The Mantis, The Cicada, and The Oriole


“Another proverb I’ve heard is:

Chinese: 螳螂捕蝉黄雀在后
Phonetic: Tángláng bǔ chán huáng què zài hòu
Transliteration: Mantis catches cicada oriole behind
Translation: The mantis stalks the cicada unaware of the oriole behind him

it’s one of my favorites. It basically means you need to be cautious and alarm.”


Informant (JG) is a student aged 19 from Beijing, China. Although she was born in Los Angeles, she has spent most of her life living in China. She currently goes to USC. This piece was collected during an interview over breakfast in the dining hall. She first heard this proverb in primary school. According to her, this proverb isn’t really spoken, more so kept in the back of the head. She interprets it as “always be aware of your surroundings.”


This particular proverb calls for mindfulness. It encourages the individual to not simply think of themself. This idea can be found throughout Chinese culture, and in this instance, it is actually pointing out the danger of closemindedness.