Mon, Oct 08, 2018 - Page 9 News List


A good Chinese alternative to carpe diem is the idiom 及時行樂, meaning “to enjoy the present,” or “to live happily, with no thought for the future.” Two notable references in Chinese literature are to be found in dasong xuanhe yishi (Old Incidents in the Xuanhe period of the Great Song Dynasty) and in a Ming Dynasty book, zhongyu ji by Wang Tingna.

It is unknown who wrote Old Incidents, but the work is considered a precursor to the Water Margin, one of the four great classical novels of Chinese literature, attributed to Shi Naian (ca. 1296–1372), and contains many of the folk stories which would later be included in it. Old Incidents was divided into four sections; in one of these sections, the hengji, is the line 人生如白駒過隙,倘不及時行樂,則老大徒傷悲也 (Life is like a white colt flitting past a fissure in the rock; if you do not seize the present, you will regret it in old age). In Chapter 28 of the zhongyu ji, we read 我和你正好向花前月底,及時行樂,相賞依違 (You and I, we find ourselves among the flowers, with the moon shining upon us. We should make use of this moment, and enjoy each others’ company).

In both cases, the authors are using 及時行樂 in much the same way we might use carpe diem in English, to seize the moment and not put off for the future what can be done in the present.

Embedded in the former quote is another idiom, 白駒過隙. Using Idioms will look at this next week, ironically putting off for the future what could conceivably be done today.

(Paul Cooper, Taipei Times)

If we’re going to do it, we should do it now. There is no time like the present: carpe diem.


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