An Exchange of Gifts – A Matter of Language

I had nothing to give to my friend; she has everything. She said she admired my courage in choosing my own path so I took off my pendant and gave it to her.  It is a Möbius ring made in silver and on it was inscribed:

This above all: to thine own self be true

She said:

君子不奪人所好 (a gentleman would not take another’s beloved);

She didn’t want to take it because it is something I treasured;  I replied:

寶劍贈烈士, 紅粉贈佳人 (A sword for a warrior, Rouge for a lady)

In other words, it is a fitting gift.  She accepted it and gave me her pendant, a miniature replica of a sculpture we had both admired.

Some people say that Chinese people talk in riddles and never come to the point.  Not so; my friend and I knew exactly what was said.  The reason we used literary references was that we both love the Chinese language and its literature, just as someone fluent in English may quote Shakespeare, or Wilde or GBS.

You don’t have to know your Shakespeare or to have read Hamlet to understand the quote on my Möbius ring, but someone with very basic English may have trouble with it.  Therein lies the problem with communicating with the Chinese – few in the West are educated in the language above a basic level.

About Mary Tang

An urban orchardist everyday, a volunteer regularly, a poet sometimes and a blogger since March 2015. I travel when I can. Food is a constant.
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4 Responses to An Exchange of Gifts – A Matter of Language

  1. angela1313 says:

    when I first started to learn Chinese a friend gave me a small book of sayings and quotations in Mandarin, Cantonese and English. Your conversation made me think of it. Mastering the appropriate use of those sayings always made people think I was more advanced in my Chinese than I was. It also forced me to learn fast to stay out of trouble.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. mattb325 says:

    So true. I wish they had taught Cantonese or Mandarin in school when I was a lad. While I valued learning Latin, French and German, they aren’t especially challenging given how close they are to English … and how far away we are from Europe :-)

    Liked by 1 person

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