I understand translations below on "寧吃開眉粥,不吃愁眉飯". I know 粥 means congee and 飯 rice or meal. I tried look up 愁眉 - Wiktionary but meaning doesn't sense.

  1. knitted brows

宁食开眉粥 不食愁眉饭什么意思_百度知道

liumengdie17 2011-11-12


「寧吃開眉粥,不吃愁買飯」的大意 | Yahoo Answers

旺來Lv 5
1 decade ago


What is "宁喝开眉粥 莫吃秋眉饭” Is it idiom and what is its meaning? | HiNative

“宁喝开眉粥,不吃愁眉饭”是一句谚语,意为宁可开心愉快地喝稀饭,也不要伤心愤怒地吃大餐。这句谚语告诉人们,快乐是人生的必需品,人要学会经营快乐。the most important thing is happy

  • Hint: 粥 (congee) is watered-down rice, a metaphor of poverty. The phrase pairs happiness (or rather 開眉, non-frowns) with poverty and a frown face (knitted brows) with a materially fuller life (飯, non-watered-down rice).
    – dROOOze
    Jul 22 '20 at 15:22

開眉 implies 眉開眼笑 (happy expression)

enter image description here

愁眉 implies 愁眉苦臉 (sad expression)

enter image description here

One cup of raw rice can only make two bowls of cooked rice (飯)

One cup of raw rice can make up to eight bowls of congee (粥)

粥 is watered-down 飯

Poor families often only have enough raw rice to make congee for every member to have a full bowl of staple food

"寧吃開眉粥,不吃愁眉飯" literally means "rather eat congee with a smiling face than eat cooked rice with a frowning face". It is a metaphor for "Better live a poor but happy life than a rich but unhappy one"

(diminish the importance of material wealth)

You can use this expression to describe a situation like someone rather take a low paying job than earning money with immoral acts

Side note:

Cantonese expression: 有粥食粥,有飯食飯 = through thick and thin

  • 1
    Sounds like the opposite of the infamous quote "宁坐宝马车里哭,不坐自行车上笑" 😆 Jul 22 '20 at 17:11
  • I'd rather 宁坐自行车上笑 ,不坐宝马车里哭.
    – Tang Ho
    Jul 22 '20 at 17:18
  • There are bicycle costs as much as a car
    – Tang Ho
    Jul 22 '20 at 17:23
  • @Tang Ho. So your graphic design talent is put to good use here. :-) BTW, in my view there is a subtle difference between 有粥食粥,有飯食飯 and 寧吃開眉粥,不吃愁眉飯. The former means one has no choice but be poor and had to make the best of eating 粥 only; whereas the latter implies that given a choice of being poor but happy or rich but sad, the former is chosen. Jul 23 '20 at 4:23
  • 有粥食粥,有飯食飯 and 寧吃開眉粥,不吃愁眉飯 are two different expressions
    – Tang Ho
    Jul 23 '20 at 4:37

To put it simply, The rice is more resistant to hunger than congee. In Cantonese, "eating rice or congee" is often used to describe the outcome of a thing. "开眉" means "happy" and "愁眉" means "unhappy". So this sentence can be interpreted as: Do you want to be happy to do what you want to do, or unhappy to do what you don't want to do?

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.