Chinese idioms involving the hog

Year of the Hog

Year of the Hog

Soon we will be welcoming the Year of the Hog, or 猪年 (zhū nián). As sounds the same as , a popular greeting for this particular year is:

Everything will be as you wish.

The greeting on the displayed card is:
Zhūshì dàjí
Everything will be very auspicious.

A sow is called 母猪 (mǔzhū), and a hog is called 公猪 (gōngzhū). If you know that 公主 (gōngzhǔ) is a princess, you will definitely understand why it is important to speak Chinese using the correct intonation. The wild boar is called 野豬 (yězhū).

In the popular children’s story “Three Little Pigs”, or 三只小猪 (Sān zhī xiǎo zhū), two of the pigs are dumb and lazy, while the youngest one is intelligent and hardworking. In the Chinese novel “Journey to the West”, or 西游记 (Xīyóujì), the monk’s second disciple 猪八戒 (Zhū Bājiè) is also depicted with faults and strengths, albeit more of the former traits than the latter. In Episode 23 of the Journey to the West by Little Fox, you can see how 猪八戒 (Zhū Bājiè) was fooled into carrying all the luggage for the journeying party, how he shirked the work and wanted to eat all the time.

Generally speaking, most Chinese consider pigs 肮脏 (āngzāng filthy), 愚蠢 (yúchǔn stupid), 贪吃 (tān chī gluttonous) and 鲁莽 (lǔmǎng crude and rash). This is clearly reflected in many idioms involving the pig.

猪朋狗友 zhū péng gǒ yǒ
Fair-weather friends

猪羊变色 zhū yáng biànsè
The pigs and the sheep have discolored.
(The situation has changed completely.)

猪狗不如 zhū gǒ bùrú
Worse than pigs and dogs.

豕突狼奔 shǐ tū láng bēn
Pigs dash forward and wolves flee.
(A scene of hasty retreat of defeated troops.)

 (shǐ) is the formal word for pigs.

一龙一猪 yī lóng yī zhū
One is a dragon, and the other is a pig.
(One is able and virtuous; the other, unworthy.)

泥猪瓦狗 ní zhū wǎ gǒ
Pigs fashioned from mud, dogs made from clay.
(useless things)

指猪骂狗 zhǐ zhū mà gǒ
Point the finger at the pig to chastise the dog.
(Indirectly chide or criticize someone.)

猪头猪脑 zhū tóu zhū nǎo
Having a pig’s head and brains.
(dumb as a pig)

冷水烫猪 lěngshuǐ tàng zhū
Using cold water to scald a pig.
(ineffective; a waste of effort)

人怕出名, 猪怕肥.
Rén pà chūmíng, zhū pà féi.
People shun fame for fear it might bring trouble just like a pig’s fattening calls for slaughter. (Think “Charlotte’s Web”.)

Perhaps this is what Master Confucius had in mind when he made the following remark about true gentlemen:

Rrén bùzhī ér bù yùn.
Even if no one takes note of them, they don’t mind.

Chūnjié kuàilè!
Happy Spring Festival!

The Monkey King in Chinese

Talking about (wù enlightenment) reminds me of a character in a major Chinese novel written during the Ming Dynasty. This book is titled “西游记 (Xīyóujì), often translated as “Journey to the West”. The general plot of this fantasy novel is not unlike that of “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz”, involving a journey on which the main character is aided by a number of other characters. However, “西游记 (Xīyóujì), 100 chapters long, features many more varied characters, mystical creatures, demons and seemingly endless episodes.

The principal character in “西游记 (Xīyóujì) is a monk, and the objective of his journey is to acquire sacred texts of Buddhism from 印度 (yìndù India). You can find a well written summary at this link.

Each of the main characters in the novel serves to illustrate a certain set of human characteristics. Let’s see if we can use some of the adjectives listed in Chapter 8 of “Learn Chinese through Songs and Rhymes” to describe the personalities of these characters.

The monk, 唐三藏 (Táng Sānzàng), is dedicated to his cause. He is idealistic and benevolent, but his defenselessness and impracticality are often taken advantage of by the team’s adversaries.

唐三藏心地善良, 但是无能.
Táng Sānzàng xīndì shànliáng, dànshì wúnéng.
Tang Sanzang is of a kindhearted nature, but incompetent.

The most capable and the most interesting of the monk’s three disciples is a mystical monkey born out of a rock. He becomes the Monkey King, 猴王 (hóu wáng), and receives training from a mentor, who gives him the name 悟空 (Wùkōng). As the word (sūn) also means monkeys, the author humorously assigned to this monkey the common Chinese surname (sūn grandson). At this link is a section of cartoon with helpful English subtitles that describes the early days in the life of the Monkey King. See if you can catch a few Chinese words here and there.

If you would like to see in animation how 孙悟空 (Sūn Wùkōng) meets up with the monk, you could watch the following two videos in English. (Video 1, Video 2) In these videos, Sun Wukong is referred to as Goku because this is how 悟空 (Wùkōng) is pronounced in Japanese

With a name like 悟空 (Wùkōng), which means being enlightened to the nothingness of life, Sun Wukong is, however, anything but. He has to get involved in any and everything, jumping at every opportunity to utilize his prowess to right the wrongs.

孙悟空聪明, 能干, 勇敢, 但是时常冲动.
Sūn Wùkōng cōngmíng, nénggàn, yǒnggǎn, dànshì shícháng chōngdòng.
Sun Wukong is clever, capable and brave, but often acts impulsively.

Tā shì xǔduō nánháir xīn zhòng de yīngxióng.
He is the hero in the heart of many young boys.

One cannot help but chuckle when thinking about the second disciple who takes on the form of a hog. This 猪八戒 (Zhū Bājiè) represents many human faults – avarice, laziness and sensualism, which are counterbalanced by his amicable personality, straightforwardness and extraordinary physical strength.

猪八戒懒惰, 好吃, 但是强壮, 热情.
Zhū Bājiè lǎnduò, hàochī, dànshì qiángzhuàng, rèqíng.
Zhu Bajie is lazy and gluttonous, but strong and affectionate.

沙和尚 (Shā Héshàng) is kind of an average guy. He obeys the rules, does his duty with an even temper and takes a down-to-earth approach to solving problems. Being thus not an exciting character, he only gets a small part in the novel.

沙和尚正直, 忠实, 任劳任怨.
Shā Héshàng zhèngzhí, zhōngshí, rènláorènyuàn.
Friar Sand is upright, loyal, works hard and puts up with chiding and criticism.

The idiom, 任劳任怨 (rènláorènyuàn), could be translated as “being willing to put one’s nose to the grindstone”.

In reality, each one of us probably has some of the above-mentioned personality traits. Hopefully our strengths will compensate for our weaknesses and help us eventually achieve our individual goals.

The Chinese word radical “Pig”

The Chinese word for home or family is (jiā) or 家庭 (jiātíng). For “home, sweet home”, you could say: 甜蜜的家 (tiánmì de jiā).

Tā yǒu yī gè měimǎn de jiātíng.
He has a perfectly happy family.

Click on this link to listen to a beautiful song written by the very talented song writer and movie director, 刘家昌 (Liú Jiāchāng). The title of the song, 我家在那里 (Wǒ Jiā Zài Nàli) could be translated as “That’s Where My Home Is”, or, if you like, “Home on the Prairie”.

The action word for a woman marrying into another family is: (jià).

Zhù Yīngtái bù yuànyì jià gěi Mǎ Wéncái.
Zhu Yingtai did not want to marry Ma Wencai.
(Ref: The Butterfly Lovers)

Furniture is called 傢具 (jiājù), and 傢伙 (jiāhuǒ fellow) is an informal (generally disrespectful) way of referring to a person. 傢伙 (jiāhuǒ) is also used colloquially to refer to a hand tool or a hand weapon.

If you will notice, the character (jiā home) features a roof at the top. Under the roof is the character (shǐ), the formal word for pigs. It used to be that in the Chinese and Taiwanese villages, many families raised pigs for food. A pig under the roof indicates well-being and security. To the Chinese, pigs symbolize prosperity, good fortune as well as avarice, laziness and sloppiness.

Nowadays, pigs and hogs are called (zhū), and the word for pork is 豬肉 (zhūròu). By the way, unlike humans and many other animals, pigs don’t get milk teeth, or 乳牙 (rǔ yá), but just have one set of permanent teeth.

I guess if you blow up a pig’s body and add a huge head and long trunk to it, you will get an elephant, or (xiàng). (xiàng) also represents appearances and phenomena, such as in 氣象 (qìxiàng meteorology).

With the “person” word root on the left side, (xiàng) is the word for a portrait or a picture. It also serves as the verb that means “to look like”.

Tā zhǎng de xiàng tā yéye.
He takes after his grandpa.

(zhuó) is to peck. (See the mouth radical on the left side?)

(zhú) is to chase or drive out. It also means “one by one”.

(duì) is a team or a row of people.

遽然 (jùrán) means suddenly. It is interchangeable with 忽然 (hūrán suddenly).

Tā jùrán tuī le wǒ yīxià.
He suddenly gave me a push.

Although dogs are men’s best friends and pigs have proven to be quite intelligent, traditionally they have not earned a high opinion with the Chinese.

豬狗不如 (zhūgǒubùrú) means to be worse than pigs and dogs.

狼心狗肺 (lángxīngǒufèi) means to be cruel and ungrateful, like having the heart of a wolf and the lungs of a dog.

The fox does not fare any better. 狐假虎威 (hújiǎhǔwēi) means to bully other people by flaunting one’s powerful connections, like a fox trailing a tiger to scare people off.

On the other hand, the mythical dragon, (lóng) is greatly respected and held in awe. Why, it represents the power of the Chinese emperor himself. (lóng) is also a symbol of good luck. This year, 2012, happens to be the Year of the Dragon, or 龍年 (lóng nián).

望子成龍 (wàngzichénglóng) is a phrase describing the fervent wish for one’s son to excel and become successful.

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