WHAT DOES IT MEAN?
Tre già măng mọc
Đục nước béo cò
Trúc dẫu cháy đốt ngay vẫn thẳng
Gà một mẹ đá nhau
:: Tre Già Măng Mọc
In Vietnamese, tre designates any of several species of bamboo
that may grow as tall as 30 meters: its hollow, jointed stems, up to a foot
in diameter, are used in making fumiture and all types of implements
(baskets, coops for chickens and pigs, cooking utensils) and even in
building boats or houses.
Bamboo grows from new shoots that sprout from the roots of mature plants: the shoots
develop so quickly that,
in some cases, a plant is apt to grow 36 inches in 24 hours. Most bamboo plants reach full height within a few months. The tender shoots, called
măng, are eaten as vegetables. (The Vietnamese call asparagus măng
tây or western shoots'.)
Tre già măng mọc: "As bamboos grow old, young shoots spring
up."; Contrary to the generation gap cliché in modern English, the Vietnamese proverb stresses continuity between one generation and
the next: it implies the hope that the young will carry on to completion
what is left unfinished by the old. When a young person dies, the Vietnamese will express grief saying, Tre khóc măng: "The old bamboo
mourns the young shoot."
In neutral terms, the proverb may also be quoted to report a changing of the
guard: as a person or group exits a new one moves in and takes over.
:: Đục Nước Béo Cò
English proverbial phrase, to fish in troubled waters, finds its
equivalent in this Vietnamese folk saying: Muddy waters, fat herons.
As wading birds, herons (cò) prey on small fishes that teem in the muddy
or turbid (đục) waters (nước) of ponds and rice fields.
A confused state of affairs always gives opportunists a chance to make fat profits at the
expense of the community.
:: Trúc dẫu cháy đốt ngay vẫn thẳng
In Vietnamese, the name trúc refers to a
pecies of small, relatively short species of
bamboo (as contrasted with the much larger
and taller tre).
A bamboo stem has knots or nodes, and
each section between two knots is called a đốt or joint.
Trúc dẫu cháy đốt ngay vẫn thẳng (Even when
the bamboo is burned, its straight joints stay straight and
true): this proverb portrays an honest person whom neither misfortune nor persecution can divert from what is
right. Throughout East Asia, the bamboo symbolizes unswerving devotion to principle.
:: Gà một mẹ đá nhau
Cocks from the same mother fíght each
other. This proverb serves as a reminder
that fratricidal strife has all too often
marked and marred the history of the
Vietnamese. The most tragic case was the
protracted war between the Trịnh and the Nguyễn. The poet-statesman Nguyễn Trãi (1380-1442) once urged all his compatriots
to work together and avoid quarrels either
provoked or exacerbated by outsiders:
"A womb's own flesh and bone - strong
brotherhood./ From one root spring all
branches, north and south./ Chopped off, an
arm or leg will not grow back./ Torn up, a shirt or skirt can be replaced./ Learn to give
way and yield - all will go well./ Know both when to be hard, when to be soft."