The meaning of this rhyme is that the more hands there are to help with work, the less work gets done.
One monk will carry water alone on his shoulders (1)
Two monks will carry water together (2)
Three monks will carry nothing (3)
(1) For his own use.
(2) To use between the two of them.
(3) For no one's use.
Sān gè héshàng
yīgè héshàng tiāo shuǐ hē,
liǎng gè héshàng káng shuǐ hē,
sān gè héshàng méi shuǐ hē
One way I've seen this translated is:
"One boy is a boy, 2 boys half a boy, 3 boys no boy."
The reasoning is:
One monk carries two buckets of water on his shoulders alone. Two monks carry one bucket together. Three monks carry no bucket and get no water. The moral is, the more hands there are to help, the less work gets done.
You can read the story of the Three Monks in Chinese and English here.
Thanks to Yi Lin for reciting this rhyme for us!
Thanks and Acknowledgements
Thanks to Yi Lin for sharing this rhyme with us, for helping with the meaning and for reciting it!
M goi! & Xie xie!