A young Taiwanese friend recently shared this Chinese parable with me. It all starts with being asked to take a snail for a walk… but first, some useful vocabulary:
|上帝||ㄕㄤˋ ㄉㄧˋ||(shàng dì)||God|
|神||ㄕㄣˊ||(shén)||deity, spirit, God|
|蝸牛||ㄍㄨㄚ ㄋㄧㄡˊ or ㄍㄨㄛ ㄋㄧㄡˊ||(guā niú) or (guō niú)||snail|
|任務||ㄖㄣˋ ㄨˋ||(rèn wù)||mission, assignment, task|
|牽||ㄑㄧㄢ||(qiān)||to lead, to pull along|
|盡力||ㄐㄧㄣˋ ㄌㄧˋ||(jìn lì)||to strive, to spare no effort|
|挪||ㄋㄨㄛˊ||(nuó)||to shift, to move|
|催||ㄘㄨㄟ||(cuī)||to urge, to hasten|
|唬||ㄏㄨˇ||(hǔ)||a tiger's roar, to scare|
|責備||ㄗㄜˊ ㄅㄟˋ||(zé bèi)||to blame|
|抱歉||ㄅㄠˋ ㄑㄧㄢˋ||(bào qiàn)||to be sorry|
|眼光||ㄧㄢˇ ㄍㄨㄤ||(yǎn guāng)||insight, way of looking at things|
|彷彿||ㄈㄤˇ ㄈㄨˊ||(fǎng fú)||seems|
|盡了全力||ㄐㄧㄣˋ ㄌㄜ˙ ㄑㄩㄢˊ ㄌㄧˋ||(jìn le. quán lì)||to use up all one's strength|
|拉||ㄌㄚ||(lā)||to pull, to drag|
|扯||ㄔㄜˇ||(chě)||to pull, to tear|
|受(了)傷||ㄕㄡˋ(ㄌㄜ˙)ㄕㄤ||(shòu [le.] shāng)||got injured|
|流(著)汗||ㄌㄧㄡˊ(ㄓㄜ˙)ㄏㄢˋ||(liú [zhe.] hàn)||sweating, perspiring|
|喘(著)氣||ㄔㄨㄢˇ(ㄓㄜ˙)ㄑㄧˋ||(chuǎn [zhe.] qì)||gasping for air|
|聞到||ㄨㄣˊ ㄉㄠˋ||(wén dào)||smelled|
|微風||ㄨㄟˊ ㄈㄥ||(wéi fēng)||breeze, light wind|
|夜裡||ㄧㄝˋ ㄌㄧˇ||(yè lǐ)||during the night|
|溫柔||ㄨㄣ ㄖㄡˊ||(wēn róu)||gentle, tender|
|慢著||ㄇㄢˋ ㄓㄜ˙||(màn zhe.)||slow down|
|聽到||ㄊㄧㄥ ㄉㄠˋ||(tīng dào)||heard|
|鳥叫||ㄋㄧㄠˇ ㄐㄧㄠˋ||(niǎo jiào)||bird call/singing|
|蟲鳴||ㄔㄨㄥˊ ㄇㄧㄥˊ||(chóng míng)||insect sound/cry|
|原來||ㄩㄢˊ ㄌㄞˊ||(yuán lái)||original, to realize|
|看到||ㄎㄢˋ ㄉㄠˋ||(kàn dào)||saw|
|滿天(的)星斗||ㄇㄢˇ ㄊㄧㄢ (ㄉㄜ˙) ㄒㄧㄥ ㄉㄡˇ||(mǎn tiān [de.] xīng dǒu)||star filled sky|
|多亮麗||ㄉㄨㄛˊ ㄌㄧㄤˋ ㄌㄧˋ||(dúo liàng lì)||how bright and beautiful|
|體會||ㄊㄧˇ ㄏㄨㄟˋ||(tǐ huì)||to learn from experience|
|忽然 or 突然||ㄏㄨ ㄖㄢˊ or ㄊㄨㄖㄢˊ||(hū rán) or (tū rán)||suddenly, sudden|
|莫非||ㄇㄛˋ ㄈㄟ||(mò fēi)||could it be, can it be possible|
|難道||ㄋㄢˊ ㄉㄠˋ||(nán dào)||don't tell me..., could it be that...|
|弄錯(了)||ㄋㄨㄥˋ ㄘㄨㄛˋ (ㄌㄜ˙)||(nòng cuò [le.])||to err, to miscalculate|
|搞錯(了)||ㄍㄠˇ ㄘㄨㄛˋ (ㄌㄜ˙)||(gǎo cuò [le.])||to make a mistake|
Now, what can you learn from a snail?
(ㄕㄤˋ ㄉㄧˋ)(ㄍㄟˇ)(ㄨㄛˇ)(ㄧ ㄍㄜ˙)(ㄖㄣˋ ㄨˋ),
(shàng dì)(gěi)(wǒ)(yī ge.)(rèn wù),
(God)(to give)(me)(one + general MW)(mission, assignment)
…..(ㄐㄧㄠˋ)(ㄨㄛˇ)(ㄑㄧㄢ)(ㄧˋ)(ㄓ)(ㄍㄨㄚ ㄋㄧㄡˊ)(ㄑㄩˋ)(ㄙㄢˋ ㄅㄨˋ)
…..(jiào)(wǒ)(qiān)(yì)(zhī)(guā niú)(qù)(sàn bù)
…..(to call, to ask, to order)(me)(to lead)(one)(MW for snail)(snail)(to go)(to walk)
God gave me a mission – he told me to take a snail for a walk.
(I)(not)(able)(to walk)(particle used after verb to link to adverb)(too, very)(fast),
…..(ㄍㄨㄚ ㄋㄧㄡˊ)(ㄧˇ ㄐㄧㄥ)(ㄐㄧㄣˋ ㄌㄧˋ)(ㄆㄚˊ),
…..(guā niú)(yǐ jīng)(jìn lì)(pá),
…..(snail)(already)(to spare no effort)(to crawl, to climb)
……….(ㄇㄟˇ)(ㄘˋ)(ㄗㄨㄥˇ ㄕˋ)(ㄋㄨㄛˊ)(ㄋㄚˋ ㄇㄜ˙)(ㄧˋ ㄉㄧㄢˇ ㄉㄧㄢˇ)
……….(měi)(cì)(zǒng shì)(nuó)(nà me.)(yì diǎn diǎn)
……….(every)(time)(always)(to move, to shift)(like that, about)(a little bit)
I could not walk very fast, the snail was already crawling as fast as he could, every time he moved just a little bit.
(I)(to urge)(it), (I)(to roar at, to scare)(it),
…..(ㄨㄛˇ)(ㄗㄜˊ ㄅㄟˋ)(ㄊㄚ), (ㄍㄨㄚ ㄋㄧㄡˊ)(ㄩㄥˋ)(ㄅㄠˋ ㄑㄧㄢˋ)(ㄉㄜ˙)
…..(wǒ)(zé bèi)(tā), (guā niú)(yòng)(bào qiàn)(de.)
…..(I)(to blame, to reproach)(tā), (snail)(to use, to have to)(to be sorry)(adjective marker)
……….(ㄧㄢˇ ㄍㄨㄤ)(ㄎㄢˋ)(ㄓㄜ˙)(ㄨㄛˇ), (ㄈㄤˇ ㄈㄨˊ)(ㄕㄨㄛ):
……….(yǎn guāng)(kàn)(zhe.)(wǒ), (fǎng fú)(shuō)
……….(gaze)(to look)(particle indicating action in progress)(me), (seems)(to say):
I urged it, I yelled at it, I reprimanded it, (and) the snail, while looking at me apologetically, seemed to say:
(ㄖㄣˊ ㄐㄧㄚ)(ㄧˇ ㄐㄧㄥ)(ㄐㄧㄣˋ ㄌㄜ˙ ㄑㄩㄢˊ ㄌㄧˋ)
(rén jiā)(yǐ jīng)(jìn le. quán lì)
(I or me as referring to “oneself”)(already)(exhausted, to use up all one’s strength)
“I, for one, am already exhausted!”
(I)(to pull, to drag)(it), (I)(to pull, to tear)(it)
I pulled it, I tore at it,
(I)(even)(to think)(to kick)(it)
I even thought about kicking it,
(snail)[(to receive)(intensifies)(wound, injury)]
The snail was injured.
(ㄊㄚ)[(ㄌㄧㄡˊ)(ㄓㄜ˙)(ㄏㄢˋ)], [(ㄔㄨㄢˇ)(ㄓㄜ˙)(ㄑㄧˋ)], (ㄨㄤˇ ㄑㄧㄢˊ)(ㄆㄚˊ)
(tā)([(liú)(zhe.)(hàn)], [(chuǎn)(zhe.)(qì)], (wǎng qián)(pá)
(it)[(to flow)(indicates in progress)(perspiration)], [(to gasp)(indicates in progress)(air)], (to move forward)(to climb, to crawl)
Sweating and gasping for air, it kept crawling.
(ㄓㄣˋ)(ㄑㄧˊ ㄍㄨㄞˋ), (ㄨㄟˋ ㄕㄣˊ ㄇㄜ˙)(ㄕㄤˋ ㄉㄧˋ)(ㄐㄧㄠˋ)(ㄨㄛˇ)
(zhèn)(qí guài), (wèi shén me.)(shàng dì)(jiào)(wǒ)
(really)(strange), (why)(God)(to ask, to order)(me)
…..(ㄑㄧㄢ)(ㄧˋ)(ㄓ)(ㄍㄨㄚㄋㄧㄡˊ )(ㄑㄩˋ)(ㄙㄢˋ ㄅㄨˋ)
…..(qiān)(yì)(zhī)(guā niú)(qù)(sàn bù)
…..(to lead)(one)(MW for animal)(snail)(to go)(to take a walk)
It is very strange – why did God tell me to take the snail for a walk?
「(ㄕㄤˋ ㄉㄧˋ)(ㄚ) ! (ㄨㄟˋ ㄕㄣˊ ㄇㄜ˙)?」(ㄊㄧㄢ ㄕㄤˋ)(ㄧ)(ㄆㄧㄢˋ)(ㄢ ㄐㄧㄥˋ)
「(shàng dì)(ā)! (wèi shén me.)?」 (tiān shàng)(yī)(piàn)(ān jìng)
「(God)(conversational sound)! (why)?」 (heavenly)(one)(piece)(peaceful, quiet)
“God! Why?” The heavens were quiet.
(ㄞ˙)! (ㄧㄝˇ ㄒㄩˇ)(ㄕㄤˋ ㄉㄧˋ)(ㄑㄩˋ)(ㄓㄨㄚ)(ㄍㄨㄚ ㄋㄧㄡˊ)(ㄌㄜ˙)
(ai.)! (yě xǔ)(shàng dì)(qù)(zhuā)(guā niú)(le.)
(sound of exasperation)! (perhaps)(God)(to go)(to catch)(snail)(emphasis)
Aye ya! Perhaps God has gone to catch snails!
(ㄏㄠˇ)(ㄅㄚ˙)! (ㄙㄨㄥ ㄕㄡˇ)(ㄅㄚ)!
(hǎo)(ba.)! (sōng shǒu)(ba.)
(good)(particle indicating surmise)! (to let go)(particle indicating surmise)
Fine! I will let go!❷
(ㄈㄢˇ ㄓㄥˋ)(ㄕㄤˋ ㄉㄧˋ)(ㄅㄨˋ)(ㄍㄨㄢˇ)(ㄌㄜ˙),
(fǎn zhèng)(shàng dì)(bù)(guǎn)(le.)
(in any case)(God)(not)(to care about)(emphasize)
…..(I)(still)(to care about)(anything/something)
In any case, (if) God doesn’t care, why should I still care?
(ㄖㄣˋ)(ㄍㄨㄚ ㄋㄧㄡˊ)(ㄨㄤˇ ㄑㄧㄢˊ)(ㄆㄚˊ),
(rèn)(guā niú)(wǎng qián)(pá)
(to let)(snail)(to move forward)(to crawl, to climb)
…..(ㄨㄛˇ)(ㄗㄞˋ)(ㄏㄡˋ ㄇㄧㄢˋ)(ㄕㄥ ㄇㄣˋ ㄑㄧˋ)
…..(wǒ)(zài)(hòu miàn)(shēng mèn qì)
I let the snail proceed to crawl forward while I walked behind it seething.
(ㄧˊ)? (ㄨㄛˇ)(ㄨㄣˊ ㄉㄠˋ)(ㄏㄨㄚ ㄒㄧㄤ ),
(yí), (wǒ)(wén dào)(huā xiāng),
(expression of surprise), (I)(smelled)(flower fragrance)
…..(ㄩㄢˊ ㄌㄞˊ)(ㄓㄜˋ ㄅㄧㄢ)(ㄧㄡˇ)(ㄍㄜ˙)(ㄏㄨㄚ ㄩㄢˊ)
…..(yuán lái)(zhè biān)(yǒu)(ge.)(huā yuán)
…..(realize)(here, this side)(to have)(a)(flower garden)
Huh? I smelled the fragrance of flowers, and I realized right here was a flower garden.
(ㄨㄛˇ)(ㄍㄢˇ ㄉㄠˋ)(ㄨㄟ ㄈㄥ)(ㄔㄨㄟ ㄌㄞˊ)
(wǒ)(gǎn dào)(wēi fēng)(chūi lái)
(I)(felt)(breeze)(blowing on me)
…..(ㄩㄢˊ ㄌㄞˊ)(ㄧㄝˋ ㄌㄧˇ)(ㄉㄜ˙)(ㄈㄥ)(ㄓㄜˋ ㄇㄜ˙)(ㄨㄣ ㄖㄡˊ)
…..(yuán lái)(yè lǐ)(de.)(fēng)(zhè me.)(wēn róu)
…..(realize)(during the night)(adjective marker)(wind)(this)(gentle)
I felt the breeze blowing and realized how gentle the night wind is.
(ㄇㄢˋ ㄓ˙)! (ㄨㄛˇ)(ㄊㄧㄥ ㄉㄠˋ)(ㄋㄧㄠˇ ㄐㄧㄠˋ)
(màn zhe.)! (wǒ)(tīng dào)(niǎo jiào)
(slow down)! (I)(heard)(bird song)
Slow down! I heard birds singing,
(ㄨㄛˇ)(ㄊㄧㄥ ㄉㄠˋ)(ㄔㄨㄥˊ ㄇㄧㄥˊ),
(wǒ)(tīng dào)(chóng míng)
…..(ㄨㄛˇ)(ㄎㄢˋ ㄉㄠˋ)[(ㄇㄢˇ ㄊㄧㄢ)(ㄉㄜ˙)(ㄒㄧㄥ ㄉㄡˇ)]
…..(wǒ)(kàn dào)[(mǎn tiān)(de.)(xīng dǒu)]
…..(I)(saw)[(to fill the whole sky)(adjective marker)(stars)]
……….(“how” in an exclamatory sense)(bright and beautiful)
I heard the crickets chirping, I saw the star filled sky, how bright and beautiful!
(ㄧˊ)? (ㄧˇ ㄑㄧㄢˊ)(ㄗㄣˇ ㄇㄜ˙)(ㄇㄟˊ ㄧㄡˇ)(ㄓㄜˋ ㄒㄧㄝ)(ㄊㄧˇ ㄏㄨㄟˋ)
(yí)? (yǐ qián)(zěn me.)(méi yǒu)(zhè xiē)(tǐ huì)
(exclamation of surprise)? (before)(how, what, why)(not to have)(those)(experience, to learn from experience)
Huh? Why have I not before had those experiences?
(ㄨㄛˇ)(ㄏㄨ ㄖㄢˊ)(ㄒㄧㄤˇ ㄑㄧˇ ㄌㄞˊ)
(wǒ)(hū rán)(xiǎng qǐ lái)
…..(ㄇㄛˋ ㄈㄟ)(ㄕˋ)(ㄨㄛˇ)(ㄋㄨㄥˋ ㄘㄨㄛˋ ㄌㄜ˙)
…..(mò fēi)(shì)(wǒ)(nòng cuò le.)
…..(don’t tell me, could it be)(I)(to be, am)(to err, to miscalculate)
I suddenly recall, don’t tell me I was in error!
(ㄩㄢˊ ㄌㄞˊ)(ㄕㄤˋ ㄉㄧˋ)(ㄐㄧㄠˋ)(ㄍㄨㄚ ㄋㄧㄡˊ)(ㄑㄧㄢ)(ㄨㄛˇ)(ㄑㄩˋ)(ㄙㄢˋ ㄅㄨˋ)
(yuán lái)(shàng dì)(jiào)(guā niú)(qiān)(wǒ)(qù)(sàn bù)
(realize)(God)(to tell)(snail)(to lead)(me)(to go)(to walk)
I realized God told the snail to lead me out for a walk.
❶ This sarcastic sentence could be made a little clearer by adding the word for “other” as noted below:
「(唉)！(也許)(上帝)(去)(抓) (其他) (蝸牛)(了)！」
(ㄑㄧˊ ㄊㄚ) (qí tā) other
❷ This could have a double meaning. The first, obviously, to let go of the snail. However, metaphorically it could also mean to give up on the endeavor.
❸ This is frequently expressed as a 4 words idiom 滿天星斗, without the 的, and means the same thing.
❹ When 多 is used with the second tone in this context it is an exclamatory such as how or what are sometimes used in English. How amazing! What a find!
❺ 莫非 is the original language of the story, but it is a more ancient wording. Such phrases are more common in literature than everyday speech. What you will be most likely to hear in conversation with the same meaning of “could it be, don’t tell me” is 難道 ㄋㄢˊ ㄉㄠˋ (nán dào).
❻ Another way this might be commonly phrased is 搞錯了 ㄍㄠˇ ㄘㄨㄛˋ ㄌㄜ˙ (gǎo cuò le.) Both 弄 and 搞 can be translated “to do,” so adding 錯 to either of them means “to do wrong.”