Easy Way to Learn Chinese Classical Allusions (English-Chinese)

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When reading Chinese literary works, it is common to come across historical and classical allusions. A grasp of such allusions naturally makes the understanding of what one is reading much easier. By the same token, when writing prose or poetry, the apt use of such allusions does much to embellish the work. It could be said that the study of the Chinese language and the reading of literary works in Chinese is unimaginable without an understanding of historical and classical allusions.

Chinese historical and classical allusions, like English idioms, have their peculiar sources. Some have their roots in historical incidents or personages, and some in the words of notable figures. Unlike proverbs, which are commonly composed of four characters, historical and literary allusions can have as few as two characters and as many as ten or more. It is important to note that, in general, both historical and classical allusions and proverbs have both their original meanings and their extended meanings, and there are some differences between them.

The corpus of Chinese historical and classical allusions is vast, far too vast for the inclusion of them all in a volume as slim as this one. Here we have collected 81 of the most common and easily grasped allusions, with notes on their origins and meanings, and examples of the use of each allusion by Chinese authors. This volume carries on the tradition of the series Easy Way to Learn Chinese by providing such assistance for the reader as notes on the names of people and places, on the pronunciation of difficult characters and the meaning of obscure phrases. In addition, illustrations enliven the text and bring home the point of each allusion. The English version that follows the Chinese text is the work of an Englishman well versed in Chinese language and culture.

We are confident that this book will not only provide the student of the Chinese language with a knowledge of Chinese historical and literary allusions, but also well help the Chinese student of English acquire fluency in reading genuine English prose.
Table of Contents
三过其门而不入  Passing One's House Three Times Without Entering
网开三面  Leaving Three Sides of the Net Open
不食周粟  Refusing to Eat the Millet of Zhou
吐哺握发  Spitting Out Food and Holding One's Hair
大义灭亲  Placing Righteousness Above Family Loyalty
不计射钩之仇  Forgiving the Belt Buckle Arrow
皮之不存,毛将焉附  Without the Skin, What Can the Hair Stick to?
管鲍之交  The Friendship Between Guan Zhong and Bao Shuya
董狐笔  The Brush of Dong Hu
叔敖埋蛇  Shu'ao Buries a Snake
衔环结草  Knotting Grass and Gifts of Rings
二桃杀三士  Killing Three Warriors With Two Peaches
不贪为宝  Regarding a Treasure as Nothing
楚材晋用  Jin Makes Use of Talent From Chu
季札挂剑  Jizha Hangs Up His Sword
吴市吹萧  Playing the Flute in the Streets of Wu
牛山下泣  Weeping on Mount Niushan
遗簪坠屦  Losing Haipins and Shoes
野人献曝  A Peasant Offers a Gift of Sunshine
中山狼  The Zhongshan Wolf
围魏救赵  Besieging Wei to Save Zhao
张仪舌在  Zhang Yi Still Has His Tongue
庄舄越吟  Zhuang Xi Groans in the Yue Dialect
请自隗始  Guo Wei Recommends Himself
缘木求鱼  Climbing a Tree to Look for Fish
倚门倚闾  Waiting at the Gate
龙阳泣鱼  Long Yang Weeps for a Fish
范睢绨袍  Fan Sui's Silk Robe
一字千金  One Word Worth a Thousand Pieces of Gold
明修栈道,暗渡陈仓  Openly Repairing the Plank Road While Sneaking Round to Chencang
秦镜高悬  The Mirror of Qin Huang on High
四面楚歌  Songs of Chu on All Sides
一诺千金  One Promise Worth a Thousand Pieces of Gold
陈平分肉  Chen Ping Divides the Meat
强弩之末  An Arrow at the End of Its Flight
家徒四壁  Only the Four Bare Walls
董生下帷  Dong Sheng Lets Down the Curtain
朱云折槛  Zhu Yun Breaks the Bannister
牛衣对泣  Wearing Ox Blankets and Facing Each Other in Tears
陈遵投辖  Chen Zun Removes the Linchpins
兄肥弟瘦  The Elder Brother Is Fat, While the Younger Brother Is Thin
文不加点  Flawless Composition
投笔从戎  Renouncing The Pen for the Sword
合浦珠还  The Pearls Return to Hepu
举案齐眉  Raising the Tray to the Eyebrows
一钱太守  A One-Coin Govermor
暮夜无知  In the Dead of Night Nobody Knows
张纲埋轮  Zhang Gang Buries the Wheels
李郭同舟  Li and Guo Share a Boat
斗酒博凉州  Gaining Liangzhou Province With a Flagon of Wine
掩目捕雀  Closing the Eyes and Catching a Sparrow
推梨让枣  Refusing the Pears and Dates
好好先生  Mr Very-Good
陆绩怀橘  Lu Ji Hides Oranges
倒屣相迎  Shoes on Back to Front
去梯之言  Words With the Staircase Removed
忍辱负重  Enduring Humiliation to Fulfil and Important Mission
老生常谈  Commonplace Words
蓝田生玉  Jade From Lantian
青白眼  Looking With The Blacks or Whites of the Eyes
卧冰求鲤  Lying on the Ice and Looking for Carp
势如破竹  Powerful Enough to Slice Bamboo
莼羹鲈脍  Waterweed Soup and Sliced Perch
先我着鞭  Taking Up the Whip Before Me
截发留宾  Cutting the Hair to Treat the Guests
中流击楫  Beating With the Oar in Midstream
日近长安远  Chang'an Is More Distant Than the Sun
阮囊羞涩  Ruan's Purse Is Empty
孟嘉落帽  Meng Jia Loses His Hat
八公山上,草木皆兵  Even the Grass and Trees on Mount Bagong Are Soldiers
废寝忘食  Neglecting Sleep and Food
一箭双雕  Killing Two Hawks With One Arrow
唾面自干  Let the Spittle Dry on Your Face
白云亲舍  One's Kinsfolk Live Under a White Cloud
夺锦袍  Winning the Brocade Gown
长安居大不易  It is Not Easy to Live in Chang'an
蚂蚁缘槐  Ants Swarming on a Locust Tree
机不可失,时不再来  Do Not Let Slip an Opportunity
朱衣使者  The Red-Robed Examiner
人言不足恤  Be Not Dismayed by What People Say
痛饮黄龙  Drinking to One's Heart Content at Huanglong Prefecture
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Easy Way to Learn Chinese Classical Allusions (English-Chinese)