- Verbal Folkore, Proverb
- Language: Chinese
- Country of Origin: China
- Informant: Lily Yoon
- Date Collected: 10-17-18
Lily Yoon is an international student from Korea, studying at Dartmouth College for the year. She is considering studying Economics. She was born and raised in Seoul, Korea. Her father is Korean, but Lily has one Chinese grandmother on her mother’s side. She is close with her grandmother, and visits her often. She still speaks to her on the phone while she is here at Dartmouth, when she is able.
Lily heard this riddle from her grandmother when she was very young. She does not remember the exact context it came from, just that her grandmother had picked her up from school and they were having a conversation on the way home. She says she remembers this proverb because of the descriptive nature of it and the comparison to gold that stuck in her mind.
Orally transmitted proverb:
Sān rén yītiáoxīn, huángtǔ biàn chéng jīn
If people are of one heart, even loss can become gold
Associated file (a video, audio, or image file):
Q: Ok hello! Can you tell me the proverb you wanted to tell me?
A: Alright, so: 三人一条心，黄土变成金 (Sān rén yītiáoxīn, huángtǔ biàn chéng jīn) (If people are of one heart, even loss can become gold)
Q: Can you tell me a little bit about your background and how it relates to proverb?
A: So I’m an international student form Korea and my mother’s side grandma is Chinese. Even though I don’t get to see her very often, since now here I am in the U.S., I still speak to her on the phone very often because she has been a great inspiration in my life. It’s actually her who told me this proverb.
Q: So can you tell me how you heard this proverb?
A: I don’t exactly remember because I was really young. But my grandma used to pick me up from school because my parents were really busy working. So on the way back home, we were having this conversation about how I wasn’t really doing that well in class. The comparison to gold really stuck in my mind as young. That really cheered me up that day.
Q: So when would you usually hear this proverb?
A: You’d usually hear it when people are having a hard time and you want to encourage them, especially in a group of a sort. The sort of fellowship that you have, and how you are accountable for each other – even though you may not succeed in the end, the procedure you went through with all your precious people is…very precious.
Lily enjoys this proverb because of its poetic nature. The way in which loss is compared to gold is interesting because it is essentially giving value to failure. Lily sees this as reframing failure as a learning opportunity, particularly when one is with friends. Ultimately, going through hardship, struggle or failure with friends can truly reveal their inner moral character. Furthermore, there is a renewed sense of determination when one is doing a task with friends, as they are responsible for each other and support each other. There is an inspiring, unifying element that Lily also likes about this one, that any goal can be accomplished if one has their friends to aid them. For her, it is a reminder that friends are supposed to better you and your life, and help to ease any problems that you may have, rather than add to them. You would normally hear this proverb when there is a large task to complete and you need your friends for help, or support.
Lily values the message of cooperation and supporting your friends. I can connect to the message as well as it echoes the sentiments of many American proverbs about many hands making light work, and it is interesting to examine the connecting themes and messages across cultures.
Like other proverbs collected, this one has the cause and effect, if-then structure. It also contains a metaphor of the process of working into gold, which is an important and valuable element in Chinese culture that signifies wealth and luck – which is what friends can give you if you reach out to them for help.
Collector’s Name: Rachel Zhao