Sunday, January 26, 2014

Chinese Proverbs About Horses for the Year of the Horse

Happy Lunar New Year--the Year of the Horse!

The following are some of the many proverbs, metaphors, and other folk expressions that mention horses.
Before we get to them, let's start with the most felicitous of all for this season:

馬到成功 or the other version 馬到功成 The arrival of the horse means/signifies success, achievement, accomplishment, etc. In other words, success shall swiftly arrive. (This is what people might write in black ink on red paper to hang on their doors to signify the imminent arrival of the Year of the Horse. Indeed, some anonymous kindhearted friend posted such a message on my office door this morning, much to my pleasant surprise.)

百福骈臻 A hundred blessings arriving with a pair of horses. (May you be blessed.) 

好马不吃回头草 A good horse doesn't head back to eat the remaining grass. (A person with determination to succeed doesn't look back. Baseball player Satchel Paige said, "Don't look back; something might be gaining on you.")

老马识途 The old horse knows the path. (Those who are experienced can be trusted.)

万马奔腾 Ten thousand horses stampeding as they ascend. (Memorable, grand, thunderous display.) 

龙马精神 The spirit of a dragon and a horse. (A compliment said of seniors who possess much stamina and energy.)

神龙马壮 The strength, robustness of a god, dragon and horse. (Said of one who is physically powerful.)

香车宝马 A wagon of sandalwood with splendid equines. (Said of an impressive display of magnificent horses in a procession.)

马不停蹄 The horse's hoofs don't stop. (Said of those who persist and persevere, who work without stopping until the goal is met.) 

青梅竹马 Green plums and bamboo hobbyhorses. (Said affectionately and sentimentally of small girls and boys playing and growing up together.)

天马行空 A heavenly steed that traverses the sky. (A metaphor for anything that possesses graceful majesty, especially calligraphy.) 

悬崖勒马 To rein in the horse at the edge of a cliff. (To come to one's senses just in time. Contrast this with the one directly below.)

好马崖前不低头 A good horse doesn't shy away from the edge of a cliff. (A person of integrity and courage, in other words, does what needs to be done regardless of the risk.) 

长安何处在?只在马蹄下! How may one get to Chang'an (Ch'ang-an)? By the hoofs of horses! (In other words, nothing is accomplished without some energy and sweat, or, some "elbow grease." Chang'an, by the way, was an ancient capital of China.)

And then we have:

牛头不对马嘴 An ox head doesn't tally with a horse's mouth. (Referring to that which is irrelevant, incompatible or incongruous.)

指鹿为马 To point to a deer but mean a horse. (To confuse right and wrong.) 

露出马脚 To reveal horse hoofs. (To "show one's true colors.") 

走马看花 Like a horse passing by looking at flowers. (Said of individuals who make a hasty judgment based on superficial observation.) 

愿附骥尾 To attach oneself to the tail of a swift steed. (To "hitch oneself to someone's wagon" or to "ride in on someone's coattails.")


請給我有關馬的成語 - Yahoo!奇摩知識+





I don't normally post material that is thematically linked to the seasons, but I couldn't help resist as the Year of the Horse is my own "year." In keeping with the spirit of a new year, I left out some of the more negative proverbs.

Once again, Happy New Year! May you all enjoy excellent health, continual happiness and unceasing prosperity. 

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Xibe/Xibo Proverbs From Xinjiang

In life, it takes just once to be kicked by a bad horse and once to be cheated by a wicked friend. (Proper vigilance will stave off disaster.) 

A single strand of silk doesn't make a thread. (To "make a silk purse out of a sow's ear.")

Pants that are too long entangle the feet; a tongue too long binds one's life. (Many Chinese-language proverbs deal with the dangers of outspokenness, rumor mongering, and slander. Hence, Mandarin speakers say, "Disaster comes from out of the mouth.") 

The wise can be happy while being poor; the unwise are still miserable while rich. ("The mind is its own place and in itself can make a heaven of hell, a hell of heaven"--John Milton.) 

Neither land nor a great city are big enough to fill the pupils of a greedy person's eyes. (Like gluttons whose "eyes are bigger than their stomachs.")

The longer the torch, the less danger your hands will be burned. ("Better safe than sorry," we say.) 

To depend on others is to freeze one's hands. (To depend on others will prevent us from helping and, thus, empowering ourselves.) 

To mouth the words of a saint but to do a demon's work. (Said of hypocrites.) 

To be pecked on the bum by the hen you raised. (To "bite the hand that feeds you.") 

To those who seek wisdom, time is gold; to the stupid, time is a mound of dung. ("Make hay while the sun is out.")

Just as beautiful snakes may be venomous, people who smile all too often may be carrying knives. (A Chinese proverb warns us of "those who smile yet carry a dagger within the girdle."  A rather cynical Korean proverb just tells us to "beware of those who are always smiling." We are reminded of "wolves who come in sheep's clothing.") 

Sometimes it can be easier to move a mountain than to accomplish one's goals. (Perhaps this hearkens to the Chinese proverb of the "Foolish Old Man Who Tried to Move a Mountain." When the mountain got wind of what the old man was up to, it became so discouraged that such an indefatigable foe existed that it picked itself up and moved.) 

The frog that croaks first gets struck by lightning. (An English proverb states that "an ounce of prudence is worth a pound of gold.")

While one may acclaim the greatness of one's land, the land, in return, says nothing. (Sometimes  love and affection are a one-way street.) 

The fiercest tiger still doesn't eat its own cubs. (In the end, "blood is [still] thicker than water.")

A beating merely hurts the flesh; a scolding hurts the heart. (Mongols say: "Sometimes it's easier to recover from a knife wound than a wound caused by words.") 

A determined person, even tied to a rock, will still not starve to death. (The motto of the famed British Special Air Services [SAS] Regiment is "He who dares wins.")

A boastful doctor doesn't really have any great medicine; a cocky friend doesn't really have any words worth hearing. (What do Texans say about braggarts and poseurs? "All hat and no cattle.")

Xinjiang Folk Literature, Vol. 3[新疆民间文学第三集]; Urumchi: Xinjiang Renmin Chubanshe; pp. 139; 212-215.

The Xibo (or, Xibe, Sibo, Sibe) are originally from China's Northeast. Many were sent to the Far West, Xinjiang, during the Qing Dynasty to man border garrisons. They are renowned for their prowess in archery. To this day, the Xibo, an ethnically Tungusic people like the Manchus, continue to use a modified Manchu script. 

More Xibo proverbs can be found at the the posting for 7/31/07.