A favorite quote(s) extracted from memory fails me, and I am unsure whether I ever had one to begin with. So what better way to approach day 13’s challenge then by presenting three quotes, technically proverbs, 谚语 (yànyǔ), I proudly admit to discovering these sayings on my own, and of course with help from the power of the Internet (thanks, Google!).
Chinese proverbs are famous sayings taken from literature, history, and famous individuals like philosophers. There are hundreds of Chinese proverbs addressing all aspects of life from education and work to personal goals and relationships; the three I chose resonate with me in ways I will explain.
1. 读万卷书不如行万里路 (Dú wàn juǎn shū bùrú xíng wànlǐ lù) It is better to travel ten thousand miles than to read ten thousand books.
Although perhaps corny or too erudite, (not sure so take your pick) the first saying resonates with my own experiences. Experiencing China first-hand, and not taking guide books, literature in translation, or the media’s word for the goings on will always be the best decision I ever made, however, I do not want to negate the positive impact reading has on opening the mind to the possibility of stepping outside your comfort lines, and realizing your dreams of travel (do I sound like a yogi yet?) Reading did that for me, and I will always be grateful for Professor Decaroli’s ancient Chinese philosophy course, and Amy Tan’s The Bonesetter’s Daughter, both of which began my long march to China. Not sure if including Disney’s appropriated version of Mulan, as it is my favorite Disney movie, counts towards my early exposures to Chinese culture…probably not.
2. 凡人不可貌相, 海水不可斗量 (Fán rén bù kě mào xiàng, hǎi shuǐ bù kě dòu liàng)
As a man cannot be known by his looks, neither can the sea be fathomed by a gourd.
This proverb notes judging by appearance may lead to serious mistakes. The often quoted “don’t judge a book by its cover.” Slightly too philosophical for me, so pardon me if I have not realized the subtleties of the saying. You may be wondering in what way does the proverb resonate with me? Because I am always being judged by my exterior. My choice to wear or not wear makeup, and whether I doll or dress up. A coworker said I am “brave for not wearing makeup,” passersby stare at ZJ and I, in China and the US, albeit for different reasons, and when the cover of my memoir is opened, and people learn my husband and I have different last names, the quizzical looks begin. A nice way to conclude this proverb is not to compare two unlike things, including the uniqueness existing in humankind.
3. 有缘千里来相会 (Yǒu yuán qiān lǐ lái xiāng huì)
Fate brings people together no matter how far apart they may be.
As sentimental or sappy as it sounds, I believe in fate, destiny, and “everything happening for a reason.” This proverb points out human relationships are decreed by fate. In case you never got around to reading our Speaking of China Double Happiness story, it serves as my “pièce de résistance” in speaking to my stance on fate, how it brought ZJ and I together, when we were raised over 8,000 miles away and an ocean, continent (or two, depends which way you look at a map or globe) divided us.
What are three of your favorite quotes/saying/proverbs? Feel free to share any, regardless of the language.