Wednesday, 7 April 2010

Chinese Proverbs

This is a collection of Chinese proverbs (諺語 yànyŭ) and idioms (成語 chéngyŭ), given in and sorted by their pinyin transcription. Chinese proverbs and four-plus character idioms are developed from the formulaic or social dialect/saying/expression (歇後語 in pinyin: xièhòuyŭ) and historical story in Chinese.
Some proverbs are literary; that is, from a written source. (See the historical written language or the more modern written language.) Others originated among families, street vendors, and other commoners--all walks of life.

Literally: A drop of water shall be returned with a burst of spring.
Meaning: Even if it was just a little help from others, you should return the favor with all you can when others are in need.

Literally: If a single member of a family eats, the whole family will not feel hungry.
Meaning: If there is one person in the family who is able to provide food for themselves, it should fall upon them to take care of the rest of their family too.
Common Misunderstanding: If one person in the family is happy, the whole family is happy.

(fú)(wú)(chóng)(zhì), (huò)(bú)(dān)(xíng)
Literally: A person is blessed once, but his troubles never come alone.
Meaning: There are never enough blessings, but there are too many troubles.

(bīng)(dòng)(sān)(chǐ),(fēi)(yī)(rì)(zhī)(hán)(ice+freeze+three+units(~feet),not+one+day's(7th and 8th)+chill)
Literally: A single day of sub-zero temperature is not enough to create three feet of ice.
Moral: Great things cannot be accomplished in a short period of time.
Compare: Rome was not built in a day (Roma non fu fatta in un giorno,
Italian proverb).

(dà)(shuǐ)(chōng)(le)(lóng)(wáng)(miào)(big+water+poured over+finish+dragon+king+temple)
Literally: The Dragon-King's temple is flooded.
Moral: You can be harmed by the things you control.
Explanation: The Dragon-King is a mystical creature that lives underwater and controls the natural bodies of water. People visit the dragon-king temple to placate him and prevent floods, thus this proverb is ironic situationally (Sometimes this proverb is used as '大水冲了龙王庙,一家人不认一家人' (...yi1 jia1 ren2 bu4 ren4 yi1 jia1 ren2, or, One family member doesn't recognize another family member. The idiom might be used to resolve an embarrassing situation. For example, someone has a conflict with a stranger, only to find the stranger was a neighbor, or a sister's boyfriend, or any other person with some relation. The two might use this idiom to save face and make peace with each other, comparing the conflict to that of the flooded dragon-king's temple (dragon-king: rain god in some sense).