You are here: Home > Chinese Culture > Chinese Proverbs > How to Understand the Proverb“the old horse who k...

How to Understand the Proverb“the old horse who knows the way”

An old horse knows the way. Today, it means a person who is very experienced at any given thing may be referred as "the old horse who knows the way".

Traditional Chinese:
老馬識途, Lǎomǎshìtú or 識途老馬 Shìtúlǎomǎ.

Simplified Chinese:
老马识途, Lǎomǎshítú or 识途老马, Shítúlǎomǎ.

The Chinese Story of Lao ma shi tu
old horse who knows the wayGōngyuán qián liùliùsān nián, Qí Huángōng yìng Yānguó de yāoqiú, chū bīng gōngdǎ rùqīn Yānguó de Shānróng, xiàngguó Guǎn Zhòng hé dàfu Xí Péng suítóng qiánwǎng.
Qíjūn shì chūntiān chūzhēng de, dào kǎixuán'érguī shí yǐ shì dōngtiān, cǎomù biànle yàng, dàjūn zài shāngǔ lǐ zhǎo bú dào huílái de lù.
Shíjiān yì cháng, jūnduì de jǐyǎng fāshēng kùnnan, rúguǒ zài bù zhǎo dào chūlù, dàjūn jiù huì kùn sǐ zài zhèlǐ.
Xiàngguó Guǎn Zhòng xiǎngle yí gè zhǔyì: jìrán gǒu líjiā hěn yuǎn yě néng xún huí jiā qù, nàme jūn zhōng de lǎomǎ yě yīnggāi huì yǒu rènshi lùtú de bénlǐng.
Yúshì Guǎn Zhòng lìjí tiāo chū jǐ pǐ lǎomǎ, ràng tāmen zài dàjūn de zuì qiánmian zìyóu xíngzǒu. Yě zhēn qíguài, zhèxiē lǎomǎ dōu háobùyóuyù de cháo yí gè fāngxiàng xíngjìn. Dàjūn jiù jǐn gēn zhe tāmen, zuìhòu zhōngyú zǒuchūle shāngǔ, zhǎodàole huí Qíguó de dàlù.

公元前663年,齐桓公应燕国的要求,出兵攻打入侵燕国的山戎,相国管仲和大夫隰朋随同前往。齐军是春天出征的,到凯旋而归时已是冬天,草木变了样大军在山谷里找不到回来的路。时间一 长,军队的给养发生困难,如果再不找到出路,大军就会困死在这里。相国管仲想了一个主意:既然狗离家很远也能寻回家去,那么军中的老马也应该会有认识路途的本领。于是管仲立即挑出几匹老马,让它们在大军的最前面自由行走。也真奇怪,这些老马都毫不犹豫地朝一 个方向行进。大军就紧跟着它们,最后终于走出了山谷,找到了回齐国  的 大路。

The Translation of This Chinese Story
In 663 B.C., Qi Huangong was asked by Yanguo to fight against the invaders of Shanrong, a strong minority from northern China. The Premier Guan Zhong and the senior official Xi Peng accompanied him.
The Qi army had gone to fight in spring and returned triumphant in winter. Due to the change of the seasons, the army couldn't find its way out of the valley.
Transporting the supplies would become too difficult. If they did not find a way out of the valley soon, the army would not be able to survive.
The Premier Guan Zhong had an idea: dogs can always find their way back home even if they are very far away. Should not the old horses in the army be able to do so too?
Guan Zhong immediately chose several old horses and allowed them to walk in front freely. It was quite strange to see these old horses all, without hesitation, walking in the same direction. Finally, they went out of the desert safely.

The Details:
Duke Huan of Qi was the best-known ruler of the state of Qi in the Spring and Autumn Period of Chinese history. He was the Duke of Qi from 685 BC until his death; under this period Qi reached its zenith, and the Duke himself was elected to be one of the Five Hegemons.
This Proverb is used to describe an experienced person who knows how to deal with difficult situations or people. It reflects the Chinese idea about the elderly. They may not run or skip like the young people, but they are surely indispensable at the critical moment.