Proverb – Chinese

Mandarin:                                ?        ?        ?        ??    ?        ?        ?        ?   ?

English Literal Translation:    Ice        freeze  three    feet      not       one      day      chill

English Proverb: One day of cold weather will not result in three feet of ice.

Mrs. Chang heard this phrase in Taiwan, but does not remember exactly whom she heard it from.  She says that this proverb means that a problem does not come overnight, but accumulated over time.  One has to be patient with things and not blame problems on one specific time and place.  She says that the imagery of three feet of ice freezing over comes from the mountains of Taiwan where the farmers used to live.  In the winter, it was not possible for the ice to freeze that much in one night, but if the people did not take care of it, the problem grew until it was not manageable.

This proverb is a way to communicate that problems don’t arise overnight but are created over time.  This proverb is very popular in the Chinese culture and is also very practical in use.  It shows that problems have to be handled from the very beginning or else it will compound and be impossible to handle.  It concentrates on the problem itself and its origins, getting to the bottom of the problem to fix it.  Also, a series of events has to build up to a dilemma.

Another way of looking at this proverb is that one has to stop a problem from getting out of hand or else it will result in something bigger.  The imagery of three feet of ice is like a blockade on anything—too cold to grasp and too hard to break.  With this block of ice, any solution is hindered and slowed down.  Because it takes so long for the problem to build up, the only way to get rid of it is to give it time and let the ice melt.  Thus, the time that it takes for the problem to build is the time that it takes for the problem to end.  This proverb is passed down to show the importance of handing one’s problems from the beginning to avoid more conflict.