Thursday, 9 September 2010

The Frog at the bottom of Well--Jing Di Zhi Wa

The Chinese of Jing Di Zhi Wa is 井底之蛙. This idiom is also known as Look At The Sky From The Bottom Of A Well--Zuo Jing Guan Tian (坐井观天).

Once upon a time, there lived a frog in a shallow well. One day, a turtle who used to live in the East Sea travelled there and happened to see him.

The frog proudly said to his unexpected visitor, "I am so happy! When I go out, I jump about on the railing beside the mouth of the well. When I come home,I rest in the holes on the broken wall of the well. If I jump into the water, it comes up to my armpits and holds up my cheeks. If I walk in the mud, it covers up my feet. I look around at the wriggly worms, crabs and tadpoles, and none of them can compare with me. I am lord of this trough of water and I stand up tall in this shallow well. My happiness is full. My dear sir, why don't you come down and look around my wonderful home?"

So the turtle tried to force himself into the well. But before he could get its left foot in, its right knee got stuck. He had to give up. Realizing how small the well is, the turtle began to describe the East Sea to the frog .

"The size of the East Sea is beyond your wildest imagination. Even a distance of a thousand miles cannot give you an idea of the sea's width; even a height of a thousand feet cannot give you an idea of its depth. In the time of King Da Yu, there were floods nine years out of ten, but the waters in the sea did not increase. ln the time of King Tang there were droughts seven years out of eight, but the waters in the sea did not decrease. The sea does not change along with the passage of time and its level does not rise or fall according to the amount of rain that falls. Living in the East Sea is the greatest happiness."

Hearing the turtle's words, the frog was shocked into realization of his own insignificance and felt down in the dumps.

Background and Comment:

The idiom the frog at the bottom of the well (or "look at the sky from the bottom of a well) is from "Zhuang Zi", a famous Taoism Book. It means to have a narrow view of the world, to have only superficial knowledge of something, or to be short-sighted.

"A frog in a well has a very limited view" and "the flickering of a glowworm does not shine far" are often used at the same time as a couplet.

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