Not sure that’s actually Chinese

It’s better,” the Chinese proverb goes, “to light a candle than curse the darkness.”

It’s in the King James, isn’t it?

20 thoughts on “Not sure that’s actually Chinese”

  1. Romans 13:11 And that, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep: for now is our salvation nearer than when we believed.
    13:12 The night is far spent, the day is at hand: let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armour of light.

    Apparently, the precise phrase comes from William Lonsdale Watkinson’s “The Supreme Conquest, and other sermons preached in America” in 1907.

  2. In a hotel on my todd, opened up a Gideons new testament KJV version (if that’s not typical- this was Virginia). Opened at random and started to read. Came across the phrase and “he gave up the ghost” thought ah that’s where that comes from. You ghost/ your spirit / your soul ok , never quite had pieced that together before, but obviously in the context of the story it was clear. Ananias and Sapphira had agreed to sell their property and give half into the apostles common pot. Turned out they lied about the sale amount and were (separately) confronted by peter upon which instantly “gave up the ghost” – died. It left me thinking “Did Peter and the other apostles just murder 2 people for money?”- ever since its been a good question to put to people on the doorstep who want to talk about the Bible.

  3. Bloke in North Dorset

    Being in the Bible doesn’t stop it being originally a Chinese proverb nor is there any reason why variants of it couldn’t have been developed independently.

  4. I don’t think it’s Biblical or Chinee – it’s that traditional source of Guardian wisdom: the first search result on Google

  5. A Scottish phrase I use a lot:

    “There’s no such thing as bad weather, just inappropriate clothing.”

    A few years ago I looked it up. The internet credited it to about 90 countries. My Scottish phrase is universal. Did it originate with the Scots? Did it develop independently? No way to know. It is enough of a universal truth that it could have developed independently.

    ‘Light a candle’ is universal, too, but it’s hard to imagine people all over the world having to be told.

  6. @Gamecock, no true Scotsman would say “inappropriate”. He might say “unsuitable”. Or, in case the pun there were to be missed, “There’s no such thing as bad weather, just a lack of tweed.”

  7. The bit chinoiserie I’ve regularly used is “Did you know the chinese idiogram for ‘trouble’ is two women under one roof?” I’ve no idea if it’s true, but it’s been known to shut them up for a while..

  8. “There’s no such thing as bad weather, just inappropriate clothing.”

    A favourite saying of Alfred Wainwright (pbuh) – best pronounced in a broad Blackburn accent. I’m sure he laid no claim to its originality.

  9. Confucius he say, “Man with holes in pockets feel cocky all day.”
    Confucius he not say, “What time you go dentist?” “Tooth hurty.”

  10. Talking of which, how many Microsoft engineers does it take to change a light-bulb?

    None at all; they just treat darkness as the new industry standard…

  11. @Hallowed Be

    The issue with Ananias and Sapphira was the untruth, not the lack of generosity. They were free to keep as much of the money as they wished. The problem was that they wanted the cudous from having sold up and given the cash away, without actual being nearly as generous as they claimed to be.
    The point of the episode is “don’t try to lie to God”, not “you must sell all your stuff and give it to the church”.

    I’d expect any door knocking Christian to be able to explain that no problem (although some of the more weird sects may find that harder – they often don’t encourage their followers to actually study much of the Bible)

  12. “Light a candle” is a truism that provides an insight into human nature, i.e. that there are people who would prefer to whinge about misfortune rather than do something about it. (With a side order of “It’s somebody else’s fault but not mine.”) For example, complain about CO2 rather than work to improve our nuclear power technology. That these people need a sharp talking to is the point of the story.

    Anyway, as the running Star Trek gag has it, “It scans better in the original Klingon.”

  13. Bloke in Costa Rica

    Well blow me down, and for all these years I thought it was, “it is better to light a fart than to curse the darkness.” The things you learn on this blog.

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