Ni pu sa guo jiang, zi shen nan bao
Mud [Buddha] cross river, self body hard protect
When the mud Buddha crosses the river, it can’t protect itself.
My informant learnt this during her middle school years in Singapore. As every proverb has a lesson behind it, this proverb was to teach children not to try and help people while themselves are drowning because they’ll only make matters worse.
This is an example of how religious symbols integrate themselves into the culture of the Chinese. While China is a very diverse country, in contexts of food, religion and language, there is still a mainstream culture that is still prevalent and relevant to most Chinese.
Most Chinese follow the Buddhist tradition and that tradition preaches being helpful and charitable to the poor and those less fortunate than you are. However, no matter how helpful the ’Buddha’ is attempting to be, a statue made out of mud tries to go through a river, it’ll only manage to self destruct. This brings the other part of the proverb into light, as even something like if Buddha cannot protect itself, it should not try and help other people.