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Words of Wisdom: Chinese Proverbs III

Proverbs often serve as warnings that people should heed if they want to achieve success or avoid mishaps in life. Chinese words of wisdom encourage you to turn your back on the temptations of greed to being thankful for what you currently have in life. In this article, you will find a range of colorful proverbs associated with the Chinese culture.

“Riding a mule while looking for a horse.”

If you are job hunting, this proverb will have meaning to you, as it refers to settling for what you have while looking for something better. The mule may not be the best transportation over a horse, but if that is what you have , be thankful.

“Three monks have no water to drink.”

Similar to “too many cooks spoil the broth,” it refers to too many people involved in a situation to the point that no progress is made.

“Beat the bell one day as long as you are still a monk one day.”

This proverb means that you should complete your usual duties as long as you are still in the position to do so. For example, a grandparent should not overstep his or her boundaries as a caregiver to the point that it undermines the wishes of the parent.

“Not only can water float a boat, it can sink it also.”

The meaning behind this proverb is that nature has the power to either help or harm you , depending on the circumstances. For example, people can raise an individual to power, but can quickly take it away. In English, a similar saying is “The knife cuts both ways.”

“A spark can start a fire that burns the entire prairie.”

This proverb suggests that it is not wise to ignore what may seem like a minor issue. If you underestimate the potential for it turning into a destructive force, you may face detrimental consequences.

“Blind bear picks corn, picks one and drops one.”

This proverb refers to the possibility of losing what you already have if you keep seeking for more. In China, the bear is often viewed as someone with little common sense, especially in a particular tale that speaks of a bear who is picking corn and sticking it in his armpit. As he continues to place another piece of corn in his armpit , his arm opens and he drops the corn he already has in his possession. The saying is similar to the saying mentioned in Benjamin Franklin’s Poor Richard’s Almanac , “A bird in hand is worth two in the bush.”

“Wants the horse to be good and at the same time want the horse not to eat hay.”

This saying refers to how nothing is perfect. An example is seen in a school that wants their teachers to spend more hours teaching students, but does not wish to increase their pay. The saying is used when someone wants to speak of someone that has an unrealistic expectation.