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Chinese idiom: 半途而废 (give up halfway)

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The idiom 半途而废 (bàn tú ér fèi): Literally 'Halfway along the road and abandoning [your task].' The original story can be found in《后汉书》, hou han shu 'The Book of Later Han'.

成语“半途而废”,字面意思为路走到一半,或任务未完成就停了下来。该典故出自《后汉书》。


Once upon a time, this time specifically being the Eastern Han Dynasty, in what is now Henan province, there lived a man named Yue Yangzi 乐羊子. Although Yue Yangzi did not have high ambitions in life, he had taken a virtuous and sensible wife. One day, he came upon a block of gold, and he happily took it home. His wife told him angrily, "I heard ambitious people don't drink stolen water, honest people don't accept other people's food. This gold belonged to someone else, we should work hard to earn such a treasure!" On hearing her words, Yue Yangzi was very ashamed and discarded the piece of gold.

东汉时,在河南郡有一个名叫乐羊子的人。他没有什么雄心壮志,但却有一位聪明贤惠的妻子。有一天,他在路上看到一块金子便兴高采烈地拾回家。他妻子生气地说“我听说有志向的人不喝盗来的水,正直的人不吃他人施舍的食物,这块金子是属于他人的财产,我们应该通过自己的辛勤劳动去创造财富”。乐羊子听了妻子这番话之后,感觉非常羞愧,于是就扔了那块金子。


This event highlighted that Yue Yangzi really needed to learn more about how things were done. On advice from a friend and with his wife's approval, he found a teacher and began his studies.

这件事表明乐羊子确实需要学习如何做事情。听了朋友的建议并经过妻子的同意后,他出去寻师求学。


One year later, Yue Yangzi returned home. His wife knelt before him and asked whether he had finished his studies. Yue Yangzi replied that he had missed her and come home. On hearing this, his wife jumped up, grabbed a sword, went over to her loom, and cut the piece of cloth there in half. She said, "Silk comes from silk worm cocoons. I have weaved it together thread by thread. Now I have cut it in half and wasted all my own time. Studying is like this. If you come home without finishing, you will have wasted the time you spent there every day."

 一年之后,乐羊子归来。他妻子跪在他面前问他是否已完成学业。他回答说因为想她,所以回家了。妻子听后,立刻站起来,拿起一把刀,走到她的织布机前把布割成两半。她说:“丝帛产自蚕茧, 我一根丝一根丝地把它织起来,现在我把它割成两半,我之前付出的时间全都浪费了。读书也是这样,如果你没有完成学业就归来,你原来用于学习的时间也都白白浪费了”。


Yue Yangzi felt ashamed again and returned to his studies. After seven years he completed them.

乐羊子又一次感到极其惭愧,于是继续去完成学业。七年之后学成归来。


Nobody knows the name of the wife, but she has gone down in history as a model of virtue. The story goes on to tell how when Yue Yangzi is attacked by robbers his wife saves them, again by grabbing a sword and threatening them. So while the moral of the story is supposedly 'Don't give up halfway', one might also be inclined to think the bigger message is 'Always listen to your wife'.

没有人知道这位妻子的名字,但她却因其美德名留青史。故事还讲述了当乐羊子被劫时他的妻子如何拔剑威胁劫匪、解救丈夫。这个故事启示人们切勿半途而废,同时,还传递了一条更重要的信息:“要时刻听从妻子的话”。

2016-06-21

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