Tag Archives: proverb

Tamil Proverb

ஆபத்துக்கு பாவமில்லை

“Necessity has no law.”

Informant Info

Nationality: Indian

Age: 55

Occupation: Chief Information Officer

Residence: Las Vegas, Nevada

Date of Performance/Collection: 2023

Primary Language: English

Other Language(s): Tamil

Relationship: Father

Referred to as JS.  JS was born in India and moved to the United States when he was 22. 


The proverb suggests that in times of great need or urgency, people may be willing to take risks or bend the rules to achieve their goals or to meet their needs.


While growing up in the village, JS heard this from his parents and relatives.  The Tamil proverb “Necessity has no law” is a saying that expresses the idea that when faced with a pressing need or situation, people may act in ways that are outside of the norms or laws of society. 


The proverb’s message is that necessity may override society’s usual rules and conventions in certain situations. However, it is essential to note that this does not mean that the laws or regulations are unimportant, but instead that the moment’s needs may sometimes require individuals to act outside of their usual bounds.

In essence, the proverb is a reminder that in times of great need or urgency, people may be willing to take actions they might not normally consider to meet their goals or fulfill their needs. It also highlights the importance of understanding the context and circumstances that drive people to act in specific ways and to approach these actions with empathy and understanding.

The Ghost day: Mid July


“In the ghost day, you need to burn paper to relatives who had passed away. And you should better now go out alone during the night of the ghost day. Those whose yang qi are not strong enough should wear amulets to protect themselves and not look at the burning paper. “


Mr. B is my friend in China. This ghost day is a Chinese traditional festival that memorates the dead in one’s family. He told me that most of this are his own personal experience in the ghost day.

analysis: The ghost day is a day when normal time is being cut off and the memories, tombstones, and many more things about the ghost and the dead have been brought forth. To analysis the ghost day, or ghost festival, is to analysis these things that represent this day.

These things include notions like Yin qi and Yang qi, which is 阴气 and 阳气 in Chinese. Qi, or 气 is a notion in Chinese philosophy and medicine that represents vital energy. The more yang qi one has, the more likely one is to defend against ghost. Ghosts on ther other hand, is the representation of yin qi. However, the majority of qi in women’s body should be yin qi, in Chinese medicine. Thus it well explains why majority of the ghost figures in East Asia are women. Man, who are representation of yang qi, rarely become ghosts.

However, there are situations that even man would have too much yin qi. These type of man would be characterized as girly and inwarded. As Mr. B said they need to protect themselves by wearing amultes or not looking at the burning paper. This is a folk belief of the ghost day that a superstition conversion that reverse the effect of too much ying qi.

Burning paper to ancestry is a ritual that is performed in Ghost day. How it’s done varys across region, but one similar notion is that these paper are 绸缎, or chou duan, that serves as cloth to make new clothes. Burning these paper, along with other things like fake money to the dead relatives, is a type of consolation one might be able to seek in days without their apparence.

Chinese Dream Proverb

Text: Well, ever since my mom’s brother suddenly died at the age of 62– two years ago, I think this proverb has continued to provide my mom with a sense of comfort and release. “All in life is a dream walking, and all in death is a going home.” She passes this on to anyone in need of feeling at peace with recent tragedies or deaths. I think that for her, it’s a reminder to feel grateful for the joyful parts of life and that…when death comes, one part has fulfilled their purpose.

Context: K is twenty-one years old and of Chinese, Japanese, and Jewish descent. She was raised in San Francisco, California. Her maternal grandparents are Asian immigrants whose culture she was raised with.

Analysis: K’s mother told her the quote above is a Chinese proverb. K would frequently hear proverbs from her mother while growing up, typically used and repeated as little bits of advice or reminders throughout a day. In Chinese culture it’s considered a sign of a good education to include proverbs in your writing or advice to others. Proverbs speak on a range of topics– often moral, like patience or kindness to strangers. They intend to provide wisdom to its listeners, and are meant to be respected by both the speaker and the listener even if not always successfully followed. Many proverbs are accredited to Confucius or Lao Tzu (although some are miscredited), but many don’t have distinctive roots with one speaker or author. The majority of proverbs were passed down in oral traditions among the peasant class in China, and were not written down until years, sometimes hundreds of years after their inception. Many proverbs still haven’t been translated to English. This makes sense why there isn’t much available on the proverb above other than the quote itself. However, its ruminations on the meaning of life, death, and dreams are not uncommon topics for proverbs. It’s also interesting to note that traditional Chinese medicine believes that one’s dreams are directly related to their physical health, hence the proverb’s association with dream and “life” or the living, bodily world.  

English Proverb

M is 19 years old, and she is a college student. She grew up in Colorado Springs, Colorado. She heard this proverb at elementary school age from her mother when she was complaining about a group project.

“My mom would always tell me “Two minds are greater than one” which I think is very true. Growing up when I needed some advice she’d always tell me that proverb.”

This proverb seems like a great one to tell kids who don’t want to work with others. It encourages kids to work together and learn teamwork, which are traits that parents and schools often try to instill in their kids. It’s a very old saying that seems to trace back to the Bible. It’s a great proverb because it encourages people not to be selfish. In American culture that promotes competition, people want to be the only one who comes up with a great idea and gets the credit for it. But this proverb says that people should try to attack problems together. If people work together instead of in opposition with each other, society would benefit far more from it. This seems to be a mentality in other cultures, but one that is less common in current American society.

Proverb – “Eat from the Bowl, Look from the Pot”

Mandarin (Simplified): “吃着碗里,看着锅里”
Pinyin (Simplified) : chi zhe wan li, kan zhe guo li
Literal translation: Eating in the bowl, looking in the pot

C is a Chinese international student from Anhui Province, Hefei studying at USC. There were a lot of pauses between sentences as C was finding the right words, as English was not his first language.
C: “This folk speech is relatively widespread in China. It’s not very local or original, but it’s more like a proverb. That kind of thing. It’s called “吃着碗里,看着锅里“ (chi zhe wan li, kan zhe guo li). My parents used that a lot with me, because when I was very young, I tend to be very protective of my food. And that’s why my parents described me as that. It translates that you’re eating the food in the bowl, and looking at the food in the pot. I remember one time when my cousin was visiting over the weekend and my parents was cooking a lot of good food. I was always the one eating the chicken leg, the best part of the chicken. And I was so protective, I licked the chicken. I was so young at the time. And my mom said that [proverb to me]. In my family, it was more about not being greedy.”

This proverb is a shorthand bit of wisdom passed down from parent to child. It condones the subject for being too greedy with food. In Mandarin, it’s also a comment on personal character. The direct English translation implies a passiveness to eating and looking, merely an observation. What’s lost from the original Chinese wording is the tone of condescension and the clear subject being the person who is eating. It is not only an observation but a warning. What is in the pot, what the eater cannot look away from, is something the bowl cannot and will not have. This proverb is not only about sharing food with others, but also a caution against selfish desire. One’s personal needs cannot always come first in every situation nor can they be met perfectly. It is not the right response to be ungrateful and expectant for a self-centered result every time, but better to practice moderation and patience with what one wants most and be understanding towards others about their own desires. This proverb’s nugget of knowledge goes past the surface level hoarding of food and deeper into human nature without becoming overbearingly moral. It exemplifies how proverbs operate in folklore well; as generational sayings that though short, have deep meaning.