Mon, Aug 06, 2018 - Page 9 News List


Icarus and Daedalus, 1799, Charles Paul Landon.

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Chinese Practice


(bao4 hu3 ping2 he2)

tackling tigers unarmed; wading rivers unaided


這個故事便是「don’t fly too close to the sun」(別飛得太靠近太陽)一語之由來,這是在警告不智與魯莽的行為,因為這樣會讓自己身陷險境。






戰戰兢兢,如臨深淵,如履薄冰。 」








(If leaders are too quick, when incensed, to declare war with little thought for the consequences, they demonstrate the reckless bravado of a fool.)


(His rash ways will only see him getting in danger for no good reason, and in the end he will pay with his own life, and for what?)


don’t fly too close to the sun

A Greek myth tells of how Daedalus, the inventor of the labyrinth that contained the Minotaur, tries to escape the island of Crete. He had been imprisoned, together with his son, Icarus, in the labyrinth, for offending King Minos. Knowing that they would be caught if they attempted to escape by sea, Daedalus makes wings of feathers bound by wax, and warns Icarus to follow him closely. He cautions him not to fly too close to the water — which would dampen the feathers and weigh down the wings — or too close to the sun, which would melt the wax binding the feathers. The young Icarus — impetuous, reckless and excitable — ignores his father’s warning and flies too close to the sun. His wings fall apart and he plunges to the sea below and drowns.

From this, we get the idiom "don’t fly too close to the sun," a caution against unwise, rash behavior that could put one in danger.

The Chinese idiom 暴虎馮河 is of considerable antiquity, dating to pre-imperial China. The phrase 馮河 is found in the ancient Chinese divination classic yi jing (Book of Changes), while 暴虎 and 馮河 appear (twice, in the case of 暴虎) in the shijing (Book of Poetry). The combined idiom 暴虎馮河 is in the Confucian lunyu (Analects).

The character bao 暴 means “to fight without weapons”: 暴虎, then, means to fight a tiger barehanded, something that is certainly brave, although not altogether advisable. The character ping 馮 means to wade, pinghe 馮河 to cross a river unaided by a boat. Together, the idiom refers to reckless displays of bravery.

Thus, the xiaoya hymn xiaomin in the Book of Poetry includes the verse:

“They dare not without weapons attack a tiger; they dare not without a boat cross the He river.

They know one thing, but they only know that one.

We should be apprehensive and careful,

As if we were on the brink of a deep gulf, as if we were treading on thin ice.”

And in the guofeng (airs of the states) folk song da shu yu tian in the zheng feng (Odes of Zheng) section of the Book of Poetry we find:

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