My Life in Proverbs

Proverbs and idioms, like in English, are expressions that offer a piece of truth about life. It is from the lessons of those before us that these wise and reasonable words came into being. Many idioms originated from ancient times, when people lived simply and sustainably without modern distractions. I believe it is because they lived simply and sustainably that people were able to explain the hardships, the consequences, and the truths behind living. Each idiom has a complete story behind it that I am determined to learn (there are a bajillion), because even though I consider myself pretty fluent (oxymoron?) in Chinese, I will never fully assimilate with my people if I don’t understand the expressions that are culturally significant to them.

It is fascinating to me that these ancient sayings have lasted through present day and are still incredibly accurate in describing the way of life or the way life should be. However, while they are used in daily conversation, whether people still live by these proverbs and idioms is another story.

The selection I have picked out below are just a few that I identify with. As I continue living in China–and as I continue learning about life– this list will get progressively longer, I’m sure.

父债子还 

Each generation will reap what the former generation has sown.

不闻不若闻之,闻之不若见之,见之不若知之,知之不若行之;学至于行之而止矣

I hear and I forget; I see and I remember; I do and I understand.

玉不琢不成器

Jade must be chiseled before it can be considered a gem.

读万卷书不如行万里路 

Reading ten thousand books is not as useful as traveling ten thousand miles.

三十年河东三十年河西

Thirty years the east bank, thirty years the west bank.

遙知馬力日久見人心

Over a long distance, you learn about the strength of your horse; over a long period of time, you get to know what’s in a person’s heart.


8 Comments on “My Life in Proverbs”

  1. […] Emily at GROUNDINGMYROOTS and share with her as she explores her Chinese heritage.  From My Life In Proverbs to her well written and fascinating posts on everything Chinese, her blog is well worth exploring. […]

  2. I can really dig your blog, kiddo.

  3. I love this. My little sister is adopted from China. My mom and I have the interesting task of trying to connect her with her roots while knowing literally nothing about her family history and not being Chinese ourselves. Even though I am not Chinese, I have a special place in my heart for China and Chinese culture and hope that my sister and I can travel there someday.

    • Emily He says:

      Hi! There is something really beautiful, and no doubt challenging, about your family’s situation that I admire. I had two middle school teachers who adopted girls from China, and I had a student in a class I assisted in who was adopted from China by American parents. In all cases, the adoptive parents were SOOOO incredibly loving and caring–I’d say a dollop more than if the girls were their own born–it touched me because it showed a real connection between two completely different cultures and people. I think it’d be really nice if you and your sister could visit China together!! Sounds like you’re an awesome older sister 🙂

  4. Xiuzhi Wang says:

    Hey! I am a student at University of Southern California and I take a course asking us to group a team for a campaign project. I am really interested in identity crisis of Chinese Americans and I was wondering if we can talk together online! Thank you very much!


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