Like an agate in the rough?

Or gold, silver, seashell, pearl, carnelian…

瑠璃も玻璃も照らせば光る
(Ruri mo hari mo teraseba hikaru;
Lapis and quartz both shine if illuminated”)

Definition:

People of good character or exceptional ability will stand out and reveal their worth no matter where they go – at least, if allowed the opportunity. Lapis lazuli is an opaque blue semi-precious stone, while quartz is a translucent crystal – but each of them, properly polished and lit, will sparkle beautifully. The cream of the crop will rise to the top.

Breakdown:

We begin with two nouns, 瑠璃 (ruri), “lapis lazuli,” and 玻璃 (hari), “quartz,” each marked by emphatic particle も (mo). Doubling も in this case can be translated as “both ~ and ~.” This noun phrase is followed by the verb 照る (teru), “to shine.” This appears in imperfective form, allowing it to take the causative suffix す (su), itself in conjunctive form as せ (se) and taking the hypothetical suffix ば (ba), which does not conjugate. This verb phrase is followed by another verb, 光る (hikaru), “to shine,” “to glitter,” etc.

Notes:

This is the る (ru) entry of the Edo iroha karuta set.

Lapis, and in some classifications quartz, are among the “seven treasures” (七宝 = shichihou, or saptaratna in Sanskrit) described in Buddhist writings such as the Infinite Life Sutra or the Lotus Sutra.

Example sentence:

瑠璃も玻璃も照らせば光るという考え方は能力主義の基本だが、現実の社会では照らされるどころか、隠される者もいるという批判の声もある」

(Ruri mo hari mo teraseba hikaru to iu kangaekata wa nouryoku shugi no kihon da ga, genjitsu no shakai de wa terasareru dokoro ka, kakusareru mono mo iru to iu hihan no koe mo aru.”)

[“The idea that all kinds of hidden gems will come to light is the basis of meritocracy. However in society as it exists, one also hears the criticism that there are people who are not illuminated, but rather hidden away.”]

About Confanity

I love the written word more than anything else I've had the chance to work with. I'm back in the States from Japan for grad school, but still studying Japanese with the hope of becoming a translator -- or writer, or even teacher -- as long as it's something language-related.
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