A book is like a garden carried in your pocket

Discussion in '中文+方言 (Chinese)' started by ellindea, Jan 7, 2009.

  1. ellindea Senior Member

    USA, English
    First of all, does anyone know if this is an actual Chinese proverb? Do you guys know of other proverbs about books or reading? I want to put it on a bookmark for a friend.
    This is what I can come up with for a translation for "A book is like a garden carried in your pocket":
    书好像园 (???) 在兜里。 ?
    We haven't learned yet how to use verb-based adjectives, so I have no idea how to say "carried." Is 好像 right here for "like"? What about 里?
    Thank you in advance! :)
  2. englishelp Senior Member

    I tried to google the Chinese translation of this proverb but did not find any. So here is my not so poetic translation:


    Literally: A book is like a garden which you can put in your pocket and carry with you.

    A bit wordy. But I cannot think of a better phrasing.

  3. ellindea Senior Member

    USA, English
    Hmmm, what about something like:
    书好像带走的花园在口袋里 ?? Is that even gramatically correct?
    Thanks. :)
  4. englishelp Senior Member

    In English, if you have a heavy (meaning long) modifier for a noun ( "carried in the pocket", for example), you can post-pone that modifier to the position after the noun, hence "a garden carried in your pocket".

    Chinese does not permit a postponed modifier for a noun. All modifying elements must come before the noun.

    Therefore the alternative suggested below sounds awkward to me.

    Maybe someone else here might be able to provide a grammatical and also "beautiful" translation.

  5. samanthalee

    samanthalee Senior Member

    Mandarin, English - [Singapore]
    Results from Google show that many English websites claimed this is a Chinese proverb. While all Chinese websites says it's an English proverb (One even specified that this is an American proverb.)

    Taking the sense of the English proverb, I'll probably translate it as 书本是个可藏在口袋里的花园 (Books are gardens that can be kept in pockets).
  6. ellindea Senior Member

    USA, English
    So I finally founnd a Chinese site that gives the proverb, and it does list it with other Chinese proverbs. Here is what they have:
    So I guess it literally translates to "portable and carried garden," right? I'm thinking if it began as a Chinese proverb, it ended up translated as "carried in the pocket" because that sounds quite a bit more poetic. Can you guys think of a translation that is more accurate but also poetic?
    I also found there the Chinese for the proverb “A book holds a house of gold”: 书中自有黄金屋,书中自有颜如玉
    How would you translate the second part? “A book holds the color of jade”?
    The website I got these from is: http://humor.linkstom.cn/humor/new.asp?newID=4636
    The garden one is #31, and the house of gold one is #2.
  7. englishelp Senior Member

    Ha, I actually wanted to post the "书中自有黄金屋,书中自有颜如玉" one in this thread. But this proverb now carries negative connotations. So I was not sure if it is suitable for a bookmark.

    The second part means: "In books there are faces like jades (jades are pale and smooth)". It really just means "In books there are beautiful women".

    What this whole proverb means is that: You need to study because, if you excel (in the Imperial Exams in ancient China), all kinds of good worldly things will happen. You will have money (house of gold) and women (faces like jade).

    This sounds very utilitarian and really debases the purpose of reading books, which is why nowadays it carries a negative connotation. It nowadays can only be used in flippant situations.

  8. about:blank Senior Member

    Weird...Lots of Chinese people (at least of my acquaintances) never heard of this Chinese proverb while people who know about it are often from other countries..As far as I know...
  9. kbbyrant New Member

    we can understang in this way~~~书中自有黄金屋,书中自有颜如玉
  10. kbbyrant New Member

    "颜如玉“ means a beautiful Chinese girl....that's to say,if you are knowledgable enough, you can find a beautiful girl as your girlfriend~~
  11. xiaolijie

    xiaolijie Senior Member

    English (UK)
    I don't think so. I know many book lovers who are poor and who don't even have a girl friend. ;)

    Seriously, I think 书中自有黄金屋,书中自有颜如玉 basically means reading makes you feel rich (=enriched) and beautiful (=refined). I remember a Chinese a story about someone who loved reading: if he didn't read for 3 days, he didn't dare look at himeself in the mirror, as he felt ugly.
    Last edited: Aug 5, 2011
  12. kbbyrant New Member


    Hmm,well,in ancient times ,in China,people use this proverb to encourage themselves to study hard. Only by this way could they change their destiny.
    They will be rich ,meanwhile ,they will get hot girls~~~;)
  13. Queen Z Member

    Free translation:书是可以随身携带的秘密花园。
  14. SuperXW

    SuperXW Senior Member

    I agree.
    I recall there seems a third metaphor in this, as 书中自由千钟粟,书中自有黄金屋,书中自有颜如玉……
    千钟粟 means thousand baskets of grains...
    I'm not sure about its origin and correctness though.
    I'm not sure about the proverb's origin and correctness. Maybe you are right. But as time goes by, most Chinese just consider 颜如玉 as "beautiful girls". :) There are other ancient sayings chaged their meanings through time, such as 君子好逑, 逃之夭夭 etc.
    Last edited: Aug 8, 2011
  15. vwillendorf New Member

    I am taking a history class which uses the book, "The Essential World History" by William J. Duiker and Jackson J. Spielvogel. Here is a sentence from that book (3rd Edition, page188):"Renowned for its many proverbs, Africa also offers the following:'A good story is like a garden carried in the pocket.'"I think the Africans had no written scripts at that time, so a bookmark won't do the trick. You'd have to sing it. Or write it in Arabic which is what the Africans used as a script if they needed one.وهناك قصة جيدة مثل حديقة في الجيبYou can try the Google translator (above translation), but it is always better to ask someone who speaks the language for a translation.But then again, maybe I should write to Duiker and Spielvogel and ask them about their referneces....
  16. Serafín33

    Serafín33 Senior Member

    Last edited: Jan 3, 2012

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