Mon, Apr 17, 2017 - Page 9

Chinese practice


Victory comes from dried up bones

(gong1 cheng2 gu3 ku1)







雖然這無疑對皮洛士國王沒什麼安慰作用,但普魯塔克所描述皮洛士的悲嘆留下了一個有趣的隱喻:「Pyrrhic victory」(皮洛士式勝利),意為付出慘痛損失所獲致的勝利,讓這種勝利很難被視為成功。 (台北時報編譯林俐凱譯)


(The two sides fought a fierce war to protect their own ideologies, with catastrophic loss of life. With these ancient civilizations destroyed in the conflagration, winning the war was a Pyrrhic victory.)


(The wealth of many business magnates was built on the backs of countless workers, relying on the blood and sweat of others.)


Pyrrhic victory

“If we are victorious in one more battle with the Romans, we shall be utterly ruined.”

So said King Pyrrhus of Epirus — according to Plutarch — following the Battle of Asculum in 279 BC, during the Pyrrhic War.

The battle had taken a terrible toll on Pyrrhus’ army. He had lost many men, including much of the officers, among whom he counted great friends. He was in a foreign land, and knew that he would find it difficult to replenish his numbers, while the Romans had a plentiful stock of new recruits to replace their fallen.

Over 1,000 years later, in China, the Tang poet Cao Song would write a poem called jihai sui (The War Year). The last two lines of the poem were:

Talk not of the glories of awards and nobility,

A general’s victory is built upon 10,000 rotting bones.

It is from the final line that the Chinese proverb 功成骨枯 derives: victory comes from dried up bones. It is used as a metaphor for someone who achieves a personal success at the expense of the considerable sacrifice of many others.

Although it would doubtless have been of little consolation to King Pyrrhus, Plutarch’s account of his lamentation has bequeathed us an interesting metaphor: the Pyrrhic victory, defined as a success that has inflicted such devastating loss on the victor that it can hardly be considered a success at all. (Paul Cooper, Taipei Times)

Well, they won the game, but at least two players were seriously injured. I’m afraid that was a bit of a Pyrrhic victory.


Now I know how Pyrrhus felt. I think I’ll just go home and lick my wounds, if that’s OK with you.