Tag Archives: Chinese Antiquity

Weighed in the balance and found offering

論功行賞ron.kou.kou.shou Literally: discourse – achievement – conduct – reward Alternately: Awarding honors, prizes, or praise based on someone’s work and achievements. The meritocratic ideal. Notes: This phrase comes to us from the “Book of Wei” in the Records of the … Continue reading

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All in one basket, no less

累卵の危うき(Ruiran no ayauki;“The peril of a pile of eggs”) Definition: An especially unstable and dangerous situation. Potential downfall and ruin. Breakdown: We begin with the compound noun 累卵 (ruiran), literally a “pile of eggs.” This is joined by the associative … Continue reading

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From Abe no Seimei to Naruto

And everything in between 陰陽五行in.you.go.gyou Literally: shadow / yin – sunlight / yang – five – go Alternately: The dual principles of yin and yang, and the five elements (wood, fire, earth, metal, and water), that supposedly form and regulate … Continue reading

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Mooning over those who are absent

風月玄度fuu.getsu.gen.taku Literally: wind – moon – (mysterious) – (degree) Alternately: Thinking of someone you haven’t seen in a long time; missing a good friend due to long separation. By extension, thinking about or even mourning the death of someone exceptional. … Continue reading

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A shot, but not in the dark

Completely ignoring the phantom dog (Today I got my second covid vaccine! “Injection” in Japanese is 注射, chuusha, so please enjoy this four-character compound containing 射.) 射石飲羽sha.seki.in.u Literally: shoot – stone – drink – feather Alternately: If you throw yourself … Continue reading

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Seven is just the beginning!

子子孫孫shi.shi.son.son Literally: child – child – grandchild – grandchild Alternately: One’s children and grandchildren; one’s descendants; posterity; until the end of history. Notes: Each repeated character may be written with the repetition mark 々; the second 孫 (in either form) … Continue reading

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A lance where your chin should be

枕戈待旦 chin.ka.tai.tan Literally: pillow – “spear”* – wait – sunrise Alternately: Always ready to give battle. Never dropping your guard or slacking off from necessary preparations. “Sleeping with a weapon as your pillow, awaiting the break of dawn.” Notes: This … Continue reading

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Touch and touch and touch and touch and touch and touch and touch and touch and touch and go

九死一生 kyuu.shi.i-.sshou Literally: nine – die – one – live Alternately: To somehow survive a very seriously dangerous situation. To be alive after escaping a 90% chance of dying. Notes: This comes to us from the Chu Ci, aka the … Continue reading

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Soldiers are for war, not for peaceful protests

(Another saying that features 焉. Next week we’ll have something different, I promise.) 鶏を割くに焉んぞ牛刀を用いん (Niwatori wo saku ni izukunzo gyuutou wo mochiin; “Why use a cow-cleaver to cut up a chicken?”) Definition: There’s no need to use powerful tools, or … Continue reading

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Ambition is for the birds

燕雀安くんぞ鴻鵠の志を知らんや (Enjaku izukunzo koukoku no kokorozashi wo shiran ya; “How could the swallow or sparrow understand the goose or swan?”) Definition: People of lowly character or small ability don’t, and can’t, understand the thought processes and ambitions of those with … Continue reading

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