Mon, Dec 03, 2018 - Page 9 News List


Woodcut of the Tang Dynasty Chan Buddhist Master Congshen in the fozu zhengzong daoying.

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Chinese practice


toss out a brick and get jade in return

(pao1 zhuan1 yin3 yu4)






在英文中,有句話可表示用價值相對較小的東西來獲得更大的回報或利益──「set a sprat to catch a mackerel」(用鯡魚來捕捉鯖魚,意為用小魚釣大魚、吃小虧佔大便宜),雖然它是指為了獲取更大的利益,而自願犧牲小的好處。這句話的另一種說法是「throw out a minnow to catch a whale」(丟出一條小魚來捕捉鯨魚)。在用法上,「get the ball rolling」(讓球開始滾動,意為大家動起來)──做點事來啟動一件大事──可能更接近「拋磚引玉」。「get the ball rolling」這說法可追溯到十八世紀晚期英國的口語,它指的是班迪球(俄式冰球)──這是種類似曲棍球或橄欖球的運動。



(For this charity auction, the company has donated 30 bicycles, in the hope that these will get the ball rolling.)


set a sprat to catch a mackerel; get the ball rolling

In a letter of apology posted on Facebook on Tuesday, in which she took responsibility for the Democratic Progressive Party’s defeat in the nine-in-one elections, President Tsai Ing-wen said that she wanted, following several days of introspection, to explain her conclusions to other party members. She said she hoped this would serve as a springboard for a wider discussion (希望能拋磚引玉: literally, “I hope to ‘toss out a brick to get jade in return’”) about how the party should change.

In May 2015, during the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) primaries for the 2016 presidential elections, then deputy legislative speaker Hung Hsiu-chu passed the threshold for registering as a potential KMT presidential candidate. At the time, she said that she was simply throwing her hat into the ring, in the hope that she could just 拋磚引玉: that is, get the ball rolling and entice senior KMT members to put their name forward.

The Chinese idiom 拋磚引玉 means to cast something of little intrinsic value — a brick — in the hope that something many times more valuable — a piece of jade — would be returned. It can be seen as a humble request for ideas or action, using one’s own meager contribution to initiate debate or deeds many times more valuable.

Like many Chinese idioms, its roots extend far back in time, and there are many examples of its use in the intervening years. It appears, for example, in Chapter 18 of Li Ruzhen’s 1827 fantasy novel 鏡花緣 (The Marriage of Flowers in the Mirror), already cited in the Sept. 24 entry of Using Idioms (for 鏡花水月), in the sentence 剛才婢子費了脣舌,說了許多書名,原是拋磚引玉,以為借此長長見識,不意竟是如此 (Just then, I talked a lot and cited many book titles, in the hope that this would lead onto a profound discussion; I had no idea it would lead to this); it is also no. 17 of the 36 Strategem, described in Using Idioms on May 14. As a military strategy, 拋磚引玉 referred to the tactic of baiting the enemy to elicit a reaction from them that is ultimately more advantageous to yourself than to your opponent.

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