Yinstring and Yangtwine

禍福は糾える縄の如し
(Kafuku wa azanaeru nawa no gotoshi;
“Good and ill fortune are entwined like (the strands of) a rope”)

Definition:

Good luck and bad luck are intimately and inextricably connected; you can’t have only one or the other. Every cloud has a silver lining and every windfall sets you up for a fall. Success leads to failure and vice versa. Life is full of ups and downs.

Breakdown:

We begin with the noun 禍福 (kafuku) – the former character means “calamity,” and the latter, “good luck,” so the compound noun encompasses both good and back fortune, weal and woe. This cosmic noun is marked as the topic of discussion by the particle は (wa).

The comment centers around the adjective 如し (gotoshi), “like,” “the same as,” which the associative particle の (no) attaches to the noun 縄 (nawa), “rope,” which in turn is described by the verb 糾う (azanau), “to twist (something).” This verb appears in imperative form to allow the addition of perfective suffix り (ri), which in turn appears in prenominal form in order to attach to the noun nawa. This structure means that the hope has been twisted and remains in that state, equivalent to the modern ~ている conjugation.

Notes:

This saying is derived from our friend the Records of the Grand Historian (史記, Shiki in Japanese).

Example sentence:

「工事のせいで遠回りしないといけなかったけど、おかげで道端で百円玉を二枚も見つけたから、自販機でこのロイヤルミルクティーが買えたよ。禍福は糾える縄の如しとはこのことだね」

(“Kouji no sei de toomawari shinai to ikenakatta kedo, okage de michibata de hyakuendama wo nimai mo mistuketa kara, jihanki de kono roiyaru miruku tii ga kaeta yo. Kafuku wa azanaeru nawa no gotoshi to wa kono koto da ne.”)

[“Because of construction I had to take the long way around, but thanks to that I found two hundred-yen coins on the roadside and so I could buy this Royal Milk Tea. This is what they mean when they say good luck and bad luck are intertwined!”]

About Confanity

I love the written word more than anything else I've had the chance to work with. I'm back in the States from Japan for grad school, but still studying Japanese with the hope of becoming a translator -- or writer, or even teacher -- as long as it's something language-related.
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