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塞翁失马,焉知非福 (Sàiwēngshīmǎ, yānzhīfēifú) Misfortune may actually be a blessing

Jul. 14, 2016

Chinese idiom-塞翁失马,焉知非福

It can be difficult to foresee the twists and turns which lead to misfortune begetting fortune, and vice versa. For example, there once was a father, skilled in divination, who lived close to the “边疆 (biānjiāng) frontier” with his son. One of his horses accidentally strayed into the lands of the Xiongnu, so everyone “安慰 (ānwèi) consoled” him. However, the father said, “Why should I hastily conclude that this is not “幸运的 (xìngyùn de) fortunate?” After several months, the horse returned from the land of the Xiongnu, accompanied by another stallion, so everyone congratulated the father. Yet, the father still said, “Why should I hastily conclude that this can not be unfortunate?”

His family had a wealth of fine horses, and his son loved riding them. One day, the son fell off a horse and broke his leg. Again, everyone “安慰 (ānwèi) consoled” the father. Once again, the father said, “Why should I hastily conclude that this is not “幸运的 (xìngyùn de) fortunate?” One year later, the Xiongnu “侵略 (qīnlüè) invaded” the “边疆 (biānjiāng) frontier,” and all able-bodied men took up arms and went to war. Of all the men from the “边疆 (biānjiāng) frontier” who volunteered, nine out of ten men “死亡 (sǐwáng) perished” from the fighting. It was only because of the son’s broken leg that the father and son were spared this “悲剧 (bēijù) tragedy.” Therefore, “不幸/灾难 (bú xìng/zāinàn) misfortune” begets “好运 (hǎoyùn) fortune,” and “好运 (hǎoyùn) fortune” begets “不幸/灾祸 (bú xìng/zāinàn) misfortune.” This goes on without end, and its depths cannot be measured.

Key Learning Points:

1. 安慰 (ānwèi) : n./v. console/comfort


Tā gěi le wǒ yìdiǎnr ānwèi.
她  给 了 我 一点儿  安慰。
She offered a bit of comfort to me.

Tā xiànzài kěndìng hěn shāngxīn, wǒmen qù ānwèi tā yí xià ba.
她    现在   肯定      很    伤心 ,   我们    去  安慰  她 一 下 吧。
She must be very sad now; let’s comfort her about it.

2. 悲剧 (bēijù) : n. tragedy


Wǒ xǐhuan kàn xǐjù, bù xǐhuan kàn bēijù.
我   喜欢    看 喜剧,不  喜欢  看   悲剧。
I prefer comedy to tragedy.

3. 不幸/灾难 (bú xìng/zāinàn) : n. misfortune


Wǒ duì tā de búxìng biǎoshì tóngqíng.
我    对 她 的   不幸    表示     同情。
I expressed my condolences on his misfortune.

Yì chǎng zāinàn jiànglín dào tā de tóu shàng.
一  场      灾难    降临    到   他 的  头  上。
A great misfortune befell him.

生词 (shēngcí) Vocabulary:

边疆 (biānjiāng): n. frontier

安慰 (ānwèi): v. console/comfort

侵略 (qīnlüè): v. invade

死亡 (sǐwáng): v. perish

悲剧 (bēijù): n. tragedy

不幸/灾难 (bú xìng/zāinàn): n. misfortune





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