Mon, Apr 23, 2018 - Page 9 News List


Perhaps a closer alternative to “a drop in the ocean” is 杯水車薪 (literally “a cup of water; a cartload of firewood”). The ancient Chinese Warring States period Confucian scholar Mencius, in the gaozi I chapter of the mengzi, wrote despairingly about the state of affairs in his time: 仁之勝不仁也,猶水勝火。今之為仁者,猶以一杯水,救一車薪之火也;不熄,則謂之水不勝火,此又與於不仁之甚者也。亦終必亡而已矣 (Benevolence subdues non-benevolence as water subdues fire; people who practice benevolence today, however, do so as using a single cup of water to extinguish a burning cart of firewood; when the fire is not extinguished, they say that water is ineffective against fire, and this only goes to encourage those who are not benevolent).

From this extract we get the idiom 杯水車薪, referring to an amount wholly insufficient for the task it is supposed to perform.

(Paul Cooper, Taipei Times)

My contribution has been very small; a drop in the bucket compared to what you have achieved.


The government does fund the arts, but it’s a drop in the ocean compared to what is needed.


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