The higher the mountain, the grander the view

Zhang Ciyun
Mountains have always been part of China’s soul, and they also have provided poetic insights into what we can learn from them.
Zhang Ciyun
The higher the mountain, the grander the view
Li Chaoquan

Ancient Chinese poems about mountains have long been the source of numerous popular sayings and expressions, which are still widely quoted today in everyday conversation and writing.

Here are two examples, both talking about mountains and the panoramas they provide.

One famous poem, entitled “On the Stork Tower,” was written by Wang Zhihuan in the Tang Dynasty (AD 618-907). It reads:

The white sun sinks behind the mountain,

And the Yellow River flows into the sea.

To get a view of things thousand miles away,

Ascend the tower by another story.

All second graders in primary schools in China can recite this poem. Its last two lines have become popularized by the saying yuqiongqianlimu, gengshangyicenglou, meaning “to broaden one’s horizons, one must see more of the world and acquire more knowledge.”


yù qióng qiān lǐ mù, gèng shàng yī céng lóu

Another proverb reads huidang lingjueding, yilanzhongshanxiao, or roughly, “when I ascend to the mountain’s crest, all other peaks will seem so tiny in my sight.”

These two lines derive from a poem by Du Fu (AD 712-770), who is deemed to be one of China’s greatest poets.

The mountain he refers to here is none other than Mount Tai, the highest point in today’s Shandong Province in eastern China. The mountain is of great historical and cultural significance and also a major tourist attraction.


huì dāng líng jué dǐng, yī lǎn zhòng shān xiǎo

So, the two poem-based Chinese proverbs here tell us that to enjoy a grander sight of the world, one must stand on the peak of a higher mountain.

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