Story Behind the Idiom: 一暴十寒 – Temporary diligence followed by laziness

This short tale addresses the background story behind the Chinese idiom 一暴十寒, which literally translates to “One day of sun, ten days of frost”, and which means “to bust butt for a little while and then get lazy”, or “to only work for a short time and then fail”. The story below really applies to the latter meaning. Though this is categorized as advanced, upper-intermediate readers could surely tackle this.




Show English translation »
During the Warring States Period, there was a man named Meng Ke [Mencius], who everyone called MengZi. Menzi was very good at creating analogies to foster discussion. 

At that time, there was a person who criticized Mencius for not trying harder to help the King of Qi. Mencius explained plainly, saying, “Take this as an example: there are some plants that live well on this earth [lit: under heaven], but if you take them and put them in the sun for a day, then you take them and put them in the gloom and cold to freeze for ten days, even if their vitality is strong they’re still going to die. My opportunities to see the King of Qi have been less and less, so even if I give him some good influence and help, as soon as I leave, some people that don’t advocate the same things I do will influence him negatively. [That being the case,] how can I improve the quality of the King of Qi’s thinking?”

1 reply on “Story Behind the Idiom: 一暴十寒 – Temporary diligence followed by laziness”

Nice and provocative story. But one might question the teacher yet further and ask whether there is in fact a qualitative difference between his advice and that of the other “counselors”? Or, doesn’t he have confidence in a person’s ability to perceive quality advice? Or, is he just expressing a common frustration of very smart people–that others don’t listen to them/us? On a vocabulary note, my dictionary has 暴 as “bao”; with the “mouth” radical and same basic character (I can’t find the symbol on Google translate, but it is in the Oxford Dictionary–) as “pu”–

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