Chinese idioms and folk wisdom

Ripe Indigo Rose Cherry Tomatoes

Beautiful Ripened Indigo Rose Cherry Tomatoes

This spring, out of curiosity, I planted an interesting variety of tomato named “Indigo Rose”. The fruits maintained a deep indigo color with a green bottom until they finally matured. That was when the green portion turned orange-red. Only after I began harvesting the ripened fruits did I realize how this cultivar got its beautiful name. Why, a cute orange rose revealed itself on the tomato when I removed the tiny stem. There is no way I would let this season slip by without sharing the beauty of these tomatoes with you.

Now, what does this picture have to do with the idioms we will be talking about today? Well, here’s an idiom that is arguably relevant:

情人眼中出西施.
Qíngrén yǎn zhōng chū Xīshī.
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

情人 (qíngrén) are lovers. In the lover’s eyes, the object of love compares to 西施 (Xīshī), who was touted in Chinese literature as the most flawless beauty in China.

I am halfway through reading ” Don Quijote 1 & 2 Español – English: Complete and Unabridged (Spanish Edition) “. I only read the English portion as I don’t speak Spanish, but I think this bilingual book can be very helpful for Spanish-speaking students who are learning English, or for English-speaking students who are learning Spanish because each paragraph in Spanish is followed by the corresponding paragraph in English. The conversations between the characters in this book are filled with idioms and wisecracks, and it struck me how so much of the same folk wisdom sprang up independently within different cultures.

Some Chinese refer to Don Quixote as 唐吉诃德 (táng jí hē dé). In Don Quixote’s imagination, Dulcinea was the 西施 (Xīshī), even though he had never set eyes on her. Such was the power of “pure and chaste” admiration from afar.

Following are a few idioms and sayings selected from the above-mentioned book, accompanied by their Chinese equivalent.

“a heart of marble”

铁石心肠
Tiěshíxīncháng
heart of iron and stone

“The wheel of fortune turns faster than a mill-wheel.”

风水轮流转
fēngshuǐ lúnliu zhuàn
Every dog has his day.

轮流 (lúnliu) means to take turns, such as while playing a card game. Good fortune does not always stay with the same people. This means you might get your turn yet.

“One devil is like another.”

天下乌鸦一般黑
Tiānxiàwūyāyībānhēi
Evil people are bad all the world over.
(All ravens are black.)

“Let us not throw the rope after the bucket.”

无济于事 or 无补于事
Wújìyúshì or wúbǔyúshì
of no avail

济 (jì) means to be of help or to benefit.
补 (bǔ) means to mend, repair, supply, make up for, nourish, or help.

“to have companion in trouble gives some relief”

同病相怜
Tóngbìngxiānglián
Fellow sufferers commiserate with each other.

“If the blind lead the blind, both are in danger of falling into the pit.”

盲人骑瞎马
Mángrén qí xiā mǎ
A blind man riding on a blind horse (heading to disaster)

“As we have loaves, let’s not go looking for cakes.”

知足长乐
Zhīzú cháng lè
Be contented with your lot and you will stay happy.

Please note that 足 (zú) has several meanings: foot, leg, sufficient, enough, ample, satisfied. 手足 (shǒuzú hands and feet) refers to brothers.

“come for wool and go back shorn”
偷鸡不得失把米.
Tōu jī bùdé shī bǎ mǐ.
Failed in attempting to to steal the chicken and lost a handful of rice in the process.

“Love has no greater enemy than hunger and constant want.”

爱情不能当面包.
Àiqíng bùnéng dāng miànbāo.
Love cannot not quell hunger like bread.

“All comparisons are odious.”

人比人气死人.
Rénbǐrén, qìsǐrén.
Comparing yourself with others will only make you angry.

“Tell me what company thou keepest and I’ll tell thee what thou art.”

物以类聚.
Wùyǐlèijù.
Like attracts like. (Birds of a feather flock together.)

“He who’s prepared has his battle half fought.”

有备无患
Yǒubèiwúhuàn
Preparedness averts peril.

准备 (zhǔnbèi) means to prrpare, or preparation.

我们要预先做好准备.
wǒmén yào yùxiān zuò hǎo zhǔnbèi.
We should make preparation beforehand.

This is particularly true when you have a test to take, or when the electric power might go out.

Now, let’s watch a video clip of “The Impossible Dream” (不可能实现的梦想 Bùkěnéng shíxiàn de mèngxiǎng) How can one help falling in love with such a beautiful melody, such as marvelous voice and such a brilliant performance?

By the way, if you have little ones, they might enjoy the Chinese nursery rhyme for counting frogs.

Learn the Chinese word for pain

Migraine Cookbook
偏頭疼食譜

Voilà! I’ve just published the ebook titled “Tame Migraine the Delicious Way“. I wrote the manuscript quite a while ago and only in the past couple years had the time to take pictures for the featured recipes. During this time, many new studies and researches have been done on migraines, but a full understanding of this disorder still eludes us. In “Tame Migraine the Delicious Way” I summarize my experience and what I have learned about this disease. An important point is that certain groups of food trigger migraines, and eliminating those foods from your diet will help prevent the onset of a migraine attack. How to make tasty dishes without calling on bacon, sausages, milk and cheese? The answer can be found in the over one hundred recipes included in this ebook, which show you how to make dishes of food that you as well as the other members of your family can enjoy. You can find this book at amazon.com and  various other digital stores and read it on these devices: iPad, Kindle, Nook, Kobo and Tolino. In case you do not have any of these devices, you could still read the ebook on your PC. If you would like to know how to make a delicious Egg Flower Soup, or 蛋花汤 (dànhuātāng), you are welcome to read my blog at https://tamemigraine.wordpress.com.

The migraine disorder exhibits itself in a variety of symptoms in various parts of the body. The most prominent symptom is a throbbing, pounding headache that usually occurs on one side of the head. This is why in Chinese it is called 偏头疼 (piān tóuténg).

(piān) means inclined or deviated to one side. Therefore, having a biased mind is called 偏心 (piānxīn). If the teacher favors a certain student, the other students are sure to sense it and complain amongst themselves:

老師偏心; 這不公平.
Lǎoshī piānxīn; zhè bùgōngping.
The teacher shows favoritism; it’s not fair.

The two most commonly used words for pain and aches in Chiese are (téng) and (tòng). Often these characters are combined into one word: 疼痛 (téngtòng pain, ache, soreness).

Pain can occur in different parts of your body. So, 牙痛 (yátòng) is a toothache. 头疼 (tóuténg) or 头痛 (tóutòng) is having a headache, and 脚痛 (jiǎo tòng) ) means the foot hurts. And 头痛医头, 脚痛医脚. (Tóutòngyītóujiǎotòngyījiǎo.) means to treat the symptoms but not the illness, i.e. not getting to the root cause of a problem.

Same as with English, 头疼 (tóuténg) and 头痛 (tóutòng) can also refer to a figurative headache.

這真是一件令人头痛的事.
Zhè zhēnshì yī jiàn lìngrén tóutòng de shì.
This is truly a bothersome matter.

If you have a health problem with your heart, and you feel pain in the chest, you would say, “我心脏痛. (Wǒ xīnzàng tòng.” or “我胸口疼. (Wǒ xiōngkǒu téng.)”

On the other hand, if you love a child dearly, if you feel discressed, or if you feel sorry for someone, you would use the word 心疼 (xīnténg). For example,

她最心疼她的大女儿.
Tā zuì xīnténg tā de dà nǚ’ér.
She loves her oldest daughter the most.

Another way to say it is:

她最疼愛她的大女儿.
Tā zuì téng’ai tā de dà nǚ’ér.
She loves her oldest daughter the most.

他的儿子不愿继承他的事业; 他万分心疼.
Tā de érzi bù yuàn jìchéng tā de shìyè; tā wànfēn xīnténg.
His son is unwilling to carry on his enterprise; he is extremely distressed.

In this sense, 心疼 (xīnténg) is equivalent to 痛苦 (tòngkǔ to feel pain or agony).

他忘掉了以往痛苦的日子.
Tā wàngdiào le yǐwǎng tòngkǔ de rìzi.
He forgot those painful days in the past.

他陷入无限的痛苦之中.
Tā xiànrù wúxiàn de tòngkǔ zhī zhòng.
He fell into a pit of infinite suffering.

悲痛 (bēitòng) means grief, grieved, sorrow or sorrowful.

忍痛 (rěntóng) means to endure pain. Figuratively it meas to do something very reluctantly.

The word (tòng) also serves as the abbreviation for 痛快 (tòngkuài), which means straightforward, to one’s heart’s content or to one’s great satisfaction. Therefore, 痛斥 (tòngchì) means to chide bitterly, and 痛哭 (tòngkū) is to wail or cry one’s heart out. In these cases, (tòng) is not directly associated with pain.

我們到了台北之後, 要痛快地吃一頓.
Wǒmén dàole Táiběi zhīhòu, yào tòngkuài de chī yī dùn.
When we get to Taipei, we are determined to have a hearty feast.

As for “pain” in the sense of “effort”, the Chinese word is 努力 (nǔlì), and not (tòng). This is how you would say “No pain, no gain” in Chinese:

一分耕耘一分收获.
Yī fēn gēngyún yī fēn shōuhuò.

耕耘 (gēngyún) is to cultivate the field by ploughing and weeding. 收获 (shōuhuò) is to gather in the crop. Therefore, one is expected to harvest or profit in proportion to the effort one has put in.

 

Learn Chinese word radical – Foot

(zú) is the Chinese word for feet. It also means sufficient or ample. Today we will only talk about this character in relation to the feet and the actions that are usually performed using the feet.

Soccer and football are bothe called 足球 (zúqiú) in Chinese. To avoid ambiguity, you could refer to football as 美国足球 (Měiguó zúqiú) or 橄榄球 (gǎnlǎnqiú football or rugby).

你喜欢看足球赛吗?
Nǐ xǐhuān kàn zúqiú sài ma?
Do you like to watch soccer games?

(zhǐ) are the toes. As this character sounds exactly the same as (zhǐ fingers, to point to), it’s best to refer to your toes as 脚趾 (jiǎozhǐ), and your fingers as 手指 (shǒuzhǐ).

脚跟 (jiǎogēn) is the heel. As a verb, (gēn) means to follow. Many people use (gēn) as the conjunctive “and” instead of (hé).

他跟我一样高.
Tā gēn wǒ yīyàng gāo.
He is the same height as I am.

(pǎo) is to run or to escape. You’ve had plenty of practice pronouncing this word while reading/singing the “Two Tigers” song discussed in Chapter 1 of “Learn Chinese through Songs and Rhymes“.

(pā) is to lie prone.

他趴在地上.
Tā pā zài dì shàng.
He lay prone on the ground.

(bié) is to have sprained one’s ankle, and 蹩脚 (biéjiǎo) is used for describing inferior work or a shoddy product.

(tà) means to step on, or to tread on. The bicyle, being a vehicle powered by on’e feet treading on the pedals, is called 脚踏车 (jiǎotàchē).

(tī) means to kick. So, 踢踏舞 (tītàwǔ) is tap dance.

(tiào) is to jump, leap, bounce or skip.

跳水 (tiàoshuǐ) is to spring for a dive, as from a diving board, or 跳板 (tiàobǎn).

跳伞 (tiàosǎn) is parachute jumping.

跳房子 (tiàofángzi) is the children’s game of hopscotch.

If your kid is smart, he or she might be able to skip a grade in school, or 跳级 (tiàojiǎo).

跳棋 (tiàoqí) is Chinese checkers. The action of playing chess or checkers is called 下棋 (xiàqí).

你喜欢下跳棋吗?
Nǐ xǐhuān xià tiàoqí ma?
Do you like to play Chinese checkers?

跳脚 (tiàojiǎo) means to stamp one’s foot, as in anger or frustration.

跳票 (tiàopiào) is to have a check bounced.

他开给我的支票跳票了.
Tā kāi gěi wǒ de zhīpiào tiàopiào le.
The check he wrote to me bounced.

(zhuō) is to grasp, catch or capture. It features both the hand radical and the foot radical and is used in a similar way as (zhuā to snatch) but puts the emphasis on the catching rather than the grabbing.

警察捉到一个小偷.
Jǐngchá zhuō dào yī gè xiǎotōu.
The police caught a thief.

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