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USING IDIOMS 活用成語

Emperor Yao, by Southern Song Dynasty painter Ma Lin.
《帝堯像》。南宋‧馬麟作。

Photo: Wikimedia Commons
照片:維基共享資源

Chinese Practice

越俎代庖

(yue4 zu3 dai4 pao2)

go beyond the sacrificial altar and take over the kitchen

中國上古時期有許多「禪讓」的例子──受尊崇的帝王將王位傳給賢能者,而非傳給自己的兒子。傳說中的帝王堯(在位其間約為西元前二三五六年~西元前二二五五年,據傳統定義)、舜(在位其間西元前二二三三年~西元前二一八四年,據記載),以及半歷史半神話的人物大禹,都被後世思想家──包括孔子和道家哲學家莊子──認為是聖人統治的典範。

有時候,聖王所選定要讓予王位的人拒絕接受,理由是現任的聖王更為適任,況且他們自身能力不足。

根據傳說,堯略過他的兒子丹朱,而指定舜成為繼任者。據莊子所言,堯原先想把王位禪讓給著名的高士許由,但被許由拒絕了。

《莊子》中的〈逍遙遊〉,有一段是描述堯欲將王位禪讓給許由。許由不接受,便對堯說道:「你已經將天下治理得非常好,難道現在我會為了外在的虛名來取代你嗎?小鳥在森林中築巢,不過佔了一根樹枝;偃鼠到河邊喝水,也不過是喝到自己肚子飽。你回去休息吧!我要這麼大的天下做什麼呢?」

許由此言之意為,每個生物都有自己的能力,它應該要有自知之明,並將所做的事限制在能力範圍之內;許由的意思就是說,他並不適合做治理國家的工作。許由在段末重申了這點──他以治理的職位結構來說明,每個人都有自己的專長,應各司其職:「庖人雖不治庖,尸祝不越樽俎而代之矣」(縱使廚師不下廚,主祭人也不能因此越過禮器,代替廚師去烹煮食物)。

這句話精簡後,即為成語「越俎代庖」,字面意義為「擔任主祭的人超越職責,代替廚師下廚」,意思是逾越你的位置,去干涉跟你無關的事務。

(台北時報林俐凱譯)

我和他誰對誰錯,這是我們兄弟間的恩怨,不需要你越俎代庖來下指導棋。

(Who’s right and who’s wrong here is between my brother and me, and we don’t need you poking your nose in where it’s not wanted.)

行政機關往往深怕越俎代庖、逾越權限,因此遇到緊急災難時,常不敢迅速行動。

(Government agencies generally avoid treading on the toes of others and exceeding their respective responsibilities. As a result, when an emergency happens, they don’t mobilize quickly.)

英文練習

meddle in affairs that do not concern you

go beyond your station

The ancient Chinese chronology of the first emperors contains many examples of respected rulers choosing successors based on their merits over direct succession for their sons. The legendary rulers Yao (reigned c. 2356 — 2255 BC, according to tradition) and Shun (reigned 2233 — 2184 BC, according to some accounts) and the semi-historical Great Yu were viewed by later thinkers — including Confucius and the Taoist philosopher Zhuang zi — as exemplars of sagely rule.

In some cases, their choices for successor declined the empire, citing the incumbent’s greater suitability for the role, as well as their own inadequacy.

According to legend, Yao passed over his son, Danzhu, and asked Shun to be his successor. According to Zhuang zi, Yao had previously asked Xu You, a legendary recluse, to take over the role of emperor, only for his offer to be turned down.

In the Happy Excursion chapter of the zhuangzi, there is a passage relating how Yao attempted to abdicate the throne to Xu. Xu refuses, saying, “You govern the kingdom, and the kingdom is well governed. Should I take your place, I would be doing so simply for the glory. The glory is merely guest of the reality; shall I be playing the part of the guest? The tailor-bird makes its nest in the deep forest, but only uses a single branch; the mole drinks from the river, but only drinks its fill. You must return and rest in being ruler — I will have nothing to do with the throne.”

Here, Xu is saying that every living thing has its abilities, and it should know these and limit itself to what it can do; he is saying that he would be unsuited to the task of governing the empire. He ends with reiterating the idea, using positions in the governing structure, each with their own specialties, to make his point: 庖人雖不治庖,尸祝不越樽俎而代之矣: “Though the cook is not attending to his kitchen, the representative of the dead and the officer of prayer would not leave their cups and stands to take his place.”

This phrase has come to us in abbreviated form in the Chinese idiom 越俎代庖, literally “go beyond the sacrificial altar and take over the kitchen,” and meaning to go beyond your station and meddle in affairs that do not concern you.

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