Chinese Idiom Story – Sai Weng Shi Ma

Chinese Idiom Story Sai Weng Shi Ma

Today we are reading an Idiom story called 塞翁失馬, which can mean “a blessing of disguise” or “bad luck disguised as good luck”. This idiom is commonly used to point out the hidden positives or negatives in a situation, so you might say it means “there are two sides to every circumstance”.

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English translation:

In the past, there was an old man named Sai Weng. He raised many horses. One day, Sai Weng’s horse ran away from the stable. The neighbors heard this and came to comfort him not to be too anxious, as he is old-aged, he should pay more attention to his body.

Seeing someone comforting him, Sai Weng smiled and said, “My horse has run away, but maybe this is a good thing?” The neighbor listened to Sai Weng’s words and felt funny. The horse ran away, it is obviously a bad thing, yet he said that this may be a good thing. Is he comforting himself?

After a few days, the horse returned and brought back a fine horse. The neighbors heard the horse coming back and admire Sai Weng’s prediction. Sai Weng listened to the congratulations from his neighbors and frowned and said to everyone: “Getting this fine horse for nothing, is probably not a good thing!”

Sai Weng has an only child; he likes horse riding very much. He found that the horse Sai Weng brought back was a good horse and he was very happy. He travels on horseback every day, and his heart is full of pride. One day, he fell from the horse and broke his leg. The neighbors heard and expressed condolences. Sai Weng said: “My son broke his leg, but maybe it is a good thing!” Everyone in the neighborhood is baffled. They cannot think of an answer, what’s good about breaking their legs?

Soon after, the barbarians invaded and all the young men were enlisted to the army. Because the barbarians are very swift and fierce, most of the young men were killed in battle; Saiweng’s son, who didn’t need to be a soldier due to his broken leg, had his life saved instead. At this time, the neighbors knew that the words Sai Weng had said at the beginning were really wise.

Special notes:

  • 洋洋得意 – yángyáng déyì – immensely pleased with oneself
  • 莫名其妙 – mòmíngqímiào – unable to make head or tail of it; feels weird and confusing
  • 摔斷 – shuāi duàn – to break (bones) by falling
  • 胡人 – húrén – barbarian 
  • 戰死沙場 – zhànsǐshāchǎng

The photo is taken from here.   

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