Thanks Clay for this very interesting post on What China Can Teach Writing Teachers . We learn those metaphors when young, in fact in Grade 6 (around 12 years old).
May I clarify a bit on the “watching the fire from across the river”? “Skimming the water like a dragonfly”? “Dotting the dragon’s eyes”?
1. Watching the fire from across the river means to be detached from the problem, and be an observer. There are subtle meaning here, but when used in real life setting, it means that you need to ensure your safety, and so don’t get yourself into trouble, in case of conflict.
2. Skimming the water like a dragonfly refers to light touch on a subject, and has a philosophical tone – especially when giving a speech, where one wants to briefly mention about a topic, but not in-depth. Another use would be its application in dancing, where one is dancing with such lightness who seems to float.
3. Dotting the dragon’s eyes – This relates to an old Chinese story. It was about an artist who drew a dragon, but then when the eyes were dotted, the dragon actually flied away. In the dragon dance, the dragon won’t have her life unless the eyes are dotted, which is also part of the ceremony at the start of dragon dance. I think people might have then interpreted such dotted of the eyes as the symbolic meaning of drawing out of salient points in an artifact.
There have been lots of “interpretations” of those metaphors, analogies in Chinese stories, and sometimes, due to the translation from ancient Chinese colloquialisms to English, the meaning might have been shifted, exaggerated, or used with a new context.
There are many versions of these translations, and I don’t think there are universal versions which could provide unique explanation. The Lin Yutang Wikipedia entry is reliable.
As I learnt these at a young age, so it was based on my memory and interpretation.
Here is my further response
Thanks Clay for your response. I was educated in Hong Kong and learned these in La Salle Primary School. I could elaborate these in my blog at a later stage, if you wish to know more about Chinese philosophy and how it is applied in our life.
I liked writings very much and you could find some of my writings here http://suifaijohnmak.wordpress.com and Ning Community Network http://connectivismeducationlearning.ning.com plus my postings on Facebook.
I like to write about different topics in my blog, and some of my posts relate to Chinese philosophy in education and learning. If you are interested in Chinese philosophies, then may I suggest you check these topics out? I Ching, Tao Te Ching, and the Sun Tze 36 military strategies. There are plenty of artifacts on these on wikipedia, Google, Google scholar links, etc. I could also refer you to the official website from Chinese education authorities if that is of interests to you. Let me know if you would like to have them.
You could forward me with an email or via your blog post or mine for further connections. You could check out my other details on Facebook and Twitter too
There are huge potentials in the use of Chinese metaphors – Yin/Yang that is part of Tao Te Ching in understanding nature (see the metaphors on my blogs – with tags of metaphors), in writings, or in education and learning.
Please note that I am a Catholic and so my belief stems strongly with a Christian belief. However, you may find many Chinese teachings and philosophies align with the teachings of Christ – in passion, in love, in personal integrity (trustworthiness, honesty), and altruism etc.
Finally, I have read a few of your posts before and found them very interesting and inspiring.