Monday, November 23, 2009

Chinese Idiom "老馬識途" (Laomashitu, An Old Horse Knows the Way)

November 23, 2009

This Chinese idiom is requested by Bananaz.

Traditional Chinese: 老馬識途,
Lǎomǎshìtú or 識途老馬 Shìtúlǎomǎ.
Simplified Chinese: 老马识途, Lǎomǎshítú or 识途老马, Shítúlǎomǎ.

Translation: An old horse knows the way. Today, a person who is very experienced at any given thing may be referred as "the old horse who knows the way".

I've found some videos about the idiom story. I'm using this one from YouTube as it has Chinese subtitle and for practicing purpose. You may find the story is a bit different from what you may already knew. Both versions are used today.

Script in pinyin, simplified characters and translations:

老马识途 ( An Old Horse Knows the Way )

Chūnqiū shí, Qí Huán Gōng hé xiàngguó Guǎn Zhòng fá Shānróng
春秋 时, 齐 桓公 和 相国 管仲 伐 山戎 国,
In the Spring and Autumn Period (770-476 BC), Duke Huan and the minister Guan Zhong of the state of Qi attacked the state of Shanrong.

Shānróng guówáng dài zhe jiājuàn cáiwù táowáng dào Gūzhú guó qù.山戎 国王 带 著 家眷 财物 逃亡 到 孤竹 国 去。
The king of Shanrong took his family and belongings to flee to the state of Guzhu.

Qí jūn yīlù zhuīshā ér lái,齐 军 一路 追杀 而来,
The Qi army chased and killed all the way and arrived,

Gūzhú guówáng shèjì jiào Huáng Huā yuánshuài xiàng Qí Huán Gōng tóuxiáng:孤竹 国王 设计 叫 黄花 元帅 向 齐 桓公 投降:
The king of Guzhu set a plan up and ordered his marshal Huang Hua to surrender to Duke Huan of Qi:

"Qí jūn yǐjīng zhuī guòlái le, nǐmen jiǎzhuāng tóuxiáng, ránhòu..."
"齐 军 已经 追 过来 了, 你们 假装 投降, 然后..."
"The Qi army has arrived, you pretend to surrender and then..."

"Dàwáng gāojiàn!""大王 高见!"
"Your majesty brilliant idea!"

Huáng Huā yuánshuài zài shān kǒu jié zhù le Qí Huán Gōng:黄花 元帅 在 山 口 截 住 了 齐桓公:
Marshal Huang Hua stopped Duke Huan of Qi at the mountain:

iǔyǎng Qí wáng dàmíng! Wǒ Huáng Huā yuàn wèi Qí wáng xiàoláo, wèi dàjūn dài lù."
"久仰 齐王 大名! 我 黄花 愿 为 齐王 效劳, 为 大军 带路。"
"I've been looking forward to meeting you, your majesty of Qi! I, Huang Hua, am willing to serve Your majesty of Qi and lead the way for the army."

"ā... tài hǎo le! Hā...
"啊...太 好 了! 哈...
"Ah...Very good! Ha...

Huáng Huā yuánshuài, nǐ zài qiánmiàn lǐnglù dào Gūzhú guó shǒudōu qù.
"黄花 元帅, 你 在 前面 领路 到 孤竹 国 首都 去。
Marshal Huang Hua, go ahead and lead the way to the capital of the state of Guzhu."

"Hǎo ba! Nà wǒmen jiù gǎnkuài shànglù ba!""好吧! 那 我们 就 赶快 上路 吧!"
"All right! Let's hit the road!"

Qí jūn zǒurù le mí gǔ Hànhǎi,齐 军 走入 了 迷谷 瀚海,
The Qi army went into a valley Hanhai,

Nàlǐ shì yīpiàn shāmò, huāngwú rényān, fēng dà tiān lěng.那里 是 一片 沙漠, 荒芜 人烟, 风 大 天 冷。
It was a desert, deserted, windy and cold.

Tiān hēi le, tāmen mí le lù.天 黑 了, 他们 迷 了 路。
The sky went dark, they lost their way.

"Huáng Huā nǎlǐ qù le?""黄花 哪里 去了?"
"Where's Huang Hua?"

ú zhīdào wa!""不 知道 哇!"
"Don't know!"

"Nà wǒmen shàngdàng le! Tā yīdìng shì jiānxì!""那 我们 上当 了! 他 一定 是 奸细!"
"Then we are fooled! He must be a spy!"

àjiā bié huāng! Bùfáng ràng jǐ pǐ lǎo mǎ shìzhe dàilù!""大家 别 慌! 不妨 让 几 匹 老 马 试著 带路!"
"Everyone do not panic! Might as well let some old horses to try to lead the way!"

Guǒrán lǎomǎshítú,果然 老马识途,
Sure enough, the old horses knew the way,

Tāmen bǎ qí jūn dài chū le mí gǔ.他们 把 齐 军 带出了迷谷。
They led the Qi army out of the valley.

Chéngyǔ Lǎomǎshítú,成语 老马识途,
The idiom Laomashitu,

Shì yònglái chēngzàn jīngyàn fēngfù, qíngkuàng shúxī, néng qǐ yǐndǎo zuòyòng de rén.
是 用来 称赞 经验 丰富, 情况 熟悉, 能 起 引导 作用 的 人。
Is used to praise a person who is very experienced and can play a guiding role.

Fun thing to do:
1. Gather family or friends and play the roles.
2. Practice writing. CLICK HERE and hit the brushes next to each character to see the stroke orders. Grab a piece of paper and write them down.

I hope you enjoy my first idiom post. Please comment => CLICK HERE.


இ Baŋäŋaz இ said...

Jeannie Laoshi, Thanks so much for the requested idiom appreciate it very much. Xiexie ക

CheaHSan said...

Hi Jeannie ~ Thank you have been practising the writing but the last stroke for 老 seems not 'smooth' thought it would be 'smoother' as second last, that's bananaz thinking haha. Trying to remember when the stroke should start from left to right or right to left.

sweetromance said...

Great way to teach good morals together with the language. The video is really interesting too.

foongpc said...

Oh! I can't see the YouTube video because it's taking too long to load!

But it's OK, managed to read what you written below the video.

I still find it difficult to understand reading the hanyu pinyin because the sentence structure for English and Mandarin is different.

Is it possible to translate all the Mandarin words into English words following the order of the Mandarin words although it makes no sense? Then after that, arrange the English words into a proper sentence so that we can make sense of it?

I know that's a lot of work, but will appreciate if you can do that! If it's too much work, please do not bother : )

Jeannie said...


When it takes time to load the video, I always let it load and then go do something else and come back later to watch.

Pinyin is a tool to pronounce Chinese characters. I encourage you to focus on the characters instead of pinyin. After all, the characters is an important part of the Chinese culture.

To understand each single Chinese character, copy and paste the characters or sentence on the MDBG dictionary in my side bar and hit Search. It should open a new window and show you the detail meanings. You can also click on the yellow speaker buttons to hear the pronunciation too.

The meanings in the dictionary sometimes don't match the sentences. For example, Shānróng 山戎 and Gūzhú 孤竹 are the name of the states. The dictionary doesn't show those. I think I'll have to work on that.

Jeannie said...

To you all,

There's another cool dictionary site which is

1. Hit the "Stroke Order Animation & Dictionary" tab in the header.
2. Select "Simplified" or "Traditional" in the header as well.
3. Copy and paste Chinese characters or sentence into the search bar then hit the telescope button.
4. The characters you are searching will appear on the left. Click each to see the stroke order. After the stroke order is done, it'll pronounce it for you.

I like the usage percent feature. It tells you how often the character is used.

Jeannie said...


Not sure what you meant by "second last".

Here's the Character Stroke Order Basic Rules for you:

to all of you whoever are interested in learning the stroke order as well.

Jeannie said...

Sweetromance, thanks for your visiting and nice comment.

Bananaz, sorry it took me a while to post. I think I may not be able to post every week. But I will still try.

Big thanks to everyone for all your support!
Love you all and Happy Thanksgiving~~~

Kelvin said...

This is truly a good way to teach:)
So we can request idioms tat we r not sure of?

இ Baŋäŋaz இ said...

Its a job very well done and looking at it I know took away much of your time appreciate it very much. No worries think once month should be ok. Xiexie ക

Jeannie said...

Bananaz, you are so sweet.

Kelvin, yes, you can request idioms but I hope you don't mind to register as my free member. Just click the yellow button says "Register Here" in my side bar. Thanks a lot!

Cinnamon said...

I really like the cartoon. It is easy and fun to learn Mandarin using cartoons. Thanks for sharing this post.

Gin said...


You are more than welcome and thanks for the comment. I'm glad you like it. There are more to come!

foongpc said...

OK, will try to learn the characters instead of the pinyin.

Oh, learning each character's meaning is good, but just a lot of hard work for me. haha! I will try! But the MDBG dictionary is cool! : )

Oh! Please do not post too frequently cos I need the time to learn each post too! One new post in 2 weeks is fine with me! : )

Gin said...

LOL...Foongpc, I wish I could make 1 post every single day so I could reach my goal sooner!

Don't worry...right now I could make 1-2 posts a week. And I plan to make a check list for you all so you can check which you've learned and which have not and come back to learn whenever you can.

Sean Shadbolt said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Sean Shadbolt said...

对不起 , I had a bit of trouble with my last attempt at posting.
I only started looking at these 成语 last week and then we started studying 成语 in class!
So these are very useful for me .
谢谢 Jeannie

Viagra Online said...

In all my trips around the world I have taken Chinese courses and I still feel I can't say a word in Chinese, is it that it's necessary to learn it in the country where it was born?

Gin said...

@seanfs, you are welcome and I'm glad that they are useful for you.

@Viagra Online, of course you can say words in Chinese. But learning Chinese in China or Taiwan is a boost to help you really see the beauty, the culture and hear how the people live and speak.

eeeja said...

Hello Laoshi,
Thanks. When I try to play the youtube video, it says it it private.

What should I do?

Gin said...

Hi eeeja,

Thanks for letting me know. Sorry that the video had become private. I have found another video and updated it but the last 2 lines has been cut. The video should be working now.