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July 23, 2010

While I’m learning Indonesian, Chinese (learning more new chen yu 成语 every day), and doing the usual teaching, jogging/swimming everyday, here’s a phrase I learned that I’d like to share:  圣人千虑

  • 圣人 — sage (not the herb), saint, virtuous person
  • 千虑 — thousand worries
Huh?  So the four characters (words?) mean “sage has a thousand worries”, lah?  Make no sense.
No.  That’s not what it meant.  It’s part of an idiom that goes: “圣人千虑,必有一失”.
  • 必有 — definitely got
  • 一失 — One miss (one mistake)
So, no matter how perfect you are, you’ll still make a mistake.  I saw the more common version that goes:  智者千虑,必有一失, where 智者 refers to “knowledgeable person”.  To sum it up, the British would just say “Nobody’s perfect”.  Dunno why the Chinese have to refer to sage, saint, intellectuals and righteous person.  (One person said Singlish beats British English being more efficient, now we have, at least for this, British English beating Chinese in efficiency.  )
The Japanese has a better way to put it (and this saying is popular amongst school children):  猿も木から落ちる (Saru mo ki kara ouchiru )
  • 猿 —  monkeys or apes
  • 木 — tree  (kara から actually means from)
  • 落ちる — fall down

So “even monkeys do fall down from a tree”, so again, nobody’s perfect.

Actually I lied, the phrase that I’ll like to share is: “圣人千虑, 必有一失;愚者千虑,必有一得。”
愚者 (stupid person)    得 (got)


One Comment
  1. Vicky permalink


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