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Chinese allegories Lesson 21
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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)

tài suì tóu shang dòng tǔ – hăo dà de dăn
太岁头上动土 – 好大的胆
Dig clay near Taisui, a god in Chinese mythology – be reckless. This allegory is always used in the case when one risks offending a person of power and influence.

zhū bā jiè dài ĕr huán – zì yǐ wéi mĕi
猪八戒戴耳环 – 自以为美
Zhu Bajie (Pig in Journey to the West, one of the four great classical novels of Chinese literature, who carries a rake as a weapon) wears earrings. – He considers himself to be beautiful. This allegory is used to satirize one who, although ugly-looking, is pleased with oneself.

zhōng gǔ lóu shang de má què – nài jīng nài pà
钟鼓楼上的麻雀 – 耐惊耐怕
Sparrows on the bell tower and drum tower are resistant to panic and fear. – This allegory is used to describe those sophisticated people who have gone through all sorts of hardships.

xiăo háir fàng biān pào – yòu ài yòu pà
小孩儿放鞭炮 – 又爱又怕
Kids letting off firecrackers – feeling both joy and fear

zuǐ shang mŏ zhū yóu – yóu zuǐ huá shé
嘴上抹猪油 – 油嘴滑舌
Cover or coat the mouth with lard – glib-tongued; slick

shuǐ xiān bù kāi huā – zhuāng suàn
水仙不开花 – 装蒜
Narcissuses don't bloom. – Literally, they pretend to be garlic. Figuratively, it refers to one who feigns ignorance or makes a pretense.

gŏu jiàn le zhǔ rén – yáo tóu băi wĕi
狗见了主人 – 摇头摆尾
A dog always shakes the head and wags the tail when seeing its owner. – fawn on somebody; curry favor with somebody; flatter somebody

zhuó mù niăo zhăo shí – quán píng zuǐ
啄木鸟找食 – 全凭嘴
A woodpecker searches for food. – All depends on the mouth. This allegory is used to describe people who merely chatter idly, and never work in a down-to-earth way, or those who are addicted to fine words or paying lip service.

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