China – wise sayings and concise words …
In early days it was so important to create words that were memorable and catchy to facilitate dissemination given that word of mouth (excuse the pun) was the only way to communicate … hence the importance of the actual words and their association, plus linking to rhyme and song to further remembrance and usage in the populace.
Most Chinese proverbs are based on historical events and the greatest number originates from that rich period of history, the third century BC, when the first Emperor of China reigned (Qin Shi Huang). He was the sovereign who united China, built the Great Wall, and created the magnificent tombs with the army of terracotta warriors.
An example … Govern the country like you would cook a small fish –
My (an) interpretation … Fish = Wealth … treat the country as though you have little and therefore respect every element that you have … not wasting any part … therefore take great care in making use of all that is covered in your governance (cook gently and caringly so not to spoil) … and in your own house where you can enhance that resource with your own personal touch
Recommended reading for those interested in history connected to words is … A Thousand Pieces of Gold … A memoir of China’s past through its proverbs by Adeline Yen Mah … … this book describes the meeting of Adeline and Philip Larkin who described Chinese proverbs as ‘white dwarfs of literature’ … white dwarfs = tiny stars whose atoms are packed so closely together that their weight is immense compared to their size … proverbs being densely compacted with thoughts and ideas
Sample Proverbs …
One written word is worth a thousand pieces of gold
Clapping with one hand produces no sound
Binding your feet to prevent your own progress
When a tree falls the monkeys scatter
Footnote … Adeline also states that the equivalent to Shakespeare in China is Sima-Qian (145 – 90BC) a Chinese historian who lived during the Han dynasty. He wrote only one book Shiji (Historical Record) which was published after his death and has been a bestseller since … perhaps the greatest Chinese book ever written.
Wikipedia Link … http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sima_Qian