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Worfeln (winnowing fan) (1883) by Hans Ole Brasen in the Museum der Brotkultur (Museum of Bread Culture) in Germany.

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Chinese practice


discard the weeds, retain the flowers

(qu4 wu2 cun2 jing1)




英語中和「去蕪存菁」意義相當的說法是「separate the wheat from the chaff」。chaff這個字源於中古英語chaf和古英語ceaf,意思是「外殼」,它指的是穀物外層乾燥、難消化的糠?。在古時,農民會對麥子進行「揚穀」,即讓它吹風,這樣糠?就會被吹走,而留下穀粒。


因此「separate the wheat from the chaff」便指將有用或有價值的東西與無用或無價值的東西區別開來。



(Your article is very creative, albeit a bit rambling. Trim it a bit, get rid of the superfluous parts, and it will be a really good piece.)


(The presentation needs to be concise, take away all the irrelevant data. Only then will people get your point.)


separate the wheat from the chaff

The Siku Quanshu, or Complete Library in Four Branches of Literature, is the largest collection of books in Chinese history. Covering more than 3,400 titles from successive dynasties, it was commissioned by the Qianlong emperor of the Qing Dynasty. Work on the project started in 1773. It was completed in 1782. Several copies were made, but only four remain, one of those being in the collection of the National Palace Museum in Taipei.

The collection was divided into four parts: Chinese classics (jing), Chinese histories and geographies (shi), Chinese philosophy (zi), and Chinese literature anthologies (ji).

The writer and bibliophile Li Wenzao (1730-1778), a government sub-prefect in Guilin prefecture, was commissioned by Ji Yun (1724-1805), one of the project’s chief editors, to work on the jing collection of Chinese classics. One of the titles was the zhouyi shu (Comments on the Book of Changes). Li gave a direction to remove the parts of the table of contents that were overly complicated, and that had little to do with the original classic. He used the phrase 苟汰其蕪雜,存其菁英, “discard the weeds and retain the flowers,” and from this we get the proverb 去蕪存菁.

The English equivalent for this proverb is “separate the wheat from the chaff.”

The word “chaff” derives from Middle English chaf and from Old English ceaf, meaning “husk.” It refers to the dry, indigestible casing around cereal grain seeds. In ancient times, farmers would “winnow” wheat, meaning to expose it to wind so that the chaff would blow away, leaving only the grains.

In fact, the Bible makes use of the metaphor, with Psalm 1:4, for example, comparing wicked people to chaff that the wind will drive away.

To “separate the wheat from the chaff,” then, means to distinguish between the useful or worthwhile from the useless or valueless.

(Paul Cooper, Taipei Times)

This first stage is about separating the wheat from the chaff. There will be many excellent entries, but also a lot of rubbish.


Most of this is not worth listening to. It’s just chaff. You need to separate out the good parts.


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