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Chinese allegories Lesson 15
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Chinese allegories

Two-part allegorical saying (of which the first part, always stated, is descriptive, while the second part, often unstated, carries the message)

dà gū niang zuò huā jiào – tóu yī huí
大姑娘坐花轿 – 头一回
A girl sitting in a bridal sedan chair – the very first time (Traditionally, a bride was carried in a special sedan chair to the groom's home, which was a first-time experience for every girl.)

diē sĭ niáng jià rén – gè rén gù gè rén
爹死娘嫁人 – 各人顾各人
After Dad's death, Mom gets married again. – Everyone is for him/herself.

fēi jī shàng liáo tiān – kōng tán
飞机上聊天 – 空谈
Talk in the plane; talk in the air – empty or idle talk

dă kāi tiān chuāng – shuō liàng huà
打开天窗 – 说亮话
Open the skylight and say blunt words. – speak frankly; let's call a spade a spade

jiàn zài xián shàng – bù dé bù fā
箭在弦上 – 不得不发
The arrow on the bowstring has to be shot. or When the arrow is on the string, it must go. – At some point, the situation will have developed to the point that one will have to take action.

chóu rén xiāng jiàn – fèn wài yăn hóng
仇人相见 – 分外眼红
When enemies face each other, their eyes blaze with hatred.

huáng lián shù xià tán qín – kǔ zhōng zuò lè
黄连树下弹琴 – 苦中作乐
Play the lute by a bitter herbal tree – enjoy life in adversity; seek joy in hardship; try to enjoy oneself despite one's suffering

băi jiā xìng bú niàn dì yī ge zì – kāi kŏu jiù shì qián
百家姓不念第一个字 – 开口就是钱
Skip over the first family name when reading Book of (China's) Family Names. The first four family names listed in this book are Zhao (赵), Qian (钱), Sun (孙) and Li (李), respectively. – "Qian" (钱) came first. Figuratively, it means "to talk about money all the time". (The Chinese character "钱" can not only be taken as a surname, but refer to "money".)

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