In Chinese, "throwing a brick to attract jade" means

I offer a humble remark, please give us your valued opinion.

See here for the full explanation. Are there any English equivalents to this?

In Chinese, "throwing a brick to attract jade" is not limited to the remarks and opinions. Sometimes people say "throwing a brick to attract jade" to mean "I want to do A to encourage more people to do A and do better in A".

  • 2
    People will often say, “I’m just throwing this out there to get the conversation started.”
    – Jim
    Commented Jun 20, 2016 at 4:17
  • On online forums, you can indicate that you are not on a par with the people you are joining in with by saying "just a question from the peanut gallery" or "just a question from the cheap seats". It implies you aren't planning to get deeply involved in the discussion, but would appreciate an answer. Your second usage sounds a bit like "priming the pump"
    – Phil Sweet
    Commented Jun 20, 2016 at 5:00
  • I think buskers or street performers have a term for putting a little money in their collection hat/bucket to start things off and encourage other people to donate as much or more, but I can't remember what they call it.
    – Stuart F
    Commented Apr 30 at 21:02

2 Answers 2


I'm not fully sure I understand the Chinese proverb, but "I want to do A to encourage more people to do A and do better in A" leads me to the English phrase

Let me get the ball rolling

which roughly means "let me make a feeble or modest effort to encourage other people to participate in a bigger way."


The Oxford Dictionary of Phrase and Fable (2 ed.)

a sprat to catch a mackerel (Also as verb "to use/try/cast/throw, etc. )

A small expenditure made, or a small risk taken, in the hope of a large or significant gain, recorded from the mid 19th century.

The Brussels treaty is often thought of as merely a way to show the Americans that Europe was prepared to contribute to its own defence and lure it to offer assistance. It was, as Bevin later characterized it, “a sprat to catch a mackerel.” - The North Atlantic Treaty Organization, 1948-1957: Community Or Alliance? By John C. Milloy

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