(jin1 yu4 man3 tang2 mo4 zhi1 neng2 shou3)
Photo: Wikimedia Commons
when gold and jade fill the hall, their possessor cannot keep them safe
在英文中，表示人所積累的財富在死後是沒什麼意義的，可用「you cannot take it with you (when you go)」（你（死後）無法帶走）這句話精練地表達。「Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!」（看我功業蓋世，令強者折服！）這句話，完美地表達了對自滿的警示。
“And on the pedestal these words appear: （「看那石座上刻著字句：）
‘My name is Ozymandias, king of kings;（『我是萬王之王，奧斯曼狄斯）
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!’（功業蓋世，強者折服』）
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay（此外，蕩然無物）
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare（廢墟四周，唯餘黃沙莽莽）
The lone and level sands stretch far away.”（寂寞荒涼，伸展四方。」）
(To congratulate Professor Chen for his promotion and his son’s marriage last week, we sent him a wall plaque with the idiom 金玉滿堂 on it.)
(Mr Wang, the company chairman, amassed a family fortune. It’s such a shame his reprobate of a son has lived a life of debauchery, frittering away the family wealth in less than 20 years. As they say, it’s difficult to hold on to money.)
you cannot take it with you;
look on my works, ye mighty, and despair
In Chinese, the idiom 金玉滿堂 means “gold and jade filling the hall,” and is used to refer to an abundance of riches, mostly in terms of wealth but also of impressive education or an abundance of children to continue the family line. It is used as a wish, a blessing or an auspicious phrase on architectural plaques.
It has not necessarily always been used in a positive sense: 金玉滿堂 has been used in the past in the context of the temporary nature of riches, how wealth can be lost just as easily as it can be gained, and how it will do one no good in the next world.
In the ci lyric poem zuo wu, to be sung to the tune of Immortal at the River, the Southern Song Dynasty poet Liu Chenweng (1232-1297) wrote: 金玉滿堂不守，菁華歲月空遷。從今飽飯更安眠。丹經都不看，閒坐一千年 (Wealth and riches may slip through the fingers; youth deserts you in time. From now on I will eat and sleep peacefully. I have no need of poring over the classics: I can just sit back and rest while the years go by).
The Qing Dynasty writer Qian Yong (1759-1844), in the li ji (Benefiting Oneself ) section of the yi lun chapter of his luyuan conghua, wrote: 今人既富貴驕奢矣，而又喪盡天良，但思利己，不思利人，總不想一死後，雖家資巨萬，金玉滿堂，尚是汝物耶 (Nowadays, there are those who are wealthy and proud, and yet are devoid of conscience, who think only of themselves, and not of others. Do they not know that after their death, no matter how wealthy their family, their abundant riches do not belong to them?)
In fact, the more complete phrase 金玉滿堂，莫之能守 can also be used nowadays. This is a direct quote from Chapter 9 of the ancient Taoist classic dao de jing by Laozi, in which it says: 金玉滿堂，莫之能守；富貴而驕，自遺其咎。功遂身退天之道 (When gold and jade fill the hall, their possessor cannot keep them safe; when wealth and honors lead to arrogance, this brings its evil on itself; when the work is done, and one’s name is becoming distinguished, to withdraw into obscurity is the Way of Heaven.)
This passage exemplifies certain themes explored in the dao de jing, such as relativity; the ephemeral nature of material things and social status; the incompatibility of the Way of Heaven (natural law) with extremes; and the folly of complacency.
In English, the fact that one’s amassed wealth does you little good beyond the grave is neatly expressed by the phrase “you cannot take it with you (when you go).” The caution against complacency is beautifully encapsulated in the quote, “Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!”
In the poem Ozymandias, initially published in the Examiner in London in 1818, the English Romantic poet Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792–1822) imagines a time-shattered statue of a formerly powerful king, dissembled and crumbling in a desert where once his kingdom thrived. Shelley wrote:
“And on the pedestal these words appear:
‘My name is Ozymandias, king of kings;
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!’
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.”
(Paul Cooper, Taipei Times)
Why not buy that expensive watch? It’s only money: You can’t take it with you when you go.
Civilizations rise and fall. “Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair,” as they say.
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