Thursday, January 2, 2014

Xibe/Xibo Proverbs From Xinjiang

In life, it takes just once to be kicked by a bad horse and once to be cheated by a wicked friend. (Proper vigilance will stave off disaster.) 

A single strand of silk doesn't make a thread. (To "make a silk purse out of a sow's ear.")

Pants that are too long entangle the feet; a tongue too long binds one's life. (Many Chinese-language proverbs deal with the dangers of outspokenness, rumor mongering, and slander. Hence, Mandarin speakers say, "Disaster comes from out of the mouth.") 

The wise can be happy while being poor; the unwise are still miserable while rich. ("The mind is its own place and in itself can make a heaven of hell, a hell of heaven"--John Milton.) 

Neither land nor a great city are big enough to fill the pupils of a greedy person's eyes. (Like gluttons whose "eyes are bigger than their stomachs.")

The longer the torch, the less danger your hands will be burned. ("Better safe than sorry," we say.) 

To depend on others is to freeze your own hands, even in July. (To depend on others will prevent us from helping and, thus, empowering ourselves.) 

To mouth the words of a saint but to do a demon's work. (Said of hypocrites.) 

To be pecked on the bum by the hen you raised. (To "bite the hand that feeds you.") 

To those who seek wisdom, time is gold; to the stupid, time is a mound of dung. ("Make hay while the sun is out.")

Just as beautiful snakes may be venomous, people who smile all too often may be carrying knives. (A Chinese proverb warns us of "those who smile yet carry a dagger within the girdle."  A rather cynical Korean proverb just tells us to "beware of those who are always smiling." We are reminded of "wolves who come in sheep's clothing.") 

Sometimes it can be easier to move a mountain than to accomplish one's goals. (Perhaps this hearkens to the Chinese proverb of the "Foolish Old Man Who Tried to Move a Mountain." When the mountain got wind of what the old man was up to, it became so discouraged that such an indefatigable foe existed that it picked itself up and moved.) 

The frog that croaks first gets struck by lightning. (An English proverb states that "an ounce of prudence is worth a pound of gold.")

While one may acclaim the greatness of one's land, the land, in return, says nothing. (Sometimes  love and affection are a one-way street.) 

The fiercest tiger still doesn't eat its own cubs. (In the end, "blood is [still] thicker than water.")

A beating merely hurts the flesh; a scolding hurts the heart. (Mongols say: "Sometimes it's easier to recover from a knife wound than a wound caused by words.") 

A determined person, even tied to a rock, will still not starve to death. (The motto of the famed British Special Air Services [SAS] Regiment is "He who dares wins.")

A boastful doctor doesn't really have any great medicine; a cocky friend doesn't really have any words worth hearing. (What do Texans say about braggarts and poseurs? "All hat and no cattle.")

Xinjiang Folk Literature, Vol. 3[新疆民间文学第三集]; Urumchi: Xinjiang Renmin Chubanshe; pp. 139; 212-215.

The Xibo (or, Xibe, Sibo, Sibe) are originally from China's Northeast. Many were sent to the Far West, Xinjiang, during the Qing Dynasty to man border garrisons. They are renowned for their prowess in archery. To this day, the Xibo, an ethnically Tungusic people like the Manchus, continue to use a modified Manchu script. 

More Xibo proverbs can be found at the the posting for 7/31/07.