Wed, Aug 10, 2016 - Page 15 News List


A horse statue is pictured in Taipei on Aug 3.

Photo: Paul Cooper, Taipei Times

害群之馬 (hai4 qun2 zhi1 ma3)



(We’ve had enough. We don’t want this trouble-maker to remain in our community.)


(He’s a bit of a black sheep, that one. I wouldn’t have anything to do with him if I were you.)

Loose cannon; black sheep; trouble-maker

The Chinese idiom 害群之馬 literally means “the horse that harms the herd,” and can usefully be compared to the English “loose cannon,” “black sheep of the family,” or “trouble-maker.” We can describe the sort of person that is unpredictable or uncontrollable, to the extent that they could well cause damage to those around them, as a loose cannon. The “black sheep of the family” is generally a member of an otherwise upright, reputable or well-brought-up family with a character that is, for whatever reason, frowned upon by others, and is regarded as the exception, rather than the rule, in that family. The word “trouble-maker” is pretty self-explanatory.

The original reference to the horse that would harm the herd was actually in one of the Miscellaneous Chapters of the teachings of ancient Chinese philosopher Zhuang Zi (莊子), in which the writer compares herding horses to governing a country. All that a ruler need do, he says, is to discard all that would harm the populace.

We don’t really talk about Keith. He’s kind of the black sheep of the family.


Could you please rein him in a bit? He’s a bit of a loose cannon.


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