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 words about feeling bad

Sad Moon

Moon Taking Pity on the World

Another year is slipping away, this one having been particularly challenging for many of us. Life does not promise us sunshine everyday; we must sometimes deal with hail, thunderstorms, floods, fires, diseases and pandemics. Therefore, this seems a good time for us to familiarize ourselves with a few Chinese words that pertain to pain, sadness, disappointment and other negative feelings.

不舒服 (bú shūfú) could mean not feeling well physically or feeling uncomfortable emotionally.

我今天不舒服, 不去上班了.
Wǒ jīntiān bú shūfú, bù qù shàngbānle.
I’m not feeling well today, so I won’t go to work.

他说约翰的坏话, 我听了心里很不舒服.
Tā shuō yuēhàn de huàihuà, wǒ tīngle xīnlǐ hěn bú shūfú.
He spoke ill of John,and I felt uncomfortable about it.

To feel is 感觉 (gǎnjué) or 觉得 (juéde).

他不能与朋友相聚, 感觉孤单以及郁闷.
Tā bùnéng yǔ péngyǒu xiāngjù, gǎnjué gūdān yǐjí yùmèn.
Not being able to get together wtih friends, he feels lonely and depressed.

期末考快要到了, 他觉得很紧张.
Qímò kǎo kuàiyào dàole, tā juédé hěn jǐnzhāng.
The final exam is near; he feels very nervous.

她嫉妒我的成绩比她好.
Tā jídù wǒ de chéngjī bǐ tā hǎo.
She is jealous that I have better grades than she.

我后悔没有接受他的建议.
Wǒ hòuhuǐ méiyǒu jiēshòu tā de jiànyì.
I regret not having followed his suggestion.

今年的销售量低, 颇令人失望
Jīnnián de xiāoshòu liàng dī, pǒ lìng rén shīwàng.
This year’s sales are low, quite disappointing.

他失业了, 前途茫然.
Tā shīyèle, qiántú mángrán.
He lost his job, and his future is uncertain.

她不敢去看电影, 怕得到病毒感染.
Tā bù gǎn qù kàn diànyǐng, pà dédào bìngdú gǎnrǎn.
She is afraid to go to the movies for fear of getting the virus.

她讨厌插队的人.
Tā tǎoyàn chāduì de rén.
She despises people who jump the queue.

天黑了, 他还没回来. 我有些担心.
Tiān hēile, tā hái méi huílái. Wǒ yǒuxiē dānxīn.
It’s getting late, but he has not yet come back. I’m somewhat worried.

如果他出了事, 我们会很伤心.
Rúguǒ tā chū liǎo shì, wǒmen huì hěn shāngxīn.
If something happens to him, we will be very sad.

When you are sad or worried, try singing a song, such as “Worried Man Blues” presented at the end of Chapter 25 in “Learn Chinese through Songs and Rhymes“. It just might make you feel better.

Sometimes things are not as bad as we think. As a Chinese saying goes:

天下本无事, 庸人自扰之.
Tiānxià běn wú shì, yōngrénzìrǎo zhī.
Nothing is the matter with the world, except in one’s own imagination.

天下 (tiānxià) means land under heaven, or the world.
(běn), as used here, is the abbreviation of 本来 (běnlái), which means originally.
庸人 (yōngrén) refers to an average person.

And suppose the world is actually riddled with problems, like the pandemic and unrest we are experiencing, we could hope that the pendulum will soon swing the other way. This is what the Chinese refer to as 否极泰来 (pǐjítàilái), namely when misfortune reaches its limit, things will start to look up.

圣诞快乐, 新年如意!
Shèngdàn kuàilè, xīnnián rúyì!
Merry Christmas, Happy New Year!

 

How to say Halloween in Chinese?

Witch flying on broom

NYC, here I come!

Halloween is the eve of All Saints’ Day. In Chinese, it is called 万圣节 (Wàn Shèng Jié), or ten thousand saints’ festival, which is not generally observed in Asian countries. In China, Taiwan and Hong Kong, those who have passed away are remembered at the Night of the Ghosts, or 中元節 (zhōngyuán jié), which falls the fifteenth day of the seventh month in the lunar calendar.

As you know, 巫婆 (wūpó witches), 妖怪 (yāoguài monsters, demons) and carved pumpkins, or 南瓜 (nánguā), feature prominently at Halloween.

Memory took me back to Halloween a few years ago when I had to take a red-eye flight to New York City on business.

万圣节那天下午,我去雜貨店買了一支旅行用的牙膏.
Wàn Shèng Jié nàtiān xiàwǔ, wǒ qù záhuò diàn mǎile yī zhī lǚxíng yòng de yágāo.
That afternoon on Halloween Day I went to the grocers to buy a travel-size tube of toothpaste.

因為我的舊掃帚已經用壞了,
Yīnwei wǒ de jiù sàozhǒu yǐjīng yòng huài le,
As my old broom had been worn out,

我也順便買了一支新的掃帚.
wǒ yě shùnbiàn mǎile yī zhī xīn de sàozhǒu.
I also grabbed a new broom.

結帳時店員好意地問我,
Jié zhàng shí, diànyuán hǎoyì dì wèn wǒ,
At the checkout stand the friendly clerk asked me,

“你今天晚上準備做些什麼?”
Nǐ jīntiān wǎnshàng zhǔnbèi zuò xiē shénme?
“What are you planning to do tonight?”

我回答說, “我今天晚上要飛到紐約去.”
Wǒ huídá shuō, “Wǒ jīntiān wǎnshàng yào fēi dào Niǔyuē qù.”
I replied, “I’m flying to New York tonight.”

他看了我的掃帚一眼,
Tā kànle wǒ de sàozhǒu yīyǎn,
He eyed my broom for a moment,

然後帶著將信將疑的微笑說,
ránhòu dàizhe jiāngxìnjiāngyí de wéixiào shuō,
and then said with an incredulous smile,

“哦, 是嗎?”
” Ó, shì ma?”
“Oh, yeah?”

我後悔當時沒有也買了一頂黑色的有尖頂的巫婆帽.
Wǒ hòuhuǐ dāngshí méiyǒu yě mǎile yī dǐng hēisè de yǒu jiāndǐng de wūpó mào.
I regret not having also picked up a black witch hat with a pointed top.

万圣节快乐!
Wànshèngjié kuàilè!
Happy Halloween!

Labor Day in Chinese

Bee in Flower

Bee Collecting Pollens

In “Learn Chinese through Songs and Rhymes” we talked about a number of the major Chinese holidays. Here in the USA we are celebrating today the Labor Day, i.e. 劳工节 (láogōng jié). This is different from the 劳动节
(láodòngjié), which is the International Labour Day on May 1. Labor Day was the day the Labor Movement was created in the USA to fight for better wages, reasonable working hours and safer working conditions. This national holiday is annually observed as a tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country.

劳工 (láogōng) or 工人 (gōngrén) are workers, and 运动 (yùndòng) could refer to a physical exercise or a movement.

劳工对于经济有很大的贡献.
Láogōng duìyú jīngjì yǒu hěn dà de gòngxiàn.
The workers contribute greatly to the economy.

The sociey needs the support of workers, just like a bee colony needs to be maintained by the worker bees. It is interesting that in a bee colony, all the work is carried out by female bees.

工蜂建造蜂窝.
Gōngfēng jiànzào fēngwō.
The worker bees construct the bee hive.

他们勤劳地收集花粉,花蜜,以及水.
Tāmen qínláo de shōují huāfěn, huāmì, yǐjí shuǐ.
They diligently collect pollen, nectar and water.

他们酿制蜂蜜来喂幼虫.
Tāmen niàng zhì fēngmì lái wèi yòuchóng.
They make honey to feed the larvae.

他们甚至要负责与敌人作战.
Tāmen shènzhì yào fùzé yǔ dírén zuòzhàn.
They are even charged with the duty of battling the enemies.

他们匆忙来去,非常忙碌.
Tāmen cōngmáng lái qù, fēicháng mánglù.
They hurry to and fro and are very busy.

他们对于工作有浓厚的兴趣.
Tāmen duìyú gōngzuò yǒu nónghòu de xìngqù.
They have a keen interest in doing their work.

如果他们在天暖花好的时候不努力工作,
Rúguǒ tāmen zài tiān nuǎn huā hǎo de shíhòu bù nǔlì gōngzuò,
If they don’t work hard when the flowers are blooming and the weather is fair,

将来如何能够安全度过冬天?
Jiānglái rúhé nénggòu ānquán dùguò dōngtiān?
how can they survive winter in the future?

Now, watch this video and give yourself a pat on the back if you understand the lyrics 100%.

If you would like to practice writing some of the Chinese characters, please print out Chinese Character Tracing 30.

If you would like to play this simple song on a keyboard, click here to get the music sheet.

劳工节快乐!
Láogōng jié kuàilè!
Have a Happy Labor Day!

Fortuitous Encounter in Chinese

Zucchinis coming out of my ears

Zucchinis coming out of my ears

As part of my disaster preparation effort this year, I sowed quite a few zucchini seeds in the spring. Zucchinis are known to be very prolific, but at this time I’m still waiting to see the explosion of zucchini fruits to come out of my ears. Should that happen in the near future, and we have extras not consumed with our regular meals, my plan is for these nutritious summer squashes to go into the freezer, the dehydrator, the zucchini breads and, of course, my neighbors’ homes. Yep, that’s what neighbors are for. 😉

Well, today I mainly want to share with you another wonderful encounter with a cute little humming bird in my yard. Hopefully this will help you forget for a moment the disasters and turmoils currently taking place at home and abroad. (Click here to read my previous blog post about a happy encounter with a hummingbird.)

今天早晨我在园里浇水的时候,
Jīntiān zǎochén wǒ zài yuán lǐ jiāoshuǐ de shíhòu,
This morning while I was watering in the garden,

又听到蜂鸟振翅的声音.
yòu tīng dào fēngniǎo zhèn chì de shēngyīn.
again I heard the sound of a hummingbird flapping its wings.

这回是一只更小的蜂鸟.
Zhè huí shì yī zhǐ gèng xiǎo de fēngniǎo.
This time it was an even smaller hummingbird.

它像蜜蜂一样围绕著我飞了一会儿,
Tā xiàng mìfēng yīyàng wéirào zhe wǒ fēile yīhuǐ’er,
It flew around me like a bee for a while

然后转头飞向由水罐洒出的细水柱,
ránhòu zhuǎn tóu fēi xiàng yóu shuǐ guàn sǎ chū de xì shuǐzhù,
then turned and flew toward the thin column of water from the watering can,

吸了几滴水之后才欣然离去.
xīle jǐ dīshuǐ zhīhòu cái xīnrán lí qù.
and sucked a few drops of the water before departing cheerfully.

真可惜那时没有另外两只手
Zhēn kěxí nà shí méiyǒu lìngwài liǎng zhī shǒu
What a pity that at that time there was not another pair of hands available

可以帮我录下这奇遇.
kěyǐ bāng wǒ lù xià zhè qíyù.
to capture on video this fortuitous encounter for me.

浇水 (jiāoshuǐ) means watering.
(yòu) can mean once again or also.
蜂鸟 (fēngniǎo) are hummingbirds.
振翅 (zhèn chì) means to flap the wings .
(gèng) means to a greater degree or extent.
这回 (zhè huí) means this time. It has the same meaning as 这次 (zhè cì).
蜜蜂 (mìfēng) are honeybees or bees in general.
像 . . . 一样 (xiàng . . . yīyàng) means to be same as.
围绕 (wéirào) can mean to go around or to surround.
转头 (zhuǎn tóu) and 转身 (zhuǎn shēn) both mean to turn around or turn away.
(xī) is to suck or suck up.
欣然 (xīnrán) means joyfully or gladly.
可惜 (kěxī) means too bad or it’s a pity.
另外 (lìngwài) as an adjactive means some other. As a conjunctive adverb, it means moreover or in addition.
(lù) is to record or to write down.
奇遇 (qíyù) is a fortuitous encounter.

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