Daily Chinese Proverb: Blessing In Disguise

Posted by Charlie @ Discovering Mandarin Sunday, 18 October 2009
This Chinese proverb comes with a fine story, about a wise man. It comes to mean a blessing in disguise. When smething bad happens, we must look for the good that follows. Equally when something great happens, we must be ready for something bad to happen as a consequence. Things are comparitive; the good comes with the bad.

塞翁失马. 焉知非福.
Sài ​wēng ​shī ​mǎ​. yān​ zhī ​fēi ​fú​.
The old man at the frontier lost his horse. How do you know it is not a blessing?
(the horse eventually came back bringing another fine horse with it)

Near China's northern borders lived a man well versed in the practices of Taoism. His horse, for no reason at all, got into the territory of the northern tribes. Everyone commiserated with him.

"Perhaps this will soon turn out to be a blessing," said his father.

After a few months, his animal came back, leading a fine horse from the north. Everyone congratulated him.

"Perhaps this will soon turn out to be a cause of misfortune," said his father.

Since he was well-off and kept good horses his son became fond of riding and eventually broke his thigh bone falling from a horse. Everyone commiserated with him.

"Perhaps this will soon turn out to be a blessing," said his father.

One year later, the northern tribes started a big invasion of the border regions. All able-bodied young men took up arms and fought against the invaders, and as a result, around the border nine out of ten men died. This man's son did not join in the fighting because he was crippled and so both the boy and his father survived.


Story source: http://choyshinglin.xanga.com
Photo souce: Flickr
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  1. Puerhan Says:
  2. 塞翁失马 - sài Wēng Shīmǎ
    焉知非福 - yān zhī fēi fú

    I think you need to include the second half of this proverb also!

    The story is also used in Buddhism to emphasize that we can't always know the immediate results of something, and therefore shouldn't get over excited when apparently good things happen nor over worried when apparently bad things happen.

    I have a lovely version of the story in one of my son's pictures books: Zen Shorts.

  3. Thanks ever so much for that. I have added it becuase you are right it does need the addition.

    I didn't realise that you had a son at all. How old?

    Also note 福 fú is the character I use in my logo. :)

  4. Puerhan Says:
  5. 不客气。今年我的儿子是八岁。

    I did note the 福 :-)


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