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Chinese Idiom: 纸上谈兵 (zhǐshàngtánbīng) Armchair Strategy

Mar. 9, 2016

Armchair Strategy

The Chinese idiom "纸上谈兵(zhǐshàngtánbīng) armchair strategy" refers to people who engage in idle talk, but are unable to act on their high minded theories. It is usually used to urge people to combine theories with practical knowledge and not be bookworms. Let's read about the origin of the idiom below.

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Key Learning Point (Preview):

纸上谈兵 (zhǐshàngtánbīng): armchair strategy


Listen to the whole story


Zhàoguó jiāngjūn Zhào Kuò cóng xiǎo jiù xuéxí bīngfǎ, tánlùn bīngshì.
赵国         将军      赵     括    从     小  就  学习  兵法, 谈论    兵事。
The general Zhao Kuo of Zhao Dynasty studied military strategy and tactics from childhood.


Dàn tā zhǐhuì zhǐshàng lùn bīngshù, cóng méi shàng guò zhànchǎng,
但    他 只会    纸 上     论   兵术,    从    没     上      过      战场,      
bìng bú shànyú yòng bīng.

并    不    善于     用     兵。
But he could only talk about military strategies on paper; he never went to the battlefield. So he was not good at the art of war.


Dāng Zhào Kuò zuòle jiāngjūn yǐhòu, quánbù biàngēngle jūnfǎ, qīngshuài de rènyòng jūnguān.
当        赵    括   做了   将军      以后,全部     变更了       军法, 轻率      地   任用      军官。
When Zhao Kuo became a general, he changed all the military laws and appointed officers thoughtlessly.


Jiéguǒ zài zhùmíng de "Chángpíngzhīzhàn" zhōng, Zhào Kuò de jūnduì dàbài.
结果     在   著名     的   "长平之战"               中,    赵     括   的  军队   大败。
As a result, Zhao Kuo's army suffered a severe defeat in the famous Campaign of Changping.


Zhào Kuò zìjǐ yě sǐ zài zhànzhēng zhōng, shǐ Zhàoguó yījuébúzhèn le.
赵      括 自己也死 在   战争           中,  使    赵国      一厥不振    了。
Zhao Kuo himself died in the war and the Zhao Dynasty was unable to recover from the defeat.



Key Learning Point:

纸上谈兵 (zhǐshàngtánbīng): armchair strategy


Xuéxí bù néng zhǐshàngtánbīng, yào huó xué huó yòng cái xíng.
学习   不  能       纸上谈兵,       要   活    学   活    用    才   行。
Learning is not about empty talk. You need to use what you learn.


Yào chénggōng jiù yào fùzhū xíngdòng, zhǐ kào zhǐshàngtánbīng shì bù xíng de.
要     成功          就  要  付诸    行动,    只 靠      纸上谈兵          是  不  行   的。
You must act if you want to succeed. It is no use to be an armchair strategist.


Keep learning more Chinese idioms:

悬梁刺股 (Xuánliáng cìgŭ) To work hard

刻舟求剑 (kèzhōuqiújiàn) Mark the Boat for a Dropped Sword

狐假虎威 (Hújiăhŭwēi) To bully others by flaunting one’s powerful connections

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