Chinese Proverb: Wish for Plums to Quench Your Thirst

Informant is a 53 year-old Chinese female. She was born and raised in Beijing, China, and now lives in Southern California.

Informant’s folklore: In China, there’s a proverb called “Wish for Plums to Quench Your Thirst.” Cao Cao and Liu Bei were at war. But during the war, the troops walked a lot and trekked for a long time, so much so that they were tired and couldn’t walk anymore. So, they were thirsty and tired. So Cao Cao said, “Hey we should keep walking forward! Ahead there’s a garden of plum trees, and when we get there, there will be water.” So this proverb means that when you hear of plums, your mouth starts to water, and when your mouth salivates, it satisfies your thirst.

Collector: Where did you hear this proverb?

Informant: Everyone knows about this story, and I heard it from my mother.

Collector: Do you like this proverb? What does it mean to you?

Informant: Yes, because to me it sounds like when you’re so tired, or worn out doing something, if you have hope, you can make it to the end.

This proverb originated from Chinese history dating to thousands of years ago. I think that there’s a universality to the meaning of the proverb, in that it’s about human will power. The proverb shows how¬†despite your physical conditions, your mind can overcome hardship and keep you going to accomplish your goals.