July 13, 2006

Proverb Attribution

As far as I know none of the putative Chinese proverbs recited at the Aspen Conference is authentic, but one of the proverbs quoted by Daniel Gross has a real Japanese analogue. The intended meaning of "tall flowers are cut down" is presumably the same as that of the authentic Japanese proverb 出る釘は打たれる. "the nail that sticks out gets hit".

I suspect that there is a tendency to attribute sayings that one likes to whatever source seems likely to carry authority or authenticity. On several occasions I've seen "women hold up half the sky" 女人撐著半邊天 described as an "old Chinese saying". It's a good slogan, and it is Chinese, but I don't think that it is traditional. As far as I can tell, it was introduced by Mao Tse-Tung.

Posted by Bill Poser at July 13, 2006 12:22 AM