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

Finding a Lost Sword 刻舟求剑

Time:2014-11-29Source:Internet
Profile:Finding a Lost Sword 刻舟求剑
(单词翻译:双击或拖选)
The Chinese idiom 刻舟求剑 (ke4 zhou1 qiu2 jian4) literally means finding a lost sword by marking the gunwale of a moving boat.

The story behind this saying is about a man in the State of Chu who was crossing a river in a boat. His sword accidentally slipped from its sheath into the water. The man loved the sword and wanted to get it back. Suddenly having a brain wave, he took a small knife from his pocket and made a mark on the side of the boat (the gunwale) wher he had dropped the sword. He said to his puzzled companions,

I have made a mark here to remind me wher my sword fell into the water. Later on I will be able to retrieve my sword by looking at the location of the mark.

When the boat eventually docked at the other side of the river, the man jumped quickly into the river to retrieve his lost sword. Of course this was a waste of time (劳民伤财 lao2 ming2 shang1 cai2) - rather stupidly, he had not realised that while the boat was moving the lost sword was not.

The moral behind the story is that it is important to take into consideration changes in the circumstances and to adapt appropriately to those changes. This is a key concept for the Chinese and every school pupil in China has it drilled into them from an early age.

I have been unable to think of an equivalent English expression for this Chinese idiom. Please feel free to contact us if you think you know an English idiom or proverb that expresses a similar sentiment to 刻舟求剑 (ke4 zhou1 qiu2 jian4).
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