Chinese Language

Proverbs | 16

Yang mao chu zai yang sheng shang : Sheep's wool comes off the sheep's back

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Zhong wen

Sheep's wool comes off the sheep's back
羊毛出在羊身上

When the Chancellor of the Exchequer promises on Budget Day to offer you this, that and the other - 'fish as well as bear's paw' on a silver platter all on the house, be sure to take it with a pinch of salt. Remind yourself of the Chinese adage, 'Sheep's wool comes off the sheep's back'.

Whatever the Chancellor dishes out on your collective plate comes from your own collective larder. As the Americans say, 'There's no such thing as a free lunch'. If the shadow Chancellor tries to seduce you in an election year by outbidding the incumbent Chancellor, offering you 'riches beyond he dreams of avarice', be sure not to count your sheep before they are shorn! A generous Chancellor is one who is merely being generous with other people's money - namely, your own. because as the Chinese saying goes, 'Sheep's wool comes off the sheep's back'!

Confucius referred to 'fish and bear's paw' as being two desirable dishes between which one usually has to make a choice, implying that one cannot have it both ways.

© Copyright Society for Anglo-Chinese Understanding (SACU) 2006 reprinted from SACU's China Now 126, Page 31, September 1988

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