Much travel makes the boatman hoarse

The American version: 車車車車

南船北馬
nan.sen.hoku.ba

Literally: south – boat – north – horse

Alternately: Going from one place to the next without stop or rest. Always on the go. Wandering restlessly, or traveling busily.

Notes: This compound comes to us from our friend the Huainanzi (淮南子, Enanji or, less commonly, Wainanji). The southern parts of China have a relative plenty of rivers and lakes, so that boats are a preferred method of travel, while the northern parts have a good share of mountains and grasslands, which call for horses; combining the two gives an image of travel that covers the entire territory.

Flipping the order of elements to get 北馬南船 is also possible. This compound is considered to be synonymous with several others that indicate busy rushing about, e.g. 東奔西走.

NanSenHokuBaDenSha

In modern Japan, it’s “southern trains, northern trains”

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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