Daily Chinese Proverb: Present From Afar

Posted by Charlie @ Discovering Mandarin Friday, 18 September 2009 0 comments

This Chinese proverb comes from a tale in the Tang Dynasty. It is all about 'A gift of Sincere Wishes'. A man called Mian Bogao offering the emporer some goose feathers as a gift. The full story is below to give an explaination of why this proverb has such a strong meaning in Chinese culture. you may also be interested in the Chinese practise of giving gifts.

qiān lǐ sòng ér máo
A goose feather sent from afar

Gift-giving is an important part of Chinese tradition and culture. Whatever the various forms of gift-wrapping, such as boxes, trays, envelopes, etc. However, there is also a traditional custom to attach a feather with or on the gift. This defines the gift as Qian-li-song-er-mao, literally, a swan feather from a thousand miles: meaning a gift which may be small but, carries with it the sincere wishes of the sender.

During the Tang dynasty (唐朝 táng cháo), 618-906 A.D., there was a local official who gave orders to one of his attendants to take a swan to the Emperor as a gift. The attendant, saw that the swan needed to be cleaned. On the way he took the swan to the river’s edge and took it out of the cage to give it a bath when the swan escaped and flew away, leaving only a feather behind.

The servant knew he needed to accomplish his assigned task. Not knowing what else he could do, presented the feather with a slip of paper bearing a poem, reading:

千里送鵝毛 (qiān lǐ sòng ér máo) A swan’s feather from a thousand miles away
禮輕情意重 (lǐ qīng qíng yì zhòng) An insignificant gift, with it the sincere wishes of the sender.

The emperor was impressed by Mian's sincerity and proclaimed himself satisfied with the present. This incident is remembered in the saying qiān lĭ sòng ér máo, meaning, “to walk a thousand li and present a feather as a gift.” Li is a measure of distance, which is equal to about half a kilometer. Qiān lĭ, or a thousand li, is an expression that means “really far.” Sòng is the verb meaning “to give,” and máo means feather.

Therefore, the feather became the symbol for this expression which may be attached to a gift bearing the reminder of a thoughtful gift. Qiān lĭ sòng ér máo, it's the thought, not the gift, that truly matters.

Chinese Farmer Creates Baby Buddha Pears

Posted by Charlie @ Discovering Mandarin 2 comments

Chinese farmer, Gao Xianzhang from the village of Hexia, in Hebia, northern China, has created baby buddha shaped pears. Gao spent six years perfecting the intricate baby shaped pears, carefully crafting each one which grows inside an individual, baby buddha shaped plastic mould.

It is reported that Gao has made 10,000 of the baby buddha pears that he hopes to sell in the UK and EU. In China they are selling very well indeed and have certainly not been affected by the recession.

The pears are snapped up as soon as they are off the tree and Gao says that they are considered lucky and cute. Lucky things in China have a massive marketing boost and catch on very quickly.

This is a bit behind the times... The Daily Mail reported this about two weeks ago, I meant to write about it then, but ran out of time, many apologies

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