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Frog in the Well & Other Chinese Frog Proverbs Explained

Worldwide, frogs are significant cultural symbols often representing harmony and fertility. They also appear in classical folklore like ‘The Frog Prince” by the Brother Grimm as well modern pop culture with characters such as Kermit the Frog.

In this article, we’ll discuss the significance of frogs in Chinese culture through exploring several Chinese proverbs related to frogs. For Chinese language learners we’ve also added the original Chinese characters and Pin Yin.

Frog in the Well

井底之蛙 (jǐng dǐ zhī wā)

chinese tea

This saying from Taoist Zhuang Zi, is often used to describe ‘narrow vision’. The frog at the bottom of the well thinks the sky is only as big as the mouth of the well. Basically, it to describe people who are short-sighted and narrow-minded.

The vision of a frog in the well

Hereby a quote from Zhuang Zi:

You can’t talk to frog in a well about the ocean, because he is sight is limited to just the size of its well. A insect understand ice, because it comprehends only its own summer season.

As a Taoist Zhuangzi often used this saying to represent people who are ignorant of the Way of Tao:

A narrow-minded student can’t understand the Tao, due to he limitations of his teachings. The have to get out o the classroom and see the Great Ocean. Only then you’ll know your own inferiority. Now it’s possible to discuss philosophy with you.

Frog in the Bottom of the Well

井底之蛙 (Jǐng dǐ zhī wā)

This proverb is very similar to the previous one, but in practice it’s more often used to describe people who think they know better or know everything. However, in fact they don’t.

The Dragon in the Clouds & the Frog at the Bottom of the Well

云龙井蛙 (yún lóng jǐng wā)

Once again a saying that is related to the first proverb. It is a metaphor for describing the great difference in status between people.

The Fight Between a Frog and a Toad

蛙蟆胜负 (wā má shèng fù)

This Chinese frog saying describes events that are deemed to be insignificant. The result of a fight between a frog and a toad, may result in a loss or a gain, but is not worth minding.

Flies and Frogs Make Endless Noise

蝇声蛙噪 (yíng shēng wā zào)

The flies and frogs make endless noise, describes poems, books or other kinds of texts of poor quality and without substance.

Three Legged Toad, Money Frogs

As you may have noticed, frogs generally have a negative meaning in China, symbolising narrow-mindedness, insignificance and low status. However, in Chinese Fengshui theory, frogs do have also positive meaning. Especially, the 3 legged money frog is a great item to have at home for improving your chances of Wealth and Fortune. Money frogs are often sold as ‘tea pets‘ to accompany tea enthousiasts during a tea ceremony.

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