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A thin horse...

Posted by Smokey Stover on January 09, 2008

In Reply to: A thin horse... posted by Helena on January 09, 2008

: What does "A thin horse has long hair" mean?

For once an old Chinese proverb that really is an old Chinese proverb. It is found, for instance, in a couple of collections of Chinese sayings cited by Google, One is:

Hakka Chinese Forum at Asiawind
Chinese Sayings

A man in poverty is less ambitious,
And a thin horse has long hair.


Another is Von Hesser's "Sprichwörter, Phrasen und Redensarten", Tsingtao, 1919, which is translated by Claude Serruys in "Folklore Contributions in Sino-Mongolica," Peiping (Beijing), 1947. The saying is rendered on p. 50 as "A poor man has little knowledge, and a thin horse has long hair."


The phrase also appears in a children's book, "The Book of Dragons," selected ... by Michael Hague, 1995, which includes "The Story of Wang Li," by Elizabeth Chatsworth. On p. 87, we find: '"A thin horse has long hair," remarked Wang Li philosophically when she had done, and went out in his garden to find her a peach after so much effort.' The effort was a scolding delivered by the woman of the previous paragraph to two people other than Wang Li. The immediate context does not reveal to me what Wang Li means by the proverb.

Answers by Yahoo has a site dealing in general education and reference, and tries to answer questions from readers, including this one, by other readers.

"A thin horse has long hair,what does this proverb mean?
Best Answer - Chosen by Voters
a horse has two protections from cold, long hair and fat. I guess that the proverb means something to the effect of "there is always a way" or maybe we always have the means to cope with adversity?

You will have noticed that two of the appearances of this phrase are coupled with a phrase about poor men, although not precisely the same phrase, possibly because of different notions about the correct translation. The "Answer by Yahoo" sounds plausible, but does not appear to have any obvious relation to the "poor man" phrase. And plausibility is not, of course, a guarantee of correctness. I'm sorry I could not do better with this phrase.