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Say It Right Series

成语 (proverb) discussion

Posted by yarajeev January 24, 2009 in the Group General Discussion.

Tags: Chinese Proverbs; traditional; culture

This feels like a real non-Pod subject, but here goes....

Cheng2 Yu3 are (typically) four-character proverbs that are supposed, by analogy, to summarize a particular situation. Here is one:


Jing1 wei4 tian2 hai3

A literal translation is "the JingWei bird fills up the ocean"; the story is that the princess 女娃 (Nu:3 Wa2) gets drowned in the ocean (海 hai3), and is as a result a little bu4 gao1 xing4. Reincarnated as the JingWei bird, and decides to get her own back by filling in (填 tian2) the ocean by dropping pebbles into it one at a time.

An analogy for a task that is impossible to complete.  Like learning Chinese :-)

If there is already a discussion thread, apologies, and please redirect me there... otherwise, I find these beasts interesting for several reasons:

- when reading english translations of various 长篇小说 (epics like Dream of Red Mansions etc) there are zillions of these to be found and I would love to find the originals...

- the cultural differences (if I understand them right) revealed are also really pretty interesting.  For example, the equivalent of "practice makes perfect" has the sense of "you don't need much talent, if you put in the hours you will get somewhere with anything", and the equivalent of "to close the stable door after the horse has bolted" is "close the [paddock] door, or else a second sheep will bolt".

Anyhoo, more later.

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