Chinese idiom for “Misfortune could be a blessing in disguise.”

Road Block sign

Road Blocked

On life’s journey, it is inevitable that we sometimes encounter setbacks. However, often they are not as bad as they appear to be.

Suppose you baked a chiffon cake, but something went wrong. Instead of a tender and uniformly pale perfection with just the right amount of moistness, the cake features a visible layer of goo settled somewhere in the middle. Before you declare the fruit of labor a failure, let me congratulate you. You have just produced what’s called a “magic cake”, or 魔术蛋糕 (móshù dàngāo).

And suppose, while mixing yeast, flour and water to make bread dough, you were absent-minded and accidentally added way too much water. You look at the poolish (wet dough sponge) and wonder if you should dump the whole thing and start over. Don’t. This is actually the perfect mixture for making the so-called “peasant bread”, or 农家面包 (nóngjiā miànbāo). You might need to add a bit more salt to adjust the taste, and then the dough is ready for proofing and baking. No need to knead, and I’m not kidding. The end product is a coarse bread that lives up to its name, but some people claim that it is the best bread they have ever consumed.

After the ingenious inventor and engineer Nikola Tesla 尼古拉 特斯拉 (Nígǔlā Tèsīlā) had a falling-out with Thomas Edison 托马斯 爱迪生 (Tuōmǎsī Aàidíshēng) and resigned from the latter’s company as an electrical engineer, he had to support himself by working as a ditch digger. Luckily, fortune turned in his favor. Had he stayed with Edison, his concept of using alternating current to deliver power would never have been implemented.

So it is that you find yourself in a bad situation, you might try to take it easy, as sometimes the loss might turn out to be a gain. There is a saying in Chinese that conveys this sentiment:

塞翁失馬,焉知非福.
Sāiwēngshīmǎ, yānzhīfēifú.
The old man lost a horse; how would you know if this would not turn out to be a blessing?

In the story on which this idiom is based, the horse of an old gentleman ran away one day. While his neighbors felt sorry for him, the old man did not take this incident to heart. Indeed, a few months later, the horse returned, accompanied by a fine steed. The old man ended up gaining an additional horse.

老人失掉了马, 但是他不在意.
Lǎorén shīdiàole mǎ, dànshì tā bù zàiyì.
The old man lost his horse, but he did not care.

There are a few other ways to say that you don’t care.

不在乎 (bùzàihū) means not minding something; not giving a fig about something.

他失掉了工作,但是他好像毫不在乎.
Tā shīdiàole gōngzuò, dànshì tā hǎoxiàng háo bùzàihū.
He lost his job, but he does not seem to care.

不介意 (bù jièyì) means not minding or not taking offence.

如果你不介意, 我明天就不来了.
Rúguǒ nǐ bù jièyì wǒ míngtiān jiù bù láile.
If you don’t mind, I won’t come tomorrow.

不放在心上 (bù fàng zàixīn shàng) means not taking something to heart.

希望你不要把这件事放在心上.
Xīwàng nǐ bùyào bǎ zhè jiàn shì fàng zàixīn shàng.
Hope you don’t take this matter to heart.

处之泰然 (chǔzhītàirán) is to handle a situation with equanimity.

他凡事处之泰然.
Tā fánshì chǔzhītàirán.
He is at ease with everything.

How would you say “It doesn’t matter.” in Chinese? Yes, 没关系 (méiguānxi), or 不要紧 (bùyàojǐn), or 无所谓 (wúsuǒwèi).

没关系; 我坐哪里都无所谓.
Méiguānxì, wǒ zuò nǎlǐ dōu wúsuǒwèi.
It’s all right; it doesn’t matter where I sit.

When faced with an issue about which one can do little, a person might simply let it be.

那么, 就顺其自然吧!
Nàme, jiù shùn qí zìrán ba!
Then, let it be.

顺其自然 (shùnqízìrán) is to follow nature’s course.

A confident person might be more optimistic and utter one of the following three idioms.

天无绝人之路.
Tiānwújuérénzhīlù.
Heaven never seals off all the exits – there is always a way out..

船到桥头自然直.
Chuán dào qiáotóu zìran zhí.
The boat will automatically straighten itself out when it gets to the bridge.
(We’ll cross the bridge when we get there.)

<font size=”5″>穷则变,变则通.
Qióng zé biàn, biàn zé tōng.
When at an impasse, one will try to change things, and then the path will open.

穷途末路
(qióngtúmòlù) is a literary expression for a dead end or an impasse.

No one knows how a person’s fate might change in the next moment. That’s expressed in the Chinese saying:

天有不测风云;
Tiānyǒubùcèfēngyún;
A storm may arise out of the blue;

人有旦夕祸福.
Rén yǒu dànxì huò fú.
people’s fate may change in a day.

旦夕 (dànxī) is the formal Chinese way of saying this morning or evening, i.e. in a short while.

Let’s hope that whatever problem you are facing now will turn out to be a blessing in disguise.

她被开除之后, 找到一个理想的工作, 可以说是因祸得福.
Tā bèi kāichú zhīhòu, zhǎodào yīgè gèng lǐxiǎng de gōngzuò, kěyǐ shuō shì yīnhuòdéfú.
After she was fired, she found an ideal job, which can be said to be a blessing in disguise.

妇女节快乐!
Fùnǚ jié kuàilè!
Happy International Women’s Day!

Learn Chinese word radical – Dish

Tofu on Plate

Tofu on Plate

The picture at the right shows a small plate of sliced tofu. Looking at it, can you envision the Chinese character (mǐn)? As mentioned last week, this character represents a dish or a container. Not surprisingly, it shows up as a radical in the words for such items as plates, cups or basins.

(pán) is a plate, a dish or a tray. It also stands for other flat items like 棋盘 (qípán chessboard, checkerboard), 地盘 (dìpán one’s own territory), 沙盘 (shāpán sand table) and 算盘 (suànpán abacus). It will be good to note here that 盘算 (pánsuan) is a verb that means to calculate or to plan.
股票 (gǔpiào) are shares of stock, and 股票市场 (gǔpiàoshìchǎng) is the stock market, often abbreviated as 股市 (gǔ shì) or 股盘 (gǔpán). 股市崩盘 (gǔ shì bēngpán) would be a collapse of the stock market.

(zhōng) is a cup without handles. One of my favorite dishes is the 冬瓜盅 (dōngguā zhōng), which is a winter melon soup served in the melon itself. With just a touch of (táng sugar) and (yán salt) and the flavors contributed by the melon flesh, the mushrooms and a variety of quality meats and seafood, this soup is a treat for the taste buds as well as the soul.

(pén) is a pot, a tub or a basin. A flowerpot is called 花盆 (huāpén). A washbasin is called 脸盆 (liǎnpén).

盒子 (hézi) is a box.

他带给我一盒巧克力糖.
Tā dài gěi wǒ yī hé qiǎokèlì táng.
He brought me a box of chocolates.

Please review Chapter 7 of “Learn Chinese through Songs and Rhymes” and read about other types of containers that are often used as units of measure.

(zhǎn) is a small cup, (dēng) is a lamp and 黑夜 (hēiyè) means dark night.

希望像是黑夜里的一盏灯.
Xīwàng xiàng shì hēiyè li de yī zhǎn dēng.
Hope is like a lamp shining in the dark night.

(yì) means beneficial, increasingly, or a profit.

(shèng) means abundant, plentiful, prosperous or popular.

(yíng) means being full or having a surplus. (yì) is to overflow. (làn) also means to overflow or to flood. This character is used in words that represent excessiveness or indiscriminateness.

他滥用职权.
Tā lànyòng zhíquán.
He abuses his power (authority).

(dào) means theft, robbery, a thief or a robber.

(jiān) is to watch or to supervise. 监视 (jiānshì) is to keep watch on someone, and 监牢 (jiānláo) is a prison.

(wēn) means warm or lukewarm. In this character we have water (as represented by the water radical), heat (as represented by the sun radical) and the vessel radical. A bowl of warm water comes to mind.

(lán) is the blue or indigo color. You do need a container to prepare the indigo dye.

头盔 (tóukuī) is a helmet. I guess you could look at it as an inverted vessel.

骑摩托车时要戴头盔.
Qí mótuōchē shí yào dài tóukuī.
You should wear a helmet when riding a motorcycle.

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