Chinese proverb of the week: 4


shŏu zhū dài tù

守 株 待 兔flying duck 3

Man who waits for roast duck to fly into his mouth must wait a very, very long time.

Roast duck 3

What does this mean?  Well apart from the obvious that the man is a complete twit, my view is that it means one shouldn’t stand around waiting for good things to just fall in your lap, it may never happen.   Get on with life and maybe good fortune will follow.

I can’t really think of a really close equivalent proverb in English – maybe you can.

When I was looking for a picture of those ceramic flying ducks that people hung on the wall back in the day (why??) to illustrate this,  I stumbled across an advertisement for an American gun manufacturer who had hijacked the proverb.  The ad showed a man with a gun and a brace of wild duck, and it had the punchline ‘because ducks won’t shoot themselves’.

This proverb, like the first in my series, is what is known as  Chengyu – where only four Chinese characters are used for what is quite a complex idea.  There are thousands of Chengyu in Chinese, and the idea is that with a mere four words you can tell a whole story.

Of course that relies on you having a really great in-depth knowledge of Chinese culture…me I just learn them by heart, and hope to hell people understand what I am saying!

 

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About herschelian

Recently moved to Beijing from London - its all new to me! Trying to learn Chinese, and what makes this city tick.
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2 Responses to Chinese proverb of the week: 4

  1. The closest English proverb I can think of in meaning to that one is “God helps those who help themselves” – I don’t particularly like the religious aspect of this one because I think that slightly takes away from the meaning that we are responsible for making things happen for ourselves, but the basic underlying message is the same; if you want good things, you can’t just sit around waiting for them!

  2. herschelian says:

    Yes, yes! You are absolutely right – that is the proverb I couldn’t think of. Thank you for nailing it!

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