Aphorisms by Ma Changshan

Ma Changshan lives in Beijing and has been writing aphorisms for more than 20 years. It all started in 1990 when he read Mark Twain’s saying, “If you don’t like the weather in New England, just wait a few minutes.” “I was shocked by his paradox,” Ma Changshan says. “That’s when I began to write aphorisms, never stopping. My ambition is to publish 10,000 aphorisms. Hopefully, the 10,000 aphorisms will be finished in 2012.” Ma Changshan’s comments on his audience will not doubt sound familiar to fellow aphorists: “Some Chinese reader understand me, but only a few.”

A great man is one who moves slowly but resolutely and with whom the masses must run to keep up.

Conservatives are a group of people with noble virtues: They leave to others the fun of blazing new paths and leave to themselves the drudgery of passing judgment on the effort.

Human society is organized such that seldom is there a position occupied by one who best suits that position.

Opportunism may yield instant gratification; altruism leads to eternal happiness.

The perfect man is said to have only virtues but not shortcomings. It may be deduced from this that the perfect man is not a complete man.

Those who have suffered know what suffering is like. Those who haven’t can only imagine what suffering is like. Suffering for the latter is more boundless.

Embrace your enemy; this allows you to launch a sneak attack on him.

(English translations by Xiang Hua)

Happiness is everywhere but still in short supply.

I will never join in a chorus, especially the one that has a conductor.

I would rather be seen from below by the public; that way they will never realize I am bald.

(English translations by Feng Tong)