I wasn't really planning on making a series on Chinese proverbs. But it happens that every time I start writing a post I can think up of a proper Chinese expression to introduce it. Such is the vastness of the language.
This is not a proverb actually, but it is an idiomatic expression inherited from the Classical Chinese. Word-by-word it means "what bitter". Which is pretty ungrammatical. But Asian languages in general have quite flexible grammars, and Chinese more so. The expression usually translates as "why bother?", "why make things so hard"? Bitter is the Chinese word for hardship, hence Coolies 苦力 "bitter force".
It is a very frequently used expression, because Chinese have this habit of making things harder than they need to be. For all the talk about HBD having its future in the practical-minded Asian countries, East Asia is very much about effort. At least since Confucius, the key to success in China has been relentless self-improvement. There's two kinds of humans, "small people" 小人 and Gentlemen 君子. They key to being a Gentlemen is having a good education. Fast-forward 2500 years and you have the Banzai-charges of Japanese army troops against the mechanised Soviet batallions in Khalkhin Gol. They lost, and didn't learn from it. This year there was a report on some US advisors to the Japanese army saying that their performance sucks because of a lack of fatigue management...