shŏu zhū dài tù
Man who waits for roast duck to fly into his mouth must wait a very, very long time.
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!