Many Chinese idioms and proverbs have wonderful stories about how they originated. This fable is a classic story from ancient China. It is said to be written by Lie Zi during the Warring States period and holds a great moral that is essential for all people seeking wisdom and knowledge.
两小儿辩日 (Liǎng xiǎo ér biàn rì) Two Children’s Debate
Yìtiān, kǒngzǐ jiàndào liǎng gè xiǎohái zhèngzài biànlùn.
One day, Confucius met two children who were arguing.
Tā hěn hàoqí, yúshì jiù wèn tāmen zhēngbiàn de yuányīn.
He was curious and asked them why they were arguing.
Yígè xiǎo háizi shuō: “Wǒ rènwéi tàiyáng gānggang shēngqǐ de shíhòu jùlí wǒmen zuì jìn, dào le zhōngwǔ de shíhòu, jùlí wǒmen zuì yuǎn.”
One child said: “I think the sun is closest to us when it is just rising, and furthest away from us by noon.”
Ér lìng yígè xiǎo háizi liánmáng shuō: “Búduì búduì, tàiyáng gānggang shēngqǐ de shíhòu jùlí wǒmen zuì yuǎn, dào le zhōngwǔ de shíhòu bǐjiào jìn.”
And the other child hurriedly said: “It’s wrong, the sun is the furthest away from us when it is just rising, and by noon it is closer.”
Dìyī gè xiǎo háizi shuō: “Tàiyáng gāng shēngqǐ shí, dà de jiù xiàng yì bǎ dǎkāi de dà sǎn, dào le zhōngwǔ, tàiyáng bùguò xiàng pánzi yìbān dàxiǎo.”
The first child said: “when the sun first rises, it is as big as an open umbrella. At noon, the sun is only the size of a plate.”
“Zhè nándào búshì yīnwèi zǎoshàng tàiyáng lí wǒmen jìn xiǎnde dà, zhōngwǔ lí wǒmen yuǎn xiǎnde xiǎo ma?”
“Isn’t it because the sun is near us in the morning hence it looks big and is far away from us at noon hence appearing small?”
Lìng yígè xiǎo háizi shuō: “Zǎoshàng tàiyáng chūlái de shíhòu liángkuài, dào le zhōngwǔ de shíhòu rè de rútóng shuǐ zhǔ fèi yíyàng.“
The other child said: “It is cool when the sun comes out in the morning, and it is as hot as boiling water at noon.”
“Zhè nándào búshì yīnwèi zǎochén tàiyáng lí wǒmen yuǎn jiù gǎnjué liángsōusou de, zhōngwǔ lí wǒmen jìn jiù gǎnjué hěn rè de yuángù ma?”
“Could that be because in the early morning the sun is further from us so it feels much chillier, and in the afternoon the sun is closer so it feels warmer?”
Zhègè kàn sì jiǎndān de wèntí què bǎ néngyánshànbiàn de kǒng lǎo xiānshēng yě nán zhù le,
This seemingly simple question was difficult for the eloquent Confucius,
Yīnwèi dānshí zìrán kēxué hái bù fādá, kǒngzǐ tīng le zhīhòu yě bùnéng pànduàn tāmen liǎ shéi duì shéi cuò.
Because at that time the natural sciences were still undeveloped, and Confucius wasn’t able to judge who was right and who was wrong when he heard this.
Liǎng gè xiǎo háizi xiào zhe duì kǒngzǐ shuō: “Nǐ búshì hěn bóxué ma? Yuánlái nǐ yě yǒu bù dǒng de dìfāng a!”
The two children smiled and said to him: “Aren’t you very knowledgeable? It turns out, there’s something you also don’t understand!”
Common Pairs Antonym
大/小 (Dà / xiǎo): big / small
远/近 (Yuǎn / jìn): far / near
冷/热 (Lěng / rè): cold / hot
对/错 (Duì / cuò): right / wrong
Jīdàn hé yādàn dàxiǎo chàbuduō.
Eggs are about the same size as duck eggs.
Tā shì yuǎnjìn wénmíng de císhàn jiā.
His reputation as a philanthropist spread near and far.
Lěng rè kōngqì xiāngyù huì xíngchéng jiàngyǔ.
Cold and hot air meet to form rain.
Búlùn duì cuò, wǒ zǒngshì huì zhīchí tā de.
Whether right or wrong, I will always support her.
What It Tells Us?
“两小儿辩日 (Liǎng xiǎo ér biàn rì) Two children arguing about the sun” shows the ancient spirit of independent thinking, daring to question, and seeking truth from facts. At the same time, it tells us there’s no end to learning so we have to continue seeking knowledge. Through reading this, we find that the two children have the quality of observation and are brave to explore the world around them. While Confucius is practical, modest, and prudent he is able to present us with the moral that we should seek truth from facts and not pretend to understand what we learn.
After reading this article, which child’s perspective is right about the sun? Why? Or, perhaps, do you have a different view? We welcome you to leave a message for us. We’d love to hear what you think.
1. After reading the article do you know what the two kids are arguing about?
Tāmen zài tǎolùn tàiyáng de dàxiǎo wèntí.
Tāmen zài tǎolùn tàiyáng jùlí yuǎnjìn de wèntí.
Tāmen zài tǎolùn zǎoshàng hé zhōngwǔ de lěng rè wèntí.
2. Which of the following pairs are not the opposite meaning?
A. 大和小 (Dà hé xiǎo)
B. 好和坏 (Hǎo hé huài)
C. 长和宽 (Cháng hé kuān)
D. 高和矮 (Gāo hé ǎi)
— Written by Julia Liu —
Julia Liu teaches Chinese with eChineseLearning. She has been successfully teaching for 5 years and loves reading and practices her passion for drawing in her free time.
Reading More Interesting Chinese Stories for Kids:
Chinese Story for Kids: 盲人摸象 (Mángrénmōxiàng) Blind Men And an Elephant (Beginner)
Kids Chinese Learning: 井底之蛙 (Jǐngdǐzhīwā) The Frog in the Well
Chinese Story for Kids-“What’s the Time, Mr. Wolf?”
General Chinese (Beginner Level)
General Chinese (Intermediate Level)