinese Proverbs About Horses for the Year of the Horse

Happy Lunar New Year--the Year of the Horse!

The following are some of the many proverbs, metaphors, and other folk expressions that mention horses.
Before we get to them, let's start with the most felicitous of all for this season:

馬到成功 or the other version 馬到功成 The arrival of the horse means/signifies success, achievement, accomplishment, etc. In other words, success shall swiftly arrive. (This is what people might write in black ink on red paper to hang on their doors to signify the imminent arrival of the Year of the Horse. Indeed, some anonymous kindhearted friend posted such a message on my office door this morning, much to my pleasant surprise.)

百福骈臻 A hundred blessings arriving with a pair of horses. (May you be blessed.) 

好马不吃回头草 A good horse doesn't head back to eat the remaining grass. (A person with determination to succeed doesn't look back. Baseball player Satchel Paige said, "Don't look back; something might be gaining on you.")

老马识途 The old horse knows the path. (Those who are experienced can be trusted.)

万马奔腾 Ten thousand horses stampeding as they ascend. (Memorable, grand, thunderous display.) 

龙马精神 The spirit of a dragon and a horse. (A compliment said of seniors who possess much stamina and energy.)

神龙马壮 The strength, robustness of a god, dragon and horse. (Said of one who is physically powerful.)

香车宝马 A wagon of sandalwood with splendid equines. (Said of an impressive display of magnificent horses in a procession.)

马不停蹄 The horse's hoofs don't stop. (Said of those who persist and persevere, who work without stopping until the goal is met.) 

青梅竹马 Green plums and bamboo hobbyhorses. (Said affectionately and sentimentally of small girls and boys playing and growing up together.)

天马行空 A heavenly steed that traverses the sky. (A metaphor for anything that possesses graceful majesty, especially calligraphy.) 

悬崖勒马 To rein in the horse at the edge of a cliff. (To come to one's senses just in time. Contrast this with the one directly below.)

好马崖前不低头 A good horse doesn't shy away from the edge of a cliff. (A person of integrity and courage, in other words, does what needs to be done regardless of the risk.) 

长安何处在?只在马蹄下! How may one get to Chang'an (Ch'ang-an)? By the hoofs of horses! (In other words, nothing is accomplished without some energy and sweat, or, some "elbow grease." Chang'an, by the way, was an ancient capital of China.)

And then we have:

牛头不对马嘴 An ox head doesn't tally with a horse's mouth. (Referring to that which is irrelevant, incompatible or incongruous.)

指鹿为马 To point to a deer but mean a horse. (To confuse right and wrong.) 

露出马脚 To reveal horse hoofs. (To "show one's true colors.") 

走马看花 Like a horse passing by looking at flowers. (Said of individuals who make a hasty judgment based on superficial observation.) 

愿附骥尾 To attach oneself to the tail of a swift steed. (To "hitch oneself to someone's wagon" or to "ride in on someone's coattails.")


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I don't normally post material that is thematically linked to the seasons, but I couldn't help resist as the Year of the Horse is my own "year." In keeping with the spirit of a new year, I left out some of the more negative proverbs.

Once again, Happy New Year! May you all enjoy excellent health, continual happiness and unceasing prosperity.