This story is a little odd, because the idiom 一暴十寒 means “ONE day of sun, TEN days of frost”, but the story references TEN days of sun and TEN days of frost – “one day of sun” is never mentioned. Which calls the whole “story behind the idiom” thing into question. Surely, some of the stories are truly historical, and have stayed with the Chinese people over several thousand years. Some are probably very very recent.
Now, I spent a summer as an editor assistant in an educational publishing house in Beijing, and I can tell you a lot of these “historical stories” (when they’re used as language exercises, anyway) are just kind of made up to fit the word count needed.
I was recently reading “Taoism: The Parting of the Way” by Holmes Welch, and he mentions an interesting phenomenon in Chinese scholarly history: several thousand years ago, some Chinese scholars or philosophers who wanted to get their ideas widely disseminated would write a book, then put the name of a dead but well-respected philosopher on it, and claim they had found a lost work by the other philosopher. Very clever, but it does confuse the historical record a bit.
These types of stories should be treated similarly – in many cases it’s impossible to tell where they came from. Sometimes there is a real historical tie-in to an old text, sometimes it’s all apocryphal – basically an urban legend. So, who knows if this idiom what made up my Mencius, made up by a scholar pretending to be Mencius, or made up by a school teacher to help students remember the text – either way, it’s a nice (and short) little blurb.
Click to Listen
战国 – zhàn guó – Warring States Period (around 475 BC to 221 BC)
孟轲 – mèng kē – Mencius’ full name
孟子 – mèng zi – Mencius’ common name
善于 – shàn yù – To be good at
指责 – zhǐ zé – Point the finger, criticize
阴冷 – yīn lěng – Gloomy and cold
生命力- shēn mìng lì – Vitality
少之甚少 – shǎo zhī shén shǎo – Less and less