a flower in the mirror, a moon in the river

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I am an Italian student, I am translating a short story (English into Italian) by Chinese-American writer Yiyun Li. She writes in English but I have a feeling that she uses figures of speech from the Chinese language. Since I don't speak any Chinese, can you tell me if this sentence is a common saying or something like that? I got that impression, but it could simply be a random metaphor.
"One could waste one’s life pursuing a flower in the mirror, a moon in the river, but that is not what I want to see happen to you."
  • fyl

    Senior Member
    Mandarin Chinese
    镜中花 水中月
    yes, it's a common (or well-known existing) saying instead of a random metaphor.


    Yes, it comes from an idiom 镜花水月

    The meaning is that we can see flowers in the mirror and moon reflected by the water surface. They are beautiful and dreamy, but not real.
    It is usually used for describing beautiful but unachievable illusions.
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