What Chinese idioms or sayings (哪条成语或者俗语) can be used to express the following?

Everything can be appreciated, when its own context is taken in consideration.

  • 3
    塞翁失马,焉知非福? 瑕不掩瑜? More context might be needed.
    – user4072
    Jul 20 '15 at 9:36
  • I see 塞翁矢马焉 知非福 being stringed all together in many places as a single saying. What do the characters in 焉 知非福 mean here? Do they mean "but knowledge was leading to a false fortune?". Jul 21 '15 at 6:06
  • I also like 瑕不掩瑜。It means one flaw or several flaws cannot conceal the fine jade features. This expression seems to answer my question. What about if the flaws are really several or really serios. Can I stil use this expression to express that even in so much bad some good can be found? Jul 21 '15 at 6:11
  • 1
    塞翁失马 means an old man lost some horses, 焉知非福 means How could you know it's not a good thing?. This phrase comes from a fable, the ending is that the lost horses go back to the old man, along with more other horses.
    – user4072
    Jul 22 '15 at 3:24
  • 1
    Can I stil use this expression to express that even in so much bad some good can be found? I think not. Basically, 瑕不掩瑜 used for the situatioin that even there're some flaws, the fine features can't be covered. Be specific, the good part must exceed 50% at least.
    – user4072
    Jul 22 '15 at 3:29


by Zedong Mao (毛泽东)

  • 5
    I don't think it's 成语 or 俗语...
    – user4072
    Jul 22 '15 at 6:17

I would like to offer songyuanyao's suggestion(s) in a comment as an actual answer:


The reason being that:

  1. To a native English speaker, the OP's description perfectly matches the English expression "Every dark cloud has a silver lining".
  2. At least some online dictionaries offer this Chinese phrase and this English phrase as equivalents of each other.

The Chinese is explained well by Moyu Ge on Quora:

Near China's northern borders lived a man well versed in the practices of Taoism. His horse, for no reason at all, got into the territory of the northern tribes. Everyone commiserated with him.

"Perhaps this will soon turn out to be a blessing," said his father.

After a few months, his animal came back, leading a fine horse from the north. Everyone congratulated him.

"Perhaps this will soon turn out to be a cause of misfortune," said his father.

Since he was well-off and kept good horses his son became fond of riding and eventually broke his thigh bone falling from a horse. Everyone commiserated with him.

"Perhaps this will soon turn out to be a blessing," said his father.

One year later, the northern tribes started a big invasion of the border regions. All able-bodied young men took up arms and fought against the invaders, and as a result, around the border nine out of ten men died. This man's son did not join in the fighting because he was crippled and so both the boy and his father survived.


  • 1
    What is the exact meaning of 焉 in 塞翁失马,焉知非福. This has been already partially answered in a perfect-English translation. But what about a word-by-word translation. Does it mean "the old man lost his horses, but (he) knew (thought that was) bad luck", hence 焉: bur? Jul 22 '15 at 13:33
  • 1
    Good point. I'll have a look around but if anybody else knows, feel free to edit it into the answer or leave a comment here. If it's a real chengyu they can be pretty condensed quotes from literature I believe. Jul 22 '15 at 13:40
  • @JackMaddington: I found and added a good explanation from Quora. Hope this helps. Jul 22 '15 at 13:53
  • 1
    @JackMaddington 焉,安也。It means "how". 焉知非福 = how (could one) be certain (it's) not fortune.
    – NS.X.
    Jul 22 '15 at 18:10
  • 天无绝人之路 - God will always leave a way out for you.
  • 车到山前必有路 - You will always find a path no matter how high the mountain looks.
  • 天塌下来有高个子顶着 - It's up to the tall guys to worry if the sky falls.

These phrases are all idioms. And they well expressed the meaning of your English sentence. Literally, they reveal THE positive side in a hopeless or emergency situation, respectively.

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