Where is the road ahead? Amid uncertainty, remain optimistic

Zhang Ciyun
Life may throw obstacles at you, but when one door closes, another opens.
Zhang Ciyun

When mountains, rivers and other obstacles block the view, you may wonder whether there’s still a road ahead. Be optimistic. Chinese people will quote two common sayings to tell you that there will always be a road ahead.

One of the sayings comes from a book entitled “Civilian Mottos from Ancient China,” published around the late 16th century. It says chedao shanqian biyoulu, chuandao qiaotou ziranzhi, which translates literally as “when a chariot arrives in front of a mountain, there’s always a road there; when a boat floats toward a bridge, it will naturally go straight.”


chē dào shān qián bì yǒu lù


chuán dào qiáo tóu zì rán zhí

The meaning here is that when you drive a chariot to a mountain, there’s bound to be a road you can take to go forward, and water currents will naturally straighten a boat when it goes to pass underneath a bridge.

In more commonplace language: Don’t worry about what’s going to happen in the future; things will work themselves out.

The second saying consists of two lines from a poem written by Lu You (1125-1210), a great Southern Song Dynasty (1127-1279) historian and poet.

The two lines read shanchong shuifu yiwulu, liu’an huaming youyicun. It translates as: “Mountains roll beyond mountains, and streams double back to streams. I doubt if there’s still a road and then, with shady willows and bright flowers, another village suddenly appears ahead.”


shān chóng shuǐ fù yí wú lù


liǔ àn huā míng yòu yī cūn

This popular expression is often used to offer comfort and inspiration during difficult times and to encourage people to face the world calmly.

There’s a Western saying that follows the same idea: “When God closes one door, he opens a window.”

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