Chinasage Diary

Your daily snippet of information about China. Our diary has a daily fact, proverb and a reminder of upcoming festivals and holidays in China.
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Sat 20th Apr

Mercury magic

From ancient times the sulfide of mercury cinnabar has been considered magical. When heated liquid mercury is created and so it was a substance for transformation including mortal to immortal. Cinnabar was used to give the red color to the wax on seals used on paintings and documents.
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Proverb

乳臭
Rǔ chòu wèi gān [ru chou wei gan]
suckle smelly not yet made
Still suckling and in nappies. Still an infant. Young and inexperienced
Infantile and immature
Fri 19th Apr

Ming founder

Occasionally in Chinese history a man of humble origins has risen to overthrow a dynasty and found his own. The most dramatic example of this is Zhu Yuanzhang who overthrew the Yuan dynasty to become Emperor Hongwu 洪武帝 founder of the Ming dynasty. He came from a family of poor peasants and after living as a novice in a Buddhist monastery he joined the Red Turban rebels. He quickly rose to be leader and gained wide support against the Mongol rulers.
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Proverb

Qiān shān wàn shuǐ [qian shan wan shui]
thousand mountain ten thousand rivers
Many mountains and many rivers
A long and arduous journey
Thu 18th Apr

Ming founder

Occasionally in Chinese history a man of humble origins has risen to overthrow a dynasty and found his own. The most dramatic example of this is Zhu Yuanzhang who overthrew the Yuan dynasty to become Emperor Hongwu 洪武帝 founder of the Ming dynasty. He came from a family of poor peasants and after living as a novice in a Buddhist monastery he joined the Red Turban rebels. He quickly rose to be leader and gained wide support against the Mongol rulers.
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Proverb

Héng xíng bà dào [heng xing ba dao]
across walk bully road
Walking sidewise to block the way
Being deliberately obstructive
Wed 17th Apr

Hutongs

Beijing and other old cities have a few areas remaining of traditional courtyard houses. It is the narrow lanes between the buildings that are called 'hutongs' in Beijing. Although towns were laid out to a formal geometric plan the districts were developed informally and as individual families prospered or declined their houses extended or contracted. Over the centuries the ad hoc development led to many narrow and winding hutongs.
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Proverb

,谎
rén yǔ, huǎng yán pà lǐ [ni ren pa yu, huang yan pa li]
clay figure fear rain, lie speech fear logic
A mud figure fears rain; a lie fears truth
Over time lies will eventually be laid bare
Truth will out
Tue 16th Apr

Pearl of wisdom

The quality of a pearl is somewhat like the moon. It appear cool and translucent for this reason the moon can be referred to as the 'night shining pearl'. It is often shown with dragons chasing it, representing the legendary connection of dragons chasing the moon to cause eclipses and phases of the moon.
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Proverb

井观
Zuò jǐng guān tiān [zuo jing guan tian]
sit well watch sky
To sit at the bottom of a well and view the sky
A blinkered or limited view of the world
Mon 15th Apr

Hot and cold foods

The Chinese have always put importance on balancing foods in meals that goes back to the concept of yin and yang. According to tradition 'hot' and 'cold' refers not to temperature but the property of the food. Obviously chilies are hot and bananas are cold. Less obviously beef and chocolate sweets are considered 'hot' while pears and shrimps are 'cold'. A good dish and the whole meal will seek to balance hot and cold ingredients.
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On this day

1989 Hu Yaobang died 1989 (30 years ago)

Proverb

Hè lì jī qún [he li ji qun]
crane stand chicken crowd
A crane standing amidst a flock of chickens
Being conspicuously different (often superior)
Standing head and shoulders above the opposition.
window lattice, Forbidden City, Beijing
Ancient Lattice Windows at the Forbidden City, Beijing

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