A line of Chinese wisdom - Let's take a quick meal of knowledge - plus movie recommendations :-)

A line of wisdom in Chinese is like a quick meal of knowledge that could easily fit into your busy schedule.

Let's spend about 15 minutes to sip up some wisdom soup in Chinese language into your hungry stomach. :-)


Read without checking its English translation first, I've broken down the sentence word by word.


使 你 疲倦的 不是 前面的 高山,而是 你 鞋里的 一粒 沙子.


How much you could understand?


Not much? No worries, let's try again with pinyin, at least you can more or less figure out how it sounds like...


shǐ  píjuànde bùshì qiánmiànde gāoshān érshì  xiélǐde yīlì shāzi.

使 你 疲倦的 不是 前面的 高山,而是 你 鞋里的 一粒 沙子.


Now I'll help you with some keywords:


使 shǐ (let, make) 疲倦 píjuàn (tired) 前面qiánmiàn (front, ahead) 高山 gāoshān (high mountain) 而是érshì (but) xié (shoe) 沙子shāzi (sand)


You can figure it out better now? Then, compare what you've understand with the actual English translation.


It is not the high mountain in front of you that makes you feel tired, but the tiny little sand inside your shoes.


Final version with no annotation. See if you can totally understand the wisdom line?


使 你 疲倦的 不是 前面的 高山,而是 你 鞋里的 一粒 沙子.


Now memorize it if you will, so next time you can use the same pattern to create your own expressions.


Well done, my friends!


Ps: for those that can understand the sentences at first or second read, you're already on a good level of Chinese. If you like, you can watch the following two movies that I recommended on my blog lately. They both have Chinese and English subtitles that can be good materials for you to learn and enjoy:

Learn Mandarin through a Chinese fairy tale – Movie 白蛇传说 (Legend of...

What’s for tonight: Suspense Movie “门” + Learn Mandarin!

For those that still feel it's difficult to understand the line without help, take a break and treat yourself with a good movie on Chinese culture “Eat, Drink, Man, Woman”, the one on my blog only has English subtitle. Jason recommended another link with Chinese subtitles only in his comment:


A classic Chinese movie about family, life and love – 饮食男女 (Eat Dri...

This post was originally published on Study More Chinese where you can study Mandarin online

(photo credit mahiro1322)

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Comment by Grace on July 8, 2012 at 12:15am

It can be even longer: " 張三李四王五" :-)

張, 李, 王 are all top populated last names.

Top Member
Comment by Thomas Doherty on July 8, 2012 at 12:06am

Chinese Slang obvious with some Chinese experience but I am sure "crazy" for newbies if reading or hearing :

" 張三李四 " - Zhāng sān lǐ sì =  'your average people'

" 張三 " - Zhāng sān  =  'your average person' = John Doe, Mary Doe or John Smith = Joe or Nancy Blow

Comment by Grace on July 3, 2012 at 11:17am

Ma Ji Ya,

Thank you for letting me know your feelings on your Chinese study and my blog! I totally understand that learning a new language require lots of patience and persistence. For Chinese, the beginning is quite hard. But once you've got the hang of the basic sentence patterns and a basic vocabulary, you can really progress faster if you want. I'm really happy to know that my blog could help you in a way or another. Please don't hesitate to let me know if I can improve in any ways to help you more.


Comment by Ma Ji Ya on July 2, 2012 at 5:57pm

Dear Grace, thank you for your sentence of wisdom. Sometimes, I can understand each word in the sentences while reading the 汉字,but the whole sentences doesn't make real sense to me, especially when it goes about "words of wisdom". I have been learning Chinese mostly by myself for one and a half years now. Sometimes I think I should already have made much more progress. But your website and your teaching helped me a lot. 谢谢

Comment by Grace on June 11, 2012 at 11:25am

You're welcome, Thomas. It's my pleasure :-)

Top Member
Comment by Thomas Doherty on June 11, 2012 at 9:07am


     I looked at about a dozen pages and I think it will help a lot.  Thank you for obtaining this PDF file. 

Comment by Grace on June 3, 2012 at 12:51pm

Thomas, I did a bit of search and finally was able to download subtitles for 饮食男女 from http://www.9sub.com. However, the file is kind of raw with lots of numbers and timestamps in it. So I reformatted it info pdf and put it up for download here:


Let me know whether it helps with your understanding of the movie...

I can't find subtitles for 观音山 though. 

Top Member
Comment by Thomas Doherty on June 3, 2012 at 1:51am

Some recent percents of understanding of Mandarin movies using Chinese subtitles only:

   饮食男女 maybe 15%

   观音山   maybe 10%

Do you know if there is a web site that has Chinese screen plays or the Chinese subtitles used in Chinese movies ?  This would be a big help because I could go over those sentences that made absolutely no sense while watching the movie and then I could watch the movie again with much more understanding.

Top Member
Comment by Thomas Doherty on May 26, 2012 at 4:26am

I watched about 4 minutes of the historical movie "1911" with absolutely 0% comprehension when my wife came home with a copy of it with no English Subtitles.  The Chinese Subtitles didn't even help!!

Comment by Grace on May 25, 2012 at 12:09pm

Bodyguards and Assassins - this one should be difficult if history background kicks in. For some English movies that have too many proper nouns that I'm not familiar with, I do have difficulties to understand it too. The beginning part of Lord of the Rings was very difficult for me without subtitle.

I believe expanding your knowledge scope on the history and culture side is also very important in language learning.

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