Chinese Idioms in English

Yutang Lin

How to express Chinese idioms in English is an interesting topic that I ran into from time to time when I did translation of my own works. For my own pleasure and for Chinese readers to share my view on how best to render some Chinese idioms properly into English, I ventured to work on some idioms that come to mind now and then. For English readers the idioms may also offer sayings of wisdom from Chinese culture or vivid metaphors in succinct terms. Neither systematic nor exhaustive list of idioms will be attempted; I will merely do what comes to mind and is interesting to me. And the list in this work may grow longer as time goes by.

1. 赤子之心
Mind of an innocent child

2. 一石二鳥;一箭雙雕
Hitting two birds with one shot

Some translated this as "Killing two birds with one stone" or "Shooting two eagles with one arrow." But the precise intended meaning is to achieve two goals with one maneuver. When we say "one stone" or "one arrow," it could be the same one used twice and which is not in the intended meaning. So "one shot" is a better rendition. In addition, "killing" is a deadly result and "shooting" may be just an attempt, but "hitting" properly indicates reaching the goals without specifics on the results and thus is neutral, more realistic and truthful to the intended meaning.

3. 路遙知馬力,日久見人心。
Long road reveals a horse's strength; Long days reveal a person's mind.

4. 山中無老虎,猴子稱大王。
In mountains without tigers a monkey is claimed to be the king.

5. 明月千里寄相思
Mutual longing transmitted over thousands of miles through looking at the bright moon

The above was done on October 5, 2009

Started on October 5, 2009
El Cerrito, California

----- Original Message -----
From: "Yutang Lin"
To: "Dharma Friends"
Sent: Tuesday, October 06, 2009 3:53 AM
Subject: New Venture

See attached file.

People on my list are welcome to offer Chinese idioms that they found interesting. But I don't promise to translate them. I will translate only those that I also find interesting.

May all beings attain Enlightenment soon!


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