Grabbing the Buddha’s foot in an emergency

 

Literally:to grasp the Buddha’s foot in an emergency

Meaning:to seek help at the last moment;
to make a frantic last-minute effort

 

 

This comes from a longer phrase which runs:

When idle he neglects to burn incense,
yet when in trouble he desperately clutches the Buddha’s feet.

 

 

For example:

惠州学院中文系一老师则认为,考试前临急抱佛脚,对这学生掌握知识没什么好处,不可取。

However, a teacher at the Chinese Language Department of Huizhou College believes that such desperate cramming [=Buddha leg clutching] just before the exams in no way contributes to the students’ understanding of their subjects, and thus is undesirable.

 

In colloquial use it is more common to say:

临时抱佛脚
lín shí bào fó jiǎo

And this fits better with the whole phrase:

平时不烧香, 临时抱佛脚
píng shí bù shāo xiāng, lín shí bào fó jiǎo

 

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