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Cultural Characteristics of Proverbs

Proverbs are culture-loaded. They are regarded as one of the most ancient and valuable manifestations of human culture. They use succinct and pithy language to express commonly held ideas and beliefs and provide the readers with interesting glimpses at a people’s geography, religion, history, social views and attitudes. Proverbs play an important role in delivering cultures of certain nation. When translating, it is essential to take the cultural factors into consideration and figure out the implied meanings by getting to know the cultures lying behind them. In Chinese society, traditional Feudalism plays an important role in people’s mind. One can claim that everyone enjoys equal opportunity, respect and treatment. For example, sex discrimination is deep-rooted in China as well as in foreign countries. Since Chinese traditional values favor in masculinity, considering the status of women secondary and women do not enjoy a high social position as men do, there are indeed a number of proverbs demeaning women, and words related to women are frequently found in proverbs. Such as “女人头发长见识短(Women have long hair and short wit)”; “女子无才便是德(A virtuous woman has no talent)”. Clearly, the feudalistic thinking deprived Chinese women of their right of being educated in the past. Now, it is quite ridiculous to say a woman of no talent has all virtues. Another example is that Chinese place great emphasis on stability, while western countries favor change. The concept of “stable development” takes deep root in Chinese people’s mind. Chinese don’t feel comfortable for the change and this also reflected in proverbs such as “万变不离其宗”, “树倒猢狲散”. However, western country’s people like change, they think all the changes can bring more and more opportunity, money and good luck for them. Therefore, lots of English proverbs speak highly of the change. Such as “Change brings life(变化带来希望)”, “New things are fair(新事物是美好的)”. All in all, proverbs are crystal of language and culture, loaded with accumulated wisdom and strong national characteristics and distinct cultural implications. Therefore, it serves as a good means of introducing a nation’s culture when used for communication. Translators should weigh the culture gap or culture conflict and do their best to avoid cultural misunderstanding during translating. And as for the concrete cultural strategies for translation, it will be discussed in the following parts in more details.

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