Mandarin Monday, January 22, 2024 Newsletter

Mandarin Monday, January 22, 2024 Newsletter

This week, I want to share with you an idiom contrasting resilience with chaos, alongside a dragon-themed phrase.

Mandarin Monday, January 22, 2024 Newsletter

1 Fall Down Seven Times, Get Up Eight
2 Resilience in the Face of Disrespect

One of my favorite Japanese idioms is 七転八起, which translates to fall down seven times, get up eight. It can also be written as 七顛八起. This idiom, pronounced shichi ten hakki (しちてんはっき) or nana korobi ya oki (ななころびやおき), embodies resilience and persistence in the face of adversity.

The characters individually mean:

* 七 (shichi or nana): seven
* 転 (ten or korobi): to fall down
* 八 (hachi or ya): eight
* 起 (ki or oki): to rise

While 七転八起 is a well-known phrase in Japan, it’s not a common idiom in Mandarin. For Mandarin speakers, a brief explanation might be needed, and 七顛八起 could make more sense due to the more direct meaning of 顛 as to fall.

In Korea, a similar idiom is used: 칠전팔기 in Hangul or 七顚八起 in Hanja, pronounced chiljeonpalgi.

Interestingly, there is a Chinese idiom 七顛八倒 (qī diān bā dǎo), which translates to fall down seven times, turn upside down eight, signifying chaos and confusion. This contrasts with the message of 七転八起, which is about overcoming setbacks through resilience. It’s a choice between succumbing to chaos (七顛八倒) and rising above challenges (七顛八起 or 七転八起).

As we approach the Year of the Dragon, beginning February 10, let’s explore a dragon-related element each Monday. Here’s our entry for this week:

龍游淺水遭蝦戲,虎落平原被犬欺 (lóng yóu qiǎn shuǐ zāo xiā xì, hǔ luò píng yuán bèi quǎn qī)

This Chinese phrase, originating from Journey to the West — a classic Chinese novel that narrates the adventures of a Buddhist monk and his disciples on a quest to retrieve sacred texts from India — translates to: “A dragon swimming in shallow waters is teased by shrimp, and a tiger that falls into flat lands is bullied by dogs.” It serves as a metaphor for how people with great abilities or high status can find themselves disrespected or ridiculed when they are in a less advantageous position.

If you ever find yourself not being respected, remember this phrase. Repeat it internally, remain patient, and keep moving forward. Your value doesn’t decrease based on someone’s inability to see your worth.

Good Characters.
That’s who we are; that’s what we do.
That’s who you are; that’s how you embody resilience in adversity.


Previous: Mandarin Monday, January 15, 2024 Newsletter

1 Different Expressions of “Dreams” in Chinese
2 Patterns in Leadership Names
3 Introducing Name Translators for Chinese, Japanese, and Korean
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