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Chinese allegories Lesson 17
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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)

bān mén nòng fŭ – zì bù liàng lì
班门弄斧 – 自不量力
Wield the axe before Lu Ban (the ancient master carpenter); display one's learning or parade one's skill in the presence of an expert – overestimate oneself or one's strength; overrate oneself

lăo băo mŭ dài hái zi – rén jiā de
老保姆带孩子 – 人家的
A babysitter looks after kids. – The kids are not his/her own. Figuratively, it means something one has is not his/her own, or something one does with effort is for the sake of others.

bā xiān guò hăi – gè xiăn shén tōng
八仙过海 – 各显神通
Like the Eight Celestials or Immortals crossing the sea, each displays his or her special prowess; each relies on his or her own resource and proves his or her own worth.

cái shén yé jiào mén – tiān dà de hăo shì
财神爷叫门 – 天大的好事
God of Wealth knocks on your door. – What a great godsend!

dà pào hōng cāng ying – dà cái xiăo yòng
大炮轰苍蝇 – 大材小用
Bombard a fly with cannon – waste one's talent on a petty job

diàn xiàn gān shang băng jī máo – hăo dà de dăn (dăn) zi
电线杆上绑鸡毛 – 好大的胆(掸)子
Bind chicken feathers around a wire pole – What a nerve! (a pun on 掸子 and 胆子, which are homophones in Chinese. "掸子" refers to "feather duster", while "胆子" means "boldness, courage or nerve".)

ná zhe jī máo dāng lìng jiàn – xiăo tí dà zuò
拿着鸡毛当令箭 – 小题大做
Take a chicken feather for a warrant to give commands – treat one's superior's casual remark as an order and make a big fuss about it

jī fēi dàn dă – liăng luò kōng liăng tóu kōng
鸡飞蛋打 – 两落空;两头空
The hen has flown away and the eggs in the coop are broken. – All is lost; fall between two stools

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