Chinese Language Style of Analogy: 有一種前進叫拐彎

By Xah Lee. Date:

Different languages often have different style characteristics in how they express things. In particular, Chinese language is heavy with analogies. Here's a typical example, a quote popular on Chinese sites:

【有一種前進叫拐彎】水能直至大海,就是因為它巧妙地避開所有障礙,不斷拐彎前行。許多聰明人沒能走上成功之路,不少是因為撞了南牆不回頭。人生路上難免會遇到困難,拐個彎,繞一繞,何嘗不是個辦法。山不轉,路轉;路不轉,人轉。只要心念一轉,逆境也能成機遇,拐彎也是前進的一種方式。

Here's a literal translation:

【there is one type of advance called turning】 water can head straight to big ocean, because it can skillfully avoid obstacles, non-cut turn-advance. Many smart people didn't can't walk on the road of success, more than a few is because hitting the south wall but didn't turn head back. Life's road unavoidably will encounter difficulties, make a turn, round about, why not try is it not a good solution. Mountain doesn't turn, road turns; road doesn't turn, human turn. Only if the heart-thought turns, against-flow places also can become opportune meeting, turning is also a forward's one method.

Here's machine translation by Google (pretty bad):

【There is a forward called turning】 hydropower until the sea is constantly turning the front row because it skillfully to avoid all obstacles. Many smart people could not embark on the road to success, many hit a brick wall Do not look back. Way of life will inevitably encounter difficulties detour around a wound, so is not an option. The mountain does not turn the road; road does not turn people. Changing your mind, adversity into opportunity, turning is a way forward.

Here's a more normal English translation:

【one method of progress is turning】 River heads to the ocean, because it can bypass all obstacles, changing paths. Many smart people failed due to their waywardness. There are many difficulties in life. Make a turn, go around, just might push you forward. Mountain doesn't turn, but the road does. If the road doesn't, you can. One change of perspective, problem becomes opportunity.

In particular, note the analogy to how “mountain doesn't turn”, and “road turns”, yet “if road doesn't, human turns”. Chinese language, style, idioms, phrasemes, often heavily rely on analogies.

Notice the bracket 【】. That's called lenticular bracket, used in Chinese, Japanese. (and Korean?) See: Intro to Chinese Punctuation.

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