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Chinese allegories Lesson 26
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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 xiàng de bí zi – néng qū néng shēn
大象的鼻子 – 能屈能伸
Like an elephant's nose, be able to stoop or stand erect – submit or assert oneself as the occasion requires; be adaptable to circumstances

lǎo hǔ lā chē – shéi găn (găn)
老虎拉车 – 谁敢(赶)
When a tiger pulls a cart, nobody dares to drive it. – This allegory means nobody has that great courage to do something.

sì yuè de bīng hé – kāi dòng (dòng) le
四月的冰河 – 开动(冻)了
Glaciers begin to thaw in April. – start; set in motion; put into operation. ("开动," which means "start; set in motion; put into operation", is a homophone for "开冻," which means "thaw".)

shàng xié bú yòng zhuī zi – zhēn hǎo
上鞋不用锥子 – 真(针)好
Sole a shoe without an awl – How nice; really good. (If one soles a shoe without an awl, that implies the needle s/he uses is good. "真好," which means "how nice; really good", is a homophone for "针好," which means "the needle is good".)

yī lián sān zuò miào – miào miào miào (miào miào miào)
一连三座庙 – 妙妙妙(庙庙庙)
Three temples in a row – wonderful; marvelous; excellent. ("妙," which means "wonderful; marvelous; excellent", is a homophone for "庙," which means "temple".)

gé zhe mén fèng chuī lǎ ba – míng (míng) shēng zài wài
隔着门缝吹喇叭 – 名(鸣)声在外
Blow a trumpet through a door crack – have a reputation. ("鸣声," meaning "song or distinctive sound", is a homophone for "名声," which means "reputation or renown". Thus, "鸣声在外," meaning "the song or distinctive sound is outside", becomes "名声在外," meaning "have got a reputation".)

shí tou dàn yān xián cài – yī yán (yán) nán jìn (jìn)
石头蛋腌咸菜 – 一言(盐)难尽(进)
Make pickles with stone – Literally, it's difficult for salt to penetrate; figuratively, one cannot explain the matter in a few words; it is a long story. ("盐," meaning "salt", is a homophone for "言," which means "words"; "进," meaning "penetrate", is a homophone for "尽," which means "finished". Thus, "一盐难进," meaning "it's difficult for salt to penetrate", becomes "一言难尽," meaning "one cannot explain the matter in a few words; it is a long story.")

guān gōng dǎ pēn tì – zì wǒ chuī xū (xū)
关公打喷嚏 – 自我吹嘘(须)
Guan Yu, a general in the period of the Three Kingdoms, sneezes. – Literally, he blows his own beard (when sneezing); figuratively, self-glorification

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