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Current Location: Homepage » Basic Chinese » Chinese Words & phrases » Main Body

A Snake in the Wine 杯弓蛇影

Time:2014-11-29Source:Internet
Profile:A Snake in the Wine 杯弓蛇影
(单词翻译:双击或拖选)
The Chinese idiom 杯弓蛇影 (bei1 gong1 she2 ying3) literally means mistake the reflection of a bow in the cup for a snake. It comes from a story (written by by Huang Zunxian in the Qing Dynasty) about a county magistrate called Ying Bin (应郴) who lived during the Han Dynasty (206BC-220AD).

One summer day, Ying Bin invited a government official called Du Xuan (杜宣) to come to his house to drink wine. On the north wall of the room wher they sat hung a red bow. Due to the particular time of the day, the light coming through the window caused a reflection of this bow to appear in the middle of Du Xuan's wine goblet. Du Xuan mistook the reflection for a squirming snake. Although Du Xuan wasscared stiff, he dared not turn down the hospitality of his superior. So, he closed his eyes and drank the wine believing that he was also swallowing a snake. When Du Xuan returned home later that day, he was experiencing chest and stomach pain. The pain was so severe that he could hardly eat and drink any more. He sent for the doctor, but nothing the doctor tried could reduce the pain.

A couple of days later, Ying Bin visited Du Xuan and asked him what had caused him to become so ill. Du told him about the snake in the wine. Ying thought this was odd, yet he was unable to think of any other explanation. Ying stayed with Du for a while, then bid him farewell and headed for home. As he came through his front door, some light reflected off the red bow on the north wall caught his eye. Suddenly, he realised what had happened to Du Xuan.

Ying immediately sent his man to fetch Du. He seated him wher he sat before and offered him another cup of wine. Again, Du saw the snake-like shadow. But Ying was able to quell Du's fears by pointing out to him that the "snake" in the cup was nothing more than a reflection of the bow on the north wall. Immediately following this revelation, Du's illness miraculously disappeared!

Today, Chinese people use the idiom杯弓蛇影 (bei1 gong1 she2 ying3) to describe someone who is being overly suspicious or paranoid about something. I have not been able to think of an equivalent English idiom. If you think you might have one, please contact me.
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