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Chinese allegories Lesson 19
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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)

kŏng fū zǐ chuān xī zhuāng – bù tŭ bù yáng
孔夫子穿西装 – 不土不洋
Confucius in Western-style clothes – neither fish nor flesh

jí xìng zi pèng dào màn xìng zi – nǐ jí tā bù jí
急性子碰到慢性子 – 你急他不急
An impetuous person comes across a slowcoach. – One is impatient to do something but the other not.

huŏ shāo méi mao – gù yăn qián
火烧眉毛 – 顾眼前
The fire is singeing the eyebrows. – concentrate on immediate matters.

hăi dǐ lāo yuè – bái fèi jìn
海底捞月 – 白费劲
Try to fish out the moon from the bottom of the sea – strive for the impossible or illusory; efforts in vain

guān cai shàng huà lăo hǔ – xià sǐ rén
棺材上画老虎 – 吓死人
Paint a tiger on a coffin – (literally) frighten the dead; (as a pun) frighten somebody to death

guān cai lǐ shēn shŏu – sǐ yào qián
棺材里伸手 – 死要钱
Reach out a hand for money even in one's coffin – be greedy unto death; be a money-grubber

fēng chuī dēng long – yáo băi bù dìng
风吹灯笼 – 摇摆不定
The wind blows a lantern. – (literally) swing to and fro; (figuratively) blow hot and cold; vacillate; waver

fēi jī shàng diăn dēng – gāo míng
飞机上点灯 – 高明
Light a lamp in the airplane – 高 means "high" while 明 refers to "bright". When the two Chinese characters put together, the word "高明" means "brilliant, wise". This allegory is always used to imply it's brilliant to do something.

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