Medicine Ingredients = Pun Ingredients
Ever since I started doing my Chinese pun posts, I’ve been deluged with requests for more*. So today I am finally getting around to posting one that I’ve been seeing for something like a year in an ad on the subway:
> Only good ingredients can make good medicine.
The pun is with the words 药 (medicine), 才 (an adverb meaning something like “only if”), and 药材 (medicinal ingredients). You have two three-character phrases with exactly the same character pronunciation, but the difference of one character in the two phrases (材 and 才, both read “cái”) gives the sentence clear meaning.
The two parts can’t be said to be entirely identical, because read naturally, there would definitely be different pauses in the first part and the second part. Still, the identical pronunciations still make it kind of charming.
* This is a total lie.
UPDATE: John B has provided a picture of the ad. Thanks, John B!