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Chinese allegories Lesson 27
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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)

gǔ dǒng dāng pò làn mài – bù shí huò
古董当破烂卖 – 不识货
Take antiques for junk and sell them – be unable to tell good from bad; don't know what's what

jiǔ guǐ hē qì shuǐ – bù guò yǐn
酒鬼喝汽水 – 不过瘾
A drunkard drinks soda water. – One can't enjoy oneself to the full; one can't do something to his heart's content.

zào wang yé rēng shí tou – zá guō
灶王爷扔石头 – 砸锅
The Kitchen God throws stones – literally, to break the pot; figuratively, ruin the matter.

bā xiān jù huì – yòu shuō yòu xiào
八仙聚会 – 又说又笑
A gathering of Eight Immortals – speaking and laughing; like the Eight Immortals at a gathering, they are talking and laughing merrily.

Note: The Eight Immortals refer to the eight Taoists in a Chinese legend, namely, Han Zhongli, Zhang Guolao, Lü Dongbin, Tieguai Li, Han Xiangzi, Cao Guojiu, Lan Caihe and He Xiangu.

wáng xī zhī xiě zì – héng shù dōu hǎo
王羲之写字 – 横竖都好
A character out of Wang Xizhi's hand – vertical strokes are as good as horizontal ones; like Wang Xizhi's calligraphy, it is good in every way.

Note: Wang Xizhi was a famous Chinese calligrapher and a Chinese character is usually composed of strokes, of which the vertical and horizontal ones are the most commonly used. "héng shù" here has two interpretations: 1) the horizontal and vertical strokes; 2) horizontally or vertically, that is, in any way.

niú jiǎo mŏ yóu – yòu jiān (jiān) yòu huá (huá)
牛角抹油 – 又尖(奸)又滑(猾)
Spreading oil on an ox horn – to make it sharper and more slippery or cunning and treacherous.

fēi jī shàng tiào sǎn – yī luò qiān zhàng
飞机上跳伞 – 一落千丈
Bale out from a flying plane – drop down a thousand zhang or suffer a drastic decline; like jumping from a flying plane, they decline drastically.

Note: zhang (丈) is a unit of length in Chinese (one zhang equals about 3.3 meters).

qín shū bǎo mài mǎ – qióng tú mò lù
秦叔宝卖马 – 穷途末路
Qin Shubao sells his horse – the last resort to overcome his difficulty; like Qin Shubao selling his horse, they are driven into a dead end

Note: Qin Qiong, styled Shubao, was a famous general in the Tang Dynasty (618-907). Before becoming a general, he was penniless and had no way out but to sell his own horse.

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