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Quotable Chéngyǔ - Page 2 - UniLang

Quotable Chéngyǔ

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Re: Quotable Chéngyǔ

Postby Karavinka » 2008-10-12, 18:51

17. 愚公移山

官: Yú Gōng Yí Shān
日: ぐこういざん
朝: 우공이산

-- From Lièzĭ Ch. 5 (《列子》 〈湯問〉)

愚: Stupid
公: Lord
移: Move
山: Mountain

Rough translation: Lord Stupid moves the mountain

Lièzĭ says:

太形、王屋二山,方七百里,同萬仞。本在冀州之南,河陽之北。北山愚公者,年且九十,面山而居。懲山北之寒塞,出入之迂也。聚室而謀曰:“吾與汝畢力平險,指通豫南,達于漢陰,可乎?”雜然相許。其妻獻疑曰:“以君之力,曾不能損魁父之丘,如太形、王屋何?且焉置土石?”雜曰:“投諸渤海之尾,隱土之北。”

Mountains Tài and Wángwū are both 700 miles wide and equally ten thousand metres high. They were originally in Southern Jìzhōu, North of Héyáng. There was a certain Lord Stupid, already ninety years old, lived facing the mountains. Since the mountains were blocking the village, one had to travel far to move in and out. He gathered his household in a room and said: "You and I gather our strengths, level that mountain up to Hànyīn. Would it be possible?" And they all agreed. The wife was doubting and said: "Your strength is not even sufficient to level that little hill. How would it be, Mountain Tài and Wángwū? And where would you dispose the soil and the rocks?" Household replied: "Throw it at the feet of Bohai sea, north of Yǐntǔ."

遂率子孫荷擔者三夫,叩石墾壤,箕畚運于渤海之尾。鄰人京城氏之孀妻,有遣男,始齔,跳往助之。寒暑易節,始一反焉。

Then he led his children, grandchildren and three servant porters, broke the rock and shoveled the soil, put it on the back racks and carried it to Bohai sea. A certain neighbour namd Jīngchéng, a widow, had a son and once he grew up a little she came to help. Cold and hot changed their places, and the season changed.

河曲智叟笑"山之一毛,其如土石何?"北山愚公長息曰:“汝心之固,固不可徹,曾不若孀妻弱子。雖我之死,有子存焉;子又生孫,孫又生子;子又有子,子又有孫;子子孫孫,無窮匱也,而山不加增,何苦而不平?”河曲智叟亡以應。操蛇之神聞之,懼其不已也,告之于帝。帝感其誠,命萬蛾氏二子負二山,一厝朔東,一厝雍南。自此冀之南,漢之陰,無隴斷焉。

Old Wise laughed, saying: "Is that a piece of the mountain, and already like that soil and stone?" Lord Stupid had a long sigh and said: "Your mind is inflexible. Unless you do away with it, you are not even worthy of that widow and little children. Even if I die, I have children; the children again have grandchildren, and they will again have great-grandchildren. There will be no end of this, and since the Mountain cannot increase in size, how it will not be levelled?" Old Wise had nothing to say. A spirit heard this, and feared it and thus reported to the Emperor of Heaven. The Emperor was moved by his determination, and ordered that the two mountains be moved, one to Shùodōng, the other to Yōngnán. And since then there was nothing blocking between Southern Jìzhōu and Hànyīn.


Usage: To describe a resolute determination, whether it is a reasonable one (then it is a praise) or it is not (then it isn't).
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Re: Quotable Chéngyǔ

Postby ILuvEire » 2008-10-12, 19:38

Ooh. I really like the one you just posted. It's good!
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Re: Quotable Chéngyǔ

Postby Karavinka » 2008-10-15, 4:08

18. 傾國之色 (倾国之色[中簡], 傾国之色[日簡])

官: Qīng Guó Zhī Sè
日: けいこくのいろ
朝: 경국지색

-- From the Poetry of Lǐ Yánnián

傾: to overturn
國: country
之: of
色: color

Rough translation: Color that overturns the country

Lǐ Yánnián says:

  北方有佳人  There is a Beauty in the North
  絕世而獨立  Distanced from the World, lives alone
  一顧傾人城  Seen once, a city overturns
  再顧傾人國  Twice, the country overturns
  傾城復傾國  Overturning the city and the country
  佳人難再得  Such Beauty is hard to come again


Lǐ Yánnián (李延年) was a court musician during the Hàn dynasty. Lǐ Yánnián sung this piece in front of the Emperor Wǔ (漢武帝), who was already over fifty and alone. The Emperor was soon enslaved by the beauty of this lady - the famed Lady Lǐ (李夫人). Later she felt sick, and although the Emperor came to visit her, she refused his visit for she did not want to show her face, fatigued with illness. Lǐ Yánnián himself allegedly had a homosexual relationship with the Emperor, but he and his family gradually fell out of favour after the death of Lady Lǐ.

To be fair, Lady Lǐ did not cause much political trouble like other famed beauties of Chinese history. The pattern stays generally the same: an unprecendented beauty appears in a declining age, becomes the favourite of the ruler and accelerates the downfall. Lǐ Yánnián's song apparently claims his sister to be such a beauty, and "the color which overthrows country" became a set expression for an extraordinarily beautiful woman (among many others).

Why "color"? The character 色 "color" in the oracle script is apparently a pictograph of a man over the back of a woman, and the both meanings - "sex" and "color" - still survive.

Usage: Obvious.


----
ILuvEire wrote:Ooh. I really like the one you just posted. It's good!


A lot of people tend to find Taoist fables more interesting than Confucian morals, and although I'll try to set the balance right, there are simply more Confucian or Historical anecdotes than Taoist. ;)
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Re: Quotable Chéngyǔ

Postby Karavinka » 2008-10-15, 6:04

19. 胡蝶之夢 (蝴蝶之梦)

官: Hú Dié Zhī Mèng
日: こちょうのゆめ
朝: 호접지몽

-- From Zhuāngzǐ (《莊子》〈齊物論〉)

胡: Butterfly (Homophonous with 蝴)
蝶: Butterfly
之: Of
夢: Dream

Rough translation: Butterfly's Dream

Zhuāng Zǐ says:

昔者莊周夢為胡蝶,栩栩然胡蝶也,自喻適志與!不知周也。俄然覺,則蘧蘧然周也。不知周之夢為胡蝶與,胡蝶之夢為周與?周與胡蝶,則必有分矣。此之謂物化。

I, Zhuāng Zhōu, once dreamt of being a butterfly, such a one flitting around, satisfied with itself and heaving where it wills. Then I did not know of Zhuāng Zhōu. Suddenly I woke up, and there was the same Zhōu again. I do not know whether it is Zhōu's dream of being a butterfly, or a butterfly's dream of being Zhōu? Zhōu and the butterfly, there must be a distinction. This is called the change of things.


This is perhaps one of the best-known one outside of Sinitic sphere.

Zhuāng Zǐ's butterfly dream challenges our very conception of reality: our only means to know the world outside us is through our sense organs, and we cannot guarantee that our sense organs are faithful to the way that the external world really is. What if it is all but a dream? What if what we believe to be truth about the world is merely joke? Zhuāng Zǐ is, to a moderate degree, a skeptic.

This type of question troubled philosophers across time and culture. To Plato, this World was a shadow of the World of Forms, leading to St. Augustine's City of Gods. Descartes' cogito was a daring answer to this, leading to Kant's cognitive machinery and Marxian dialectical materialism - various responses to shake off the doubts and build a skeptic-proof ontology. Unlike in the West, Chinese schools later abandoned this types of questions and became highly pragmatic, moral and political. But there he is, Zhuāng Zǐ's question is lurking in the common speech.

Usage: to describe a sense of impermanent, fleeting World.


20. 他山之石

官: Tā Shān Zhī Shí
日: たざんのいし
朝: 타산지석

-- From Shī Jīng (《詩經》 〈鶴鳴〉)

他: Other
山: Mountain
之: Of
石: Stone

Rough translation: Stone of the other mountain

In Shī Jīng:

鶴鳴
Crane's Cry

鶴鳴于九皐 Cranes cry above the hills by water
聲聞于野  Sound of which spread across the field
魚潛在淵  Fish swimming inside the pond
或在于渚  May sometimes come on the bank.

樂彼之園  There the pleasant garden
爰有樹檀  There stands a Birch tree
其下維蘀  under which lie fallen leaves
它山之石  A stone from another mountain
可以為錯  Can become a grindstone.

鶴鳴于九皐 Cranes cry above the hills by water
聲聞于天  Sound of which spread across the sky
魚在于渚  Fish lying on the bank
或潛在淵  May sometimes swim in the pond

樂彼之園  There the pleasant garden
爰有樹檀  There stands a Birch tree
其下維穀  under which lie fallen leaves
它山之石  A stone from another mountain
可以攻玉  Can be used to grind a jade.


Imagine you are an orthodox Confucian, and you need to pull out a moral lesson from this. How should you do it? They sometimes succeeded, sometimes did not, but this time their exegesis was a success: even if someone else's careless sayings and deeds can be used to help shaping one's own moral personality, learning from good examples and warning oneself against bad ones.

Usage: To learn from someone else's success or failure.
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Re: Quotable Chéngyǔ

Postby Karavinka » 2008-10-16, 11:58

21. 漱石枕流

官: Shù Shí Zhěn Liú
日: そうせきちんりゅう
朝: 수석침류

-- From Book of Jìn Bk. 56 "Biographies of Jiāng Tǒng and Sūn Chǔ" 《晉書》〈江統 孫楚傳〉

漱: Brush (teeth)
石: Stone
枕: Pillow
流: Flowing water

Rough translation: Brush with stone, make stream pillow

Xuánlíng says:

Book of Jìn is not only a history of Jìn (晉), but of the "Sixteen Kingdoms" which were contemporaneous with it. It was written by a group of editors who worked on the project during early Táng dynasty (唐), with Xuánlíng (玄齡) as the editor-in-chief. Once a mighty empire falls, small states resurge and war against everyone else, until the ultimate victor arises and establishes the new empire - this is a general trend of Chinese history from the early Spring and Autumn, Warring States periods to the recent Chiense Civil War and the establishment of People's Republic of China. Book of Jìn is a record of a hard time.

In such times, Confucian moral politics doesn't hold anymore and Realpolitik takes the place. Even scholarly interests in Confucian studies dwindle, and we see a revitalised interest in Taoist studies, particularly hermeneutical interpretations on Lǎozi and Zhuāngzǐ - this school of thought known as "Clear Discourse" (淸談). Idealists retreat from the savage reality, and Sūn Chǔ was one among them. He was telling his friend Wáng Jì (王濟) that he wanted to retire from the world of politics.

楚與同郡王濟友善,濟為本州大中正,訪問銓邑人品狀,至楚,濟曰:「此人非卿所能目,吾自為之。」乃狀楚曰:「天才英博,亮拔不群。」楚少時欲隱居,謂濟曰:「當欲枕石漱流。」誤雲「漱石枕流」。濟曰:「流非可枕,石非可漱。」楚曰:「所以枕流,欲洗其耳;所以漱石,欲厲其齒。」

Sūn Chǔ and Wáng Jì were good friends. Wáng Jì was a governor of a certain county, and was visiting to estimate the population. He met Sūn Chǔ and said: "This man is not of magistracy, I myself want to do this." Then Sūn Chǔ said, "Man of genius and valor like you really shouldn't leave the people." Sūn Chǔ wanted to retreat for a while, and wanted to say "I wish to make stone my pillow and brush with flowing water" but he said "brush with stone and make flowing water my pillow" instead. Wáng Jì said: "You can't make flowing water pillow, nor brush with stone." Sūn Chǔ said: "By making flowing water my pillow, I meant I wanted to cleanse my ears; by brushing with stone, I meant I wanted to control my speech."


It indeed is very possible, human, yet embarrassing mistake, particularly since Sūn Chǔ had a reputation for being a good stylist. When his friend corrected his mistakes, he was quick enough to come up with excuses to justify what he said - but, unfortunately the later historians were brutal enough to include the whole dialogue, immortalising him with sophistry and nonsense arguments.

The famous Japanese novelist Natsume Sōseki (夏目漱石) took his pen name "Sōseki" (漱石) from this episode.

Usage: To describe a character which never willingly admits mistakes; sophistry.
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Re: Quotable Chéngyǔ

Postby Hao Ran » 2008-11-22, 11:11

These descriptions are a million times more comprehensive than the ones I had in school. Great work! And I love how you pick those that are actually beautiful. I never thought I'd say this about 成语 but you've officially made me fall in love with them now XD And the story behind 四面楚歌 is in fact one of the most ... poignant ones I've ever heard. That is not to say that 楚霸王 wasn't kind of silly, either ...

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Re: Quotable Chéngyǔ

Postby Karavinka » 2008-12-02, 4:47

22. 日日新

官: Rì Rì Xīn
日: ひびにあらたなリ
朝: 일일신

-- from Great Learning (大學)

日: Day
日: Day
新: New

Rough translation: Day and day, make new.

In Great Learning:

大學之道,在明明德,在新民,在止於至善。

古之欲明明德於天下者,先治其國;欲治其國者,先齊其家;欲齊其家者,先修其身;欲修其身者,先正其心;欲正其心者,先誠其意;欲誠其意者,先致其知;致知在格物。物格而後知至,知至而後意誠,意誠而後心正,心正而後身修,身修而後家齊,家齊而後國治,國治而後天下平。 (...)

湯之盤銘曰:「苟日新,日日新,又日新。」

The program of the Great Learning is to enlighten the bright virtues, to renew the people, to reach the highest goodness.

The Ancients who wanted to enlighten the bright virtues in the World, first ruled the State; who wanted to rule the State, first managed the clan; who wanted to rule the clan, first formed himself; who wanted to form himself, first made his spirit just; who wanted to make his spirit just, first made his will sincere; who wanted to make his will sincere, first reached knowledge; to reach knowledge is to investigate being. After investigating being comes knowledge, after reaching knowledge comes sincere will, after sincere will comes just spirit, after just spirit comes formed self, after formed self comes managing the clan, after managing the clan comes ruling the State, after ruling the State comes making the World peaceful.

In the engravement of King Tāng it says: "If only you can make yourself anew for a day, then renew yourself everyday, and then again."


Originally a chapter in the Classic of Rites, Great Learning became a fundamental text of the Neoconfucians since Zhū Xī's choice of the text in his compilation of the "Four Books" canon. In the present translation, the word "Tao" is rendered as "program" - which may sound outrageous to some, but the word "Tao" as a predicate in Ancient Chinese does have a sense "to administrate, to govern"; according to which the translation took place.

People found themselves in a weary, tiresome, and hostile World. How do we change this, to bring this World closer to what is Ideal? Striking for an Ancient culture, they did not cry out for a divine intervention, but instead found their hope in the human Subject. It all begins with the renewal of oneself, the Subject with whom the World begins to change.

Usage: Again, in a moral sermon telling people to change their bad habits.

Hao Ran wrote:These descriptions are a million times more comprehensive than the ones I had in school. Great work! And I love how you pick those that are actually beautiful. I never thought I'd say this about 成语 but you've officially made me fall in love with them now XD And the story behind 四面楚歌 is in fact one of the most ... poignant ones I've ever heard. That is not to say that 楚霸王 wasn't kind of silly, either ...


Thanks, I'm glad to hear that... and well, I don't think they're all beautiful. No.14 is kind of ugly isn't it? ;)
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Re: Quotable Chéngyǔ

Postby Karavinka » 2008-12-02, 20:24

23. 緣木求魚

官: Yuán Mù Qiú Yú
日: きによりてさかなをもとむ
朝: 연목구어

-- From Mencius (《孟子》 〈梁惠王上〉)

緣: To climb
木: Tree
求: Search
魚: Fish

Rough translation: Climb a tree and find fish there

Mencius says:

王曰:「否!吾何快於是?將以求吾所大欲也。」
The King said: No, how would I be happy with this? But I have something greater in mind.

曰:「王之所大欲,可得聞與?」
Mencius said: May I hear what Your Majesty's greater design?

王笑而不言。
The King smiled and did not answer.

曰:為肥甘不足於口與,輕暖不足於體與?抑為采色不足視於目與?聲音不足聽於耳與?便嬖不足使令於前與?王之諸臣,皆足以供之,而王豈為是哉?」
Mencius said: Do you not have enough fat and sweets to eat? Do you not have light and warm clothes to wear? If not, do you not have enough beautiful colors for your eyes to behold? Harmony and music are not enough for your ears to hear? Do you not have enough servants to give order in front of you? Your Majesty's many retainers can all fulfill such needs, would Your Majesty be short of these?

曰:「否!吾不為是也。」
The King said: No, that is not what it is.

曰:「然則王之大欲可知已,欲闢土地,朝秦楚,蒞中國而撫四夷也。以若所為,求若所欲,猶緣木而求魚也。」
Mencius said: Then I understand what Your Majesty's great desire, that is to expand the territory, to make Qín and Chǔ tributaries, to reign China and embrace four barbarian nations. But if Your Majesty attempts to achieve this by such manners, it is alike climbing a tree and search for fish there.

王曰:「若是其甚與?」
The King said: Is it such?

曰:「殆有甚焉。緣木求魚,雖不得魚,無後災;以若所為,求若所欲,盡心力而為之,後必有災。」
Mencius said: It is far more dangerous. Searching for fish on the treetop brings no disaster later even if no fish is found. If Your Majesty attempts to achieve this by such manners, even if Your Majesty puts all spirit and strength there, there will inevitably be a disaster later.

曰:「可得聞與?」
The King said: Can I hear more?

曰:「鄒人與楚人戰,則王以為孰勝?」
Mencius said: If Zōu and Chǔ war against each other, which side would Your Majesty think would win?

曰:「楚人勝。」
The King said: Chǔ would win.

曰:「然則小固不可以敵大,寡固不可以敵眾,弱固不可以敵強。海內之地方千里者九,齊集有其一。以一服八,何以異於鄒敵楚哉?蓋亦反其本矣。
Mencius said: Then a small nation indeed cannot defeat a greater nation, small number cannot indeed defeat a greater mass, what is weak cannot indeed defeat what is mighty. There are nine territories each thousand miles wide in this World, and Qí is one among them. Leading One against Eight, how is it different from Zōu trying to vanquish Chǔ? Your Majesty should return to what is essential to politics.


The Warring States was a painful period for the people, which left a deep scar in the Chinese psyche - they have thoroughly learned that division brings war, pain and suffering. Once divided, the states would war against every others - the war of everyone against everyone else. Qí, a state which arose to near-hegemony for a short time, was one of them. Mencius meets King of Qí, suggesting him to return to what is essential - what is politics for? Is it for the glory of the crown or for the benefit of the people? This rather obvious question can be easily forgotten in the hard times, and Mencius' plea was, unfortunately, unheard during his time.

Usage: A foolish attempt to achieve something by doing something largely irrelevant.
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Re: Quotable Chéngyǔ

Postby Karavinka » 2009-03-08, 6:53

23. 率獸食人 (率兽食人[中簡], 率獣食人[日簡])

官: Shuài Shòu Shí Rén
日: けものをひきいてひとをしょくしむ
朝: 솔수식인

-- From Mencius (《孟子》, 〈梁惠王上〉)

率: To lead
獸: Beasts
食: Eat
人: People

Rough translation: To lead the beasts to feed them with people

Mencius says:

Mencius is applying for a magistral job in the Court of Huì of Liáng. Huì is less interested in wellfare but more in warfare. Mencius is having a hard time convincing Huì.

梁惠王曰:「寡人願安承教。」

孟子對曰:「殺人以梃與刃,有以異乎?」

曰:「無以異也。」

「以刃與政,有以異乎?」

曰:「無以異也。」

曰:「庖有肥肉,廄有肥馬,民有饑色,野有餓莩,此率獸而食人也。獸相食,且人惡之;為民父母,行政,不免於率獸而食人。惡在其為民父母也?

Huì of Liáng said: I would like to receive your teachings.

Mencius said: To kill a person with a club and with a knife, is there a difference?

Huì said: There is no difference.

Mencius said: With a knife or with the politics, is there a difference?

Huì said: There is no difference.

Mencius said: There is fatty meat in the kitchen, there are fatty horses in the stable, yet the people look hungry, and there are bodies died of famine on the fields. This is to lead the beasts to feed them with the people. People do not like even when the beasts devour each other, and now you are the parents of the people and exercise the politics, and yet you cannot avoid leading the beasts and letting them feed themselves with people, how can you be the parents of the people?


Usage: Self-explanatory.
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Re: Quotable Chéngyǔ

Postby ss300 » 2009-04-07, 16:50

好多还不知道呢,顶之.

估计有些词语 像我这般年纪的中国人已经没听过了

楼主古文不错哟 . :)
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Re: Quotable Chéngyǔ

Postby krix » 2009-05-06, 3:57

I liked Noir’s list a lot, but I’m also interested in modern usage. That’s why I have tried to check whether and how the chengyu chosen by him are used in Modern Mandarin and Modern Japanese.
(Since it's a bit hard to hard to read in this format, I'll also post a more legible version that also includes all the links on my blog.

Some remarks

Chinese

As far as the pinyin goes, I have tried following the rules set out in the book Chinese Romanization – Pronunciation & Orthography. The bit about chengyu is accessible online here.
As far as whether the chengyu in question is commonly used or not, I consulted two sources:


The Far-Eastern Chinese-English Dictionary (4,000 characters with 40,000 entries) had 6 out of 24: 同舟共濟 (1), 靑出於藍 (4), 四面楚歌 (9), 刮目相看 (13), 溫故知新 (15), 他山之石 (20)
The Taiwanese Ministry of Education has published a chengyu dictionary and has an appendix containing over 48,000 chengyu forms, from 30+ sources. Each form was assigned a number signifying in how many sources the form appears. A high number doesn’t necessarily mean that it is all that frequently used in daily speech, and some commonly used forms may fall by the wayside if they’re not considered by all sources to be chengyu. The numbers appear throughout the text under the rubric of “MOE Index”. However, I think it is fair to say that any form that does not appear in this list can safely be regarded as obscure from the Chinese point of view.


Japanese

In Japanese, most Chinese idioms are part of the highly literary language, the number of Chinese idioms that appear in colloquial speech are exceedingly low. However, there are two possibilities for the Chinese idioms to be rendered into Japanese: either as four-character-combinations (in Japanese the term yojijukugo 四字熟語 ‘four-character compounds’ is preferred over seigo成語) or in a peculiar type of Sinicised Japanese, which is also known as 和漢混交文 wakan-konkōbun, which I will point out throughout the text.


As far as frequency goes, since they’re much less frequently used to begin with, I have checked a drill book used by Japanese high school students to prepare for their university entrance exams, which happened to have a list of 139 key yojijukugo, classified into four levels of difficulty: 39 ‘basic’, 50 ‘very important’, 29 ‘important’ and 22 ‘difficult’ ones. From the 24 presented by Noir so far, four were on the list: 吳越同舟 (1) ‘important’, 曲學阿世 (2) ‘difficult’, 巧言令色 (5) ‘very important’ and溫故知新 (15) ‘very important’.

1. 吳越同舟 (吴越同舟)
‘Enemies collaborating in the face of a common problem’.


Chinese: The episode of the fighters from Wu and Yue crossing the river together has generated many different chengyu variants, 同舟共濟 tóngzhōu-gòngjì ‘cross (the river) together in the same boat’ being the most common one in Chinese. Others include風雨同舟 fēngyú-tóngzhōu ‘in the same boat at wind and rain’, 吳越同舟 Wúyuè-tóngzhōu etc. Another four-character expression (not necessarily a chengyu) with the same meaning is 共渡難關 gòngdù-nánguān ‘get through difficulties together’. This Chengyu was also cited by Hillary Clinton in a recent chengyu exchange between the Secretary and the Chinese Prime Minister. (I’ve written a blog entry about this, unfortunately it is in German, but I’ve linked to news stories about this in English and Chinese). This is an interesting example of context: even though literally it might just mean “two groups crossing a river together” this must usually apply to two groups originally hostile to each other. There was a debate between some pundits when Hilary Clinton used this word, since Wu and Yue go on to wage war on each after, the crossing of the river notwithstanding, and the war finally ends with one destroying the other. Does this have to be taken into consideration when using this chengyu? Some people seemed to suggest this, but for most Chinese speakers, this does not seem to be necessary. One could analyse it like this:
LITERAL MEANING: two groups cross river together in storm
NARROWER CONTEXT: two groups that are at war set aside their differences and work together.
WIDER CONTEXT: later the war continues and one group defeats the other.
It seems that in order to use this chengyu correctly, the narrower context has to be true, but the wider context can be disregarded.

Japanese: indeed has呉越同舟 goetsudōshū ‘Wu and Yue in the same boat’


官: Wú Yuè Tóng Zhoū
日: ごえつどうしゅう
朝: 오월동주


MOE Index:
同舟共濟: 20
吳越同舟:12
風雨同舟:12
同舟而濟: 1
敵國同舟: 1
同舟敵國: 1
同舟: 1
同船濟水: 1

-- From Sūn Zi (《孫子》〈九地篇〉)

2. 曲學阿世 (曲学阿世)

qūxué-āshì. ‘To compromise one’s principles in order to attain wordly gains’


Chinese: Learned Pronunciation qūxué-ēshì . However, many dictionaries also use the pronunciation given by Noir.
Japanese: indeed has 曲学阿世 kyokugakuasei.


官: Qū Xué Ā Shì
日:きょくがくあせい
朝: 곡학아세


MOE Index:
曲學阿世: 6
-- From Records of the Grand Historian, Bk. 121 "Biographies of Confucians" (《史記》 卷121 〈儒林傳〉 )

3. 背水之陣 (背水之阵)
‘fight with water on one’s back; fight to the death’
General: this chengyu involves Han Xin. There is a very similar chengyu involving Xiang Yu, 破釜沈舟 pòfŭ-chénzhōu ‘break the kettles and sink the ships’. At the battle of Julu, where Xiang Yu’s troups were outnumbered one to ten, he had the ships sunk and the kettles destroyed, leaving the troops with no more provisions than for three days, finally leading his troops to victory. This chengyu can only be applied to situations where the desperate measures taken lead to success. It would be interesting to compare it to the chengyu relating to Han Xin. As Noir gives the intepretation “conquer or be conquered” (which reminds one of another chengyu (albeit from the Song period), 你死我活 nĭsĭ-wŏhuó ‘you die, I live, i.e. to the death’).
Chinese: Mandarin usually uses 背水一戰 bèishuĭ-yīzhan ‘fight with water on the back’. Either way, the first character in the fourth tone.

Japanese: Indeed it is 背水の陣 haisui no jin
MOE Index:
背水一戰: 9
背水陣: 2
背水為陣: 1
背水而陣: 1

官: Bēi Shuǐ Zhī Zhèn
日: はいすいのじん
朝: 배수지진
-- From Records of the Grand Historian, Bk. 118 "Biography of Hán Xìn" (《史記》 卷121 〈准陰侯列傳〉)

4. 靑出於藍 (青出于蓝)

qīng chū yú lán. ‘to surpass one’s teacher’
Chinese: The Chengyu dictionaries I consulted have青出於藍,而於藍 qīng chū yú lán, ér shèng yú lán ‘blue comes from indigo, and yet wins over indigo’, which can be shortened to just the first half.
Japanese: Most dictionaries list the full和漢混交文 wakan-kankōbun version:愛は青より出でて藍より青し ai wa ao yori idete ai yori aoshi ‘blue comes from indigo and is bluer than indigo’. As Noir says, it is in fact the case that the second, ai yori aoshi, seems to be used more. This expression has alson been popularised as a title of a TV series and a comic, but as far as I understand the plot of the comic, the connection to the chengyu is quite strenuous… In Japanese, there is also a more learned expression that refers to the same chengyu:出藍の誉れshutsuran no homare ‘the honour of coming from indigo’.
官: Qīng Chū Yú Lán
日: せいしゅつおらん
朝: 청출어람

MOE Index:
青出於藍: 26
青出於藍,而勝於藍: 1

-- From Xún Zi (《荀子》,〈權學〉)

5. 巧言令色

qiăoyán-lìngsè / kōgenreishoku. ‘clever words and a deceitful face (describing people who want to appear more virtuous than they are’
(4th tone for the third character, not 2nd)
官: Qiǎo Yán Líng Sè
日: こうげんれいしょく
朝: 교언영색

MOE Index:
巧言令色: 16
令色巧言: 1
-- From Analects of Confucius Ch. I and XVII (『論語』, 學而 3, 陽貨 17)

6. 移木之信

‘trust in keeping one’s words and promises’
Chinese: I could only find this in the Taiwanese Education Ministry Dictionary, which nevertheless says that 徙木之信 xĭmù zhī xìn ‘trust of moving the true’ (徙 means ‘move’ as well) is more common. Another variant 移木立信 yímù-lìxìn ‘establish trust of moving the tree’.
Japanese: indeed 移木の信 iboku no shin.
官: Yí Mù Zhī Xìn
日: いぼくのしん
朝: 이목지신

MOE Index:
移木之信: 0
徙木為信: 1
-- From Records of the Grand Historian, Bk. 68 "Biography of Lord Shāng " (《史記》 卷68〈商君列專〉)

7. 韋編三絶 (韦编三绝)

wéibiān-sānjué. ‘study dilligently’
Japanese: either ihensanzetsu or 韋編三たび絶つihen mitabi tatsu (和漢混交文 wakan-kankōbun)
官: Wéi Biān Sān Jué
日: いへんさんぜつ
朝: 위편삼절

MOE Index:
韋編三絕: 14
絕韋編, 韋編絕: 1
三絕韋編: 1
韋編屢絕: 1

-- From Records of the Grand Historian Bk. 47 "Annals of Confucius" (《史記》 卷47 〈孔子世家〉

8. 窈窕淑女

yăotiăo-shūnǚ. ‘elegant lady; the perfect woman’

Chinese: 淑 2nd tone in Taiwan.
Japanese: Daijirin only has 窈窕 yōchō “elegant” and 淑女 shukujo ‘lady’ as two lemmas. Other 四字熟語yojijukugo resources did not have this. Daijirin however had an example with the former being marked as an adjective modifying the noun following it: 窈窕たる淑女yōchō-taru shukujo ‘elegant lady’
官: Yǎo Tiǎo Shū Nǚ
日: ようちょうしゅくじょ
朝: 요조숙녀

MOE Index:
窈窕淑女: 9
窈窕淑女,君子好逑: 1
-- From Shī Jīng, "Guān Jū" (《詩經》 〈國風〉 周南 01 "關雎")

9. 四面楚歌

sìmiàn-Chŭgē / shimen-Soka. ‘all alone in a desperate situation, beset from all sides, without being helped by anyone’
General: this of course, is one of the most famous chengyu of all time… A Japanese dictionary gives a nice definition for it: 孤立無援 koritsu muen ‘solitary and helpless’, a Chinese one gives 危急無援 wéijí-wúyuán ‘in a critical situation without help’. (Also, I personally don’t think the quote is too long, if you discuss this chengyu, how can you not mention the poem ;) )
官: Sì Miàn Chǔ Gē
日: しめんそか
朝: 사면초가

MOE Index
四面楚歌: 24
楚歌四面: 1

-- From Records of the Grand Historian Bk. 7 "Chronicle of Xiàng Yǔ (《史記》 卷7 〈項羽本紀〉)

10. 克己復禮 (克己复礼[中簡], 克己復礼[日簡])

kèjĭ-fùlĭ / kokki-fukurei. ‘overcome oneself and return to Morals (conduct oneself in accordance with Morals)’
官: Kè Jǐ Fù Lǐ
日: こっきふくれい
朝: 극기복례

MOE Index
克己復禮: 6
復禮克己: 1

-
- From Analects of Confucius 12:1 (《論語》 〈顏淵〉)

11. 讀書百遍 (读书百遍[中簡], 読書百遍[日簡])

‘read the book a hundred times, and the meaning will become clear (RTFM)’
Chinese: usually in the long form 讀書百遍,其義自見. dú shū băibiàn, qí yì zì jiàn ‘read the book a hundred times, and the meaning will become clear by itself’.
Japanese: the longer version is then rendered in和漢混交文 wakan-kankōbun as 読書百遍義自ら見られる dokusho-hyappen gi onozukara arawareru.
官: Dú Shū Bǎi Biàn
日: どくしょひゃっぺん
朝: 독서백편

MOE Index: not to be found!

-- From Sānguó Zhì, Bk. 13 "Biographies of Zhōng Yáo, Huá Xīn, Wáng Lǎng" (《三國志》卷13 〈鍾繇華歆王朗傳〉)

12. 梁上君子

liángshàng-júnzi / ryōjō no kunshi. ‘the gentleman on the roof; a thief, burglar’
Chinese: according to some sources, in Modern Mandarin this can now also mean 'a person divorced from reality'
Japanese: It is unclear if this the Japanese word retains the connotation of fanciness. Daijirin remarks that this can also be used to refer to rodents in the house.
官: Liáng Shàng Jūn Zi
日: りょうじょうのくんし
朝: 양상군자
MOE Index:
梁上君子: 19

-- From The Book of Later Hàn Bk. 62 (《後漢書》卷62 〈荀韓鍾陳列伝第五十二〉)

13. 刮目相待

‘to rub one’s eyes and see in a new light’
Chinese: in Chinese it seems to be preferred to replace the last character 待 ‘wait, treat’ with 看 ‘see’, since it makes it more semantically transparent: 刮目相看 guāmù-xiāngkàn ‘rub one’s eyes and see in a new light’. The long version is士目三日,刮目相待/看 shì mù sānrì, guā mù xiāng dāi/kàn ‘when scholars see each other after three days, they rub their eyes and see each other in a new light’. Another, more colloquial way of putting this in Chinese is 另眼相看 lìngyăn-xiāngkàn ‘see with a different eye’.
Japanese: Daijirin only has刮目 katsumoku ‘rub one’s eyes’, which can also mean ‘rub one’s eyes and see in a new light”, thus Japanese having shortened the four character combination to a two character one. Other sources suggest刮目して見る katsumoku shite miru ‘rub one’s eyes and look (anew)’ and刮目相待katsumokusōtai ‘rub one’s eyes and see in a new light’.
官: Guā Mù Xiāng Dāi
日: かつもくそうたい
朝: 괄목상대

MOE Index:
刮目相看: 15
刮目相待: 12
士別三日,刮目相看: 3
刮目視之: 1
刮目: 1
刮目相觀: 1
士別三日,即更刮目相待: 1

-- from Sānguó Zhì, Bk. 54, "Biographies of Zhōu Yú, Lǔ Sù, Lǚ Měng (《三國志》 卷54 〈周瑜魯肅呂蒙傳〉)

14. 七去之惡 (七去之恶[中簡], 七去之悪[日簡])

‘the seven evils to justify divorce’
General: neither Chinese nor Japanese sources indicated any kind of sarcastic component describing an ‘out-of-date macho’. This seems to be unique to Korean, something Noir seems to acknowledge himself.
Chinese: I could not find this in any source used. The Taiwanese Education Ministry Dictionary has 七出 qīchū defined as folllows: “一為無子,二為淫佚,三為不事舅姑,四為口舌,五為盜竊,六為妒忌,七為惡疾。” Many sources point to Korean usage, and it is in question if this phrase can be rightly said to be a 成語. 七去之惡 per se is not a term from the classic literature. This is not to say that this is not a valid concept, it certainly is.
Japanese: saru nanatsu no aku is not a phrase that occurs anywhere else online. Daijirin has 七去shichikyo and 七出shichishutsu, though.
官: Qī Qù Zhī È
日: (いえを)さるななつのあく
朝: 칠거지악

MOE Index:
七出: 1

-- From Greater Classic of Rites Ch. 39 (《大戴禮記》 〈本命〉)
15. 溫故知新 (温故知新)

wēngù-zhīxīn/ onkochishin. ‘review what has been studied and learn something new (from/through it)’
General: one of the more common chengyu in Chinese. I am a bit confused about the explanation of this chengyu though. As far as I understand, this chengyu is meant in a positive way, and most of Noir’s explanation seems to be in line with this. How does the last sentence describing the usage, ‘a part of the common classicist complaints’ fit in all this?
官: Wēn Gù Zhī Xīn
日: おんこちしん
朝: 온고지신

-- From Analects of Confucius, 2:11 (《論語》 〈爲政〉)

MOE Index:
溫故知新: 15
知新溫故: 1

16. 泣斬馬謖 (泣斩马谡)

‘to lay aside private emotions for the sake of the law’
Chinese: There is no chengyu like that in Mandarin (from what I can see, however, it is the name of a chapter in Sanguo Yanyi).
Japanese: there is a saying based on this episode (in form of 和漢混交文 wakan-kankōbun): 泣いて馬謖を斬るnaite Ba Shoku o kiru ‘Cryingly execute Ma Shu’. One pointer as to obscurity of the phrase: on this blog, kyūzanbashoku is given as an example of a question on the 1st (and most difficult) level of the 漢字検定試験Kanji kentei shiken (Kanji knowledge exam).
官: Qì Zhǎn Mǎ Sù
日: きゅうざんばしょく
朝: 읍참마속

Moe Index (even though they appear in the index, they are not in the actual MOE Chengyu dictionary):
馬謖: 15
揮淚斬馬謖: 2
渾淚斬馬謖: 1
-- From Romance of the Three Kingdoms Episode 96. (《三國演義》 第九十六回)
17. 愚公移山

Yúgōng-yíshān. ‘the Foolish Old Man moves the mountain; the determination to win victory and the courage to surmount every difficulty.
General: the Bible has a somewhat similar saying in a positive vein: faith can move mountains (Mark 11:22-24, Matthew 21:21-22)
Interestingly this chengyu was used by Mao Zedong in October 1957 during the Great Leap Forward: 愚公移山,改造中國 Yúgōng-yíshān, găizào Zhōngguó ‘Transform China in the spirit of the Foolish Old Man removed the mountains’.
Japanese: prefers the 和漢混交文 wakan-kankōbun version: 愚公山を移す gukō yama o utsusu
官: Yú Gōng Yí Shān
日: ぐこういざん
朝: 우공이산
MOE Index:
愚公移山: 20
愚公谷: 1

-- From Lièzĭ Ch. 5 (《列子》 〈湯問〉)

18. 傾國之色 (倾国之色[中簡], 傾国之色[日簡])

General: As for Western paralells, Helen of Troy comes to mind.
Chinese: usually 傾國傾城 qīngguó-qīngchéng ‘overturning country and city’ (less frequently also傾城傾國 qīngchéng-qīngguó) .
Japanese: 傾国 keikoku alone seems sufficient (and that is what Daijirin has), but webidence suggests that it usually occurs in a collocation like 傾国の美女/人keikoku no bijo/jin ‘beautiful woman overturning the country’、not necessarily傾国の色 keikoku no iro ‘colour overturning the country’.
官: Qīng Guó Zhī Sè
日: けいこくのいろ
朝: 경국지색

MOE Index:
傾國傾城: 18
傾城傾國: 9
一顧傾城,再顧傾國: 3
傾國: 1
-- From the Poetry of Lǐ Yánnián

19. 胡蝶之夢 (蝴蝶之梦)

‘butterfly dream (What is the Matrix?)’
Chinese: The word for butterfly in Modern Mandarin, both traditional and simplified scripts, is written 蝴蝶, however in Classical texts and Japanese it is written 胡蝶. Now as far as the chengyu goes, Mandarin uses 莊周夢蝶 Zhuāngzhou-mèngdié ‘Zhuangzi dreams of a butterfly.
Japanese: it is 胡蝶の夢 kochō no yume。
官: Hú Dié Zhī Mèng
日: こちょうのゆめ
朝: 호접지몽

MOE Index:
莊周夢蝶: 1
夢裡蝴蝶: 1
莊生夢蝶: 1
夢為胡蝶: 1
-- From Zhuāngzǐ (《莊子》〈齊物論〉)

20. 他山之石

tashān zhī shí. ‘to learn from the mistakes of others’.
Chinese:他山之石,可以攻玉 tāshān zhī shí, kĕ yĭ gōng yù ‘Stones from other hills can be used to polish the jade of this one’ or他山之石,可以為錯 tāshān zhī shí, kĕ yĭ wéi cuò ‘Stones from other hills can be used as grindstone (錯)’ Probably because 錯 also means ‘mistake’, there is also a mixed version: 他山之石,可以攻錯tāshān zhī shí, kĕ yĭ gōng cuò; also shorter 他山攻錯 tāshān-gōngcuò. Sometimes the first character is rendered as 它 and given the reading pronunciation tuō.
Japanese: both a short version and a long version exist: 他山の石 tazan no ishi, 他山の石以って玉を攻むべし tazan no ishi o motte tama o osamu beshi, which is a和漢混交文 wakan-kankōbun version of 他山之石,可以攻玉 (with 可read as beshi)。
官: Tā Shān Zhī Shí
日: たざんのいし
朝: 타산지석

MOE Index:
他山之石: 11
他山之攻: 2
他山之石,可以攻玉: 2
他山之石,可以攻錯: 1
他山: 1
它山之石: 1

-- From Shī Jīng (《詩經》 〈鶴鳴〉)

21. 漱石枕流

1. ‘to live in reclusion’ 2. ‘unwilling to admit mistakes, engaging in sophistry’
Japanese: this is usually read in和漢混交文 wakan-kankōbun fashion: 石に漱ぎ流れに枕す ishi ni kuchisusugi nagare ni makurasu ‘brush with stones and make the stream one’s pillow’. sōsekichinryū exists as well. In Japanese this has indeed the meaning of sophistry.
Chinese: While the Japanese saying has the meaning of sophistry, the Chinese dictionaries do not have any of this, merely having the meaning intended by Sun Chu, namely “to live in reclusion”. What’s even more interesting, in Chinese there are several variations of this, which mean all the same thing, regardless if they are reflecting Sun Chu’s mistake or the correct intended version: 漱石枕流 shùshí-zhĕnliú ‘brush with stones and make the stream one’s pillow’, 漱流枕石 shùliú-zhĕnshí ‘brush with flowing water and make the stones one’s pillow’,枕流漱石 zhĕnliú-shùshí ‘make the stream one’s pillow and brush with stones’, 枕石漱流 zhĕnshí-shùliú ‘make the stones one’s pillow and brush with flowing water’.
官: Shù Shí Zhěn Liú
日: そうせきちんりゅう
朝: 수석침류

MOE Index:
枕流漱石: 6
枕石漱流: 4
枕岩漱流: 1
漱流枕石: 1
沈流漱石: 1

-- From Book of Jìn Bk. 56 "Biographies of Jiāng Tǒng and Sūn Chǔ" 《晉書》〈江統 孫楚傳〉

22. 日日新

‘constant renewal, daily progress’
Chinese: this is known as 日新 rìxīn ‘every day anew’ or sometimes also as日新又新 rìxīn-yòuxīn ‘day after day anew’, but not as 日日新.
Japanese: indeed uses日日新which is read as hibi ni arata nari.
General: Neither the Chinese nor the Japanese sources mention a usage “in a moral sermon telling people to change their bad habits”, but rather refer to “constant renewal” or “daily progress”. For me there’s quite a leap from people trying to constantly renew themselves, improving themselves to ‘daily reminder of changing their bad habits’.
官: Rì Rì Xīn
日: ひびにあらたなリ
朝: 일일신

MOE Index:
日新又新: 1
日日新,又日新: 1

-- from Great Learning (大學)

23. 緣木求魚

‘seek fish in a tree: a useless search, a futile attempt’
General: there are some nice sayings in English: cannot get blood from a stone; milk the bull; seek roses in December; wring water from a flint.
Chinese: Normally 緣木求魚 yuánmù-qiúyú ‘to climb a tree in search of fish’, but there is also a variant with the order reversed: 求魚緣木 qiúyú-yuánmù ‘to search for fish and climb a tree’, and another variant 緣山求魚 yuánshān-qiúyú ‘to climb a mountain in search of fish’. Chengyu with similar meaning: 刻舟求劍 kèzhōu-qiújiàn ‘carve the boat marking where the sword was dropped’ (Chunqiu), 水中撈月 shuĭzhōng-lāoyuè ‘fish for the moon in the water’ (Song era).
Japanese: The Japanese uses 和漢混交文 wakan-kankōbun: 木に縁りて魚を求むki ni yorite uo o motomu. (uo is an alternative term for “fish”)
官: Yuán Mù Qiú Yú
日: きによりてさかなをもとむ
朝: 연목구어

MOE Index:
緣木求魚: 23
求魚緣木: 2
-- From Mencius (《孟子》 〈梁惠王上〉)

24. 率獸食人 (率兽食人[中簡], 率獣食人[日簡])

shuàishòu-shírén. ‘to lead beasts to have them eat people (describing tyrannical and despotic rule)’
Chinese: a nice four-character definition from the Taiwanese Education Ministry dictionary: 虐政害民 nüèzhèng-hàimín ‘tyrannical rule harming the people’.
Japanese: This is not in the Daijirin, but webidence suggests the Japanese is as follows: 獣を率いて人を食ましむるなり kemono o hikiite hito o hamashimuru nari ‘to lead beasts to have them eat people’ (食むhamu is an old verb for “eat”).
官: Shuài Shòu Shí Rén
日: けものをひきいてひとをしょくしむ
朝: 솔수식인

MOE Index:
率獸食人: 10
-- From Mencius (《孟子》, 〈梁惠王上〉)

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Re: Quotable Chéngyǔ

Postby Karavinka » 2009-05-08, 20:02

@krix

First of all, thank you for the input. I really appreciate your research on the subject.

The project was aimed to be accessible across all three CJK countries, and this is why I did not spend much space on the modern usage of them - like all other proverbs, there are many variants and the usage in one country may differ from another and I obviously lack the ability to do this especially with regarding Modern Mandarin, so my decision was to focus on the original context of Classical Chinese as the shared ground - hence I ignored the local variants which may or may not be more commonly used. Hence, one Chengyu that is popular in one linguistic-discoursive context may be absolutely obscure in another (such as 泣斬馬謖 in Mandarin).

Your comment on whether 七去之惡 can be validly considered as a Chengyu makes sense (although it is in Korean context), and the Japanese Kanbun rendering is mine and in fact, if you search for the keyword in Japanese, then the webidence would probably favour the phonetics in Katakanised Korean (as a movie title). I may consider omitting this entry altogether.

The comment on "溫故知新" as a complaint was as in complaining people "not knowing 溫故知新," and the "sophistry" explanation of 漱石枕流 is, I believe, apparently justifiable based on the original context in which it was found.

Although I am currently unable to work on the project, I'd like to incorporate your inputs in a more polished version after I finish drafting the first copy on the forum. What do you think?
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Re: Quotable Chéngyǔ

Postby krix » 2009-05-09, 22:50

Hi Noir,

sure thing, when I wrote this, I created a Word document having both your explanations and my comments. Perhaps I can email that to you, or per PM if the PM function allows for adding attachments. I agree it would be really nice to make a nice little brochure out of it "24 Classical Chinese Idioms" (or whatever number, though I think 108 is a bit much, but as far as your allusion to the number goes, it's from 水滸傳 right?).

re 七去之惡: ACK. I was aware that you weren't focusing on modern usage. I just added my comments because I am, especially when speaking Mandarin. (as I said it's mostly out of the question when using Japanese, it comes off as way too 堅苦しい. What about Korean? My command of Korean is not really that great, but I assume it would be about the same, or maybe even worse? I guess while Japanese still can figure out the meaning of some through the script, that might now constitute a bigger barrier for most Koreans nowadays.)

re sophistry: I'm not disputing what you said. And I'm sure that was the morale of the story as told in the source. All I'm saying is it didn't catch on enough in Chinese usage that it survived until modern times. It also doesn't belong to the most popular chengyu in Chinese by any means. I guess we could ask native speakers what they think, but I would be surprised if they said something different from the dictionary (the MOE Chengyu dictionary has nice explanations for a core number of approx. 5000 chengyu, but 枕流漱石 is not among them, there is only a definition in the appendix)

Just one more example I came across just recently: 梁上君子 according to one Chinese dictionary can now also mean "a person divorced from reality", so this might be a separate development as well (though the MOE dictionaries don't have this).

Also one more thing: it seems rather hard to pinpoint an exact source for 傾國. I have conflicting references. One even gives the Shijing.

哲夫成城、哲婦傾城。
懿厥哲婦、為梟為鴟。
婦有長舌、維厲之階。
亂匪降自天、生自婦人。
匪教匪誨、時維婦寺。

A wise man builds up the wall [of a city],
But a wise woman overthrows it.
Admirable may be the wise woman,
But she is [no better than] an owl.
A woman with a long tongue,
Is [like] a stepping-stone to disorder.
[Disorder] does not come down from heaven; -
It is produced by the woman.
Those from whom come no lessons, no instruction,
Are women and eunuchs.


though I guess it's not so much about beautiful women (and quite mysogynic I might add).

Another dictionary gave the source as 越絕書. This was quite interesting for me, since I was looking for Chengyu associated with the various states from the pre-Qin era. The source is of course from Later Han and as such post-dates the poet you give as source, but it addresses events that happened way earlier. It's also quite nice I think.

The explanation from the MOE Chengyu dictionary:
《越絕書》記此事,慨嘆夫差不信伍子胥而聽信太宰嚭的讒言,這就好像昔日晉獻公受驪姬迷惑,使得眾叛親離,種下晉國衰敗的禍根;亦猶如過去周幽王縱容褒姒,以致失信於群臣,使犬戎得以入侵。


So King Fuchai of Wu, when he finally is about to defeated by King Goujian of Yue, sighs why back in the day he didn't listen to a government official cherished by his father, whose name was Wu Zixu, but listened to the treacherous Pi instead, who also drove Wu Zixu into committing suicide (according to some, it is the death of Wu Zixu that is commemorated during the Dragon Boat festival and not Qu Yuan's, but who knows). Interestingly, Chancellor Pi is likened to two famous femmes fatales in the history of the Zhou Dynasty, namely Bao Si, who drove King You of Zhou into ruin (it's a story akin to "the boy who cried wolf") (and ultimately leading to the nomads destroying the Zhou capital, forcing them to move their capital eastwards) and Li Ji, who succeeded in enticing Duke Xian of Jin to exile his principal wife and the children from this relationship, but whose constant meddling then led to a rebellion (驪姫の乱), after which one of the exiled sons by the name of Chong'er became one of the Five Hegemons, known as Duke Wen of Jin.

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Re: Quotable Chéngyǔ

Postby Karavinka » 2009-05-11, 15:20

I guess we can request creating a page on Unilang main website. I once talked about this with proycon, to include it in the "resources" section under "articles" - and if you have the word file, then it would be better to find someone else with a better technical skills to write up the HTML version (I cannot). The number 108 in 水滸傳 is itself an allusion to the Buddhist significance of the number - 108 human emotions/sentiments/sufferings/whatever which torments us in the secular life. (百八煩惱) You're right that 108 is probably too big a number but the symbolism behind it is quite appropriate, and it's my intention to end the series with the very 百八煩惱 in the long run. (Hey, I'm not in any rush.)

Although I eventually want to expand this to this number, creating a part 1 with the current 24 would be a good idea, with the title like "Quotable Chengyu Part 1" or something like that. (Or I can work on three more and make 4 parts of 27s) Any ideas?

As for 傾國 - yes, I noticed different versions of it (not surprising, since it's a commonly usable phrase rather than something based on a specific story) but chose simply one which seemed to best illustrate it. The Shi Jing reference is interesting, and perhaps we can include it as another possible source?
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Re: Quotable Chéngyǔ

Postby svld » 2009-05-11, 15:31


krix
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Re: Quotable Chéngyǔ

Postby krix » 2009-05-11, 19:21

Noir,

as I also just told you by PM, I don't want to second-guess your choice of chengyu in any way, but if we were to create some kind of resources on unilang, I'd propose several kinds of chengyu overviews, according to several different perspectives.

For instance,

- the 37 chengyu frequently used in Modern Mandarin according to the Taiwanese MOE (I would put it to native speakers first though, how frequent those really are). The problem with Mandarin, of course, is that usually the lists of frequently used chengyu at least have a couple of hundred "basic" chengyu, which would be overwhelming.
- the 39 most important yojijukugo according to that study guide for Japanese high school students I have.

maybe one could also have other overviews according to topic or whatever, like chengyu having animals, chengyu alluding to human emotion etc, the Sinophone internet is full with lists like those. One of interest to me would be chengyu referring to specific states from the Spring and Autumn and Warring States Period. I mean basically you could create dozens of different lists according to your own taste and predilection.

Also in a slightly different vein, on the German language blog on chinesepod.com I've started writing a weekly column on chengyu. My approach there is to first explain the background of each chengyu I present, but also use the chengyu to illustrate certain principles that are important for them, like 虎口餘生 to say that you can't just randomly subsitute the first character with 狼 or 豹 or whatever other ferocius animal you can think of. Since I just started I don't have enough feedback yet to know if people actually value that kind of approach but I believe it might be beneficial to the language learner.. So given sufficient interest, it might be something for unilang as well....

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Re: Quotable Chéngyǔ

Postby krix » 2009-05-11, 19:27

noir wrote:As for 傾國 - yes, I noticed different versions of it (not surprising, since it's a commonly usable phrase rather than something based on a specific story) but chose simply one which seemed to best illustrate it. The Shi Jing reference is interesting, and perhaps we can include it as another possible source?

Hehe, the Shijing is fine, but as you might know by now, I'd be quite partial to the story of King Fuchai of :wink: but to each his own of course...

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Re: Quotable Chéngyǔ

Postby sennacherib » 2009-06-14, 2:41

I'm not so familiar with some of the quotes though I use them at times.
Moving on...

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Re: Quotable Chéngyǔ

Postby papsi2010 » 2009-06-16, 17:34

sennacherib wrote:I'm not so familiar with some of the quotes though I use them at times.


me too, some of those i've never used.
Learning English

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azhong chengyu

Postby azhong » 2012-05-26, 2:44

(Hi karavinka, I hope you don't mind that we, following your topic, use this thread to have some more posts about 成語. And expect your coming back soon to continue approaching your goal, 108 成語s, and to help us learn Chinese.)

1. Naji introduced a Chinese character, ,with which I associated a 成語.
  (a) 令人髮指
 (1) What does these four characters mean respectively?
 (2) What's thus the literal meaning of this phrase?
 (3) What's then the derived meaning of this phrase?
 (4) Using this phrase to make some sentence(s).

1.1 成語s are originally phrases from ancient Chinese and become idioms later, thus much more difficult for Chinese beginners. As a first example please let me try (1) and (2), and make a sentence example for (4).

1.2
令 人 髮 指
(1) make/let person head.hair to.point
(2) make a person's hair pointing upward.
(3) ?
(4) 那個殺人犯 連續 殺了 三十七個 跟他 無冤無仇的 陌生路人,這行爲 實在是 令人髮指 啊。

1.3 (3) is lefted as a dictionary/guess game for friends interested. And those who have interest can post sentence(s) they make in the thread "請糾正我的中文", if their sentences prefer some comments or correcttions.

2. As a game with your dictionary, three more 成語s are left here, and your questions, if any, can response here or in another thread, "Questions about Chinese".
 (b) 一髮千鈞, or 千鈞一髮
 (c) 白髮人送黑髮人 (this one is actually just a modern idiom and thus easier)
 (d) 結髮夫妻

(And if anyone have interest to study together phrases (b) and (c), perhaps he will have some feelings in word order and we can discuss it in "Questions with Chinese".)
3. (And would anyone share later more phrases or idioms with 髮?)


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