作法自斃(zuo4 fa3 zi4 bi4)
to fall foul of your own doing
Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
More than a century before China was unified by the state of Qin, the chief adviser to the Duke of Xiao in Qin, Shang Yang, introduced legal and military reforms that transformed the state into a militarily strong meritocracy. It was his reforms that were to enable Qin to defeat the other feudal states and unify China in 221 BC. They also, apparently, contributed to his own death.
Shang Yang was born in 390 BCE in the state of Wei. He died in 338 BCE. After moving to Qin he ascended through the ranks, but some of his reforms put him on the wrong side of certain powerful members of the Qin aristocracy, whose powers he had weakened through his emphasis on meritocracy.
When Duke Xiao died, Shang Yang fled, but was captured after an innkeeper refused to allow him to stay, in compliance with a law Shang Yang himself had introduced, as he could not produce his identification papers. It is therefore said that he created the conditions which led to his own death.
The idiom 作法自斃 refers to falling foul of something of your own making.
In English we have the curious phrase “Hoist with one’s own petard.”
“Hoist” means to be lifted in the air; we still use it for raising — hoisting — flags.
A petard was a device in the shape of a small box, either conical or square, containing gunpowder, which would have been placed against a wall or door during a battle. It was essentially a bomb, with the blast directed in one direction, to breach a wall or blow open a door. Shakespeare gives Hamlet the line, “For tis the sport to have the enginer Hoist with his owne petar.” At the time, engineers were makers of military engines.
In the context of Hamlet, the “petard” is a letter instructing the king of England to assassinate Hamlet. Hamlet rewrites it to ask the king to kill the two men who delivered the letter: they were therefore hoist on their own petard. (Paul Cooper, Taipei Times)
hoist with your own petard
成語「作法自斃」意指被自己的所作所為所牽制。在英語中，也有一個有趣的片語Hoist with one’s own petard。Hoist的意思是升起，我們現在說升旗，也常用這個字。Petard是裝炸藥的圓錐形或方形小盒子，在戰爭中用來放在牆或門邊。這種裝置基本上就是一種炸彈，它朝一個方向炸開，以爆破城牆或炸開城門。英國文豪莎士比亞筆下之角色哈姆雷特便有一句台詞說道:「For tis the sport to have the enginer Hoist with his owne petar。」在當時，軍用器械是由工兵製造的。
在哈姆雷特當時所說的那個「petard」指的是一封信，內容是指示英國國王將哈姆雷特暗殺。哈姆雷特改寫了此信，改成要英王殺了那兩個傳信的信差:因此這兩個信差就是 hoist on their own petard。
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This isn’t going to be an easy climb (2/5) 這趟路並不輕鬆（二） A: That was nice of that guy to help you up the slope, extending his hand and pulling you up. B: It was. I’m glad someone put that knotted rope there, but I would still have found it challenging pulling myself up that rock. A: I know. It’s a steep slope, the ground is slippery underfoot and there are hardly any footholds to help you. B: Perhaps we shouldn’t have come up this way so soon after the rains. It’s quite dangerous. A: 那個人真好，你爬上坡的時候還助你一臂之力 ，拉你一把。 B: 沒錯。幸好有人把打結的繩子綁在上面，可是我還是覺得爬上那塊岩石很難。 A: 我知道你的意思。這坡很陡，地又滑，腳下幾乎沒有著力點。 B: 我們或許不應該在下過雨之後這麼快就爬上來這裡。這還蠻危險的。 （Paul Cooper, Taipei Times／台北時報林俐凱譯） English 英文: Chinese 中文:
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