Chinese Stories/The frog of the well

The frog of the well is a fable by Chuang-tzu, sometimes known as Looking at a sky down in a well.

The story[1]Edit

The frog lived down in a well where there was all he had to live. One day, a softshelled turtle came by and told him about the sea. 'The sea? Hah! It's paradise in here. Nothing can be better than this well. Why don't you come down and share my joy?'

The turtle tried, and failed as the mouth of the well was too small. he also ate a jelly fish. 'Why don't you go see the sea instead? During Yu the Great's reign, there was flooding for nine out of ten years, yet the sea barely grew an inch. During Tang of Shang's reign, droughts were experienced in seven out of eight years, yet the sea hardly shrank. Being unaffected by such disasters is the joy of living in the sea.'

Moral: Some ignorant people know nothing aside from their own world.[2]

TitleEdit

The names the frog of the bottom of the well (井底之蛙) and glancing at the sky at the bottom of the well (坐井觀天) were not original titles by Chuang-tzu. The philosopher has given the fable no title. Such titles have been made up by others. In fact, the common interpretation of a frog in a well is incorrect. The word 井 had meant 'trap' back then.

Nowadays, both titles have been used as an idiom. The former means a person whose knowledge is so limited that he or she has no idea about anything aside from the world of their own; the latter means the action of being the kind of person mentioned above. Here is an example sentence using both idioms:

他經常在人家面前賣弄地理知識,其實,他只不過是個井底之蛙而已。我還是勸他別坐井觀天好了。

Which translates to:

He always shows off his geographical knowledge in front of others, yet he is simply an ignorant frog of the bottom of the well. I guess I'll advise him to stop glancing at the sky at the bottom of the well.

FootnotesEdit

  1. The original text:
    子獨不聞夫埳井之鼃乎?謂東海之鱉曰:『吾樂與!出跳梁乎井幹之上,入休乎缺甃之崖;赴水則接腋持頤,蹶泥則沒足滅跗;還虷蟹與科斗,莫吾能若也。且夫擅一壑之水,而跨跱埳井之樂,此亦至矣,夫子奚不時來入觀乎!』東海之鱉左足未入,而右膝已縶矣。於是逡巡而卻,告之海曰:『夫千里之遠,不足以舉其大;千仞之高,不足以極其深。禹之時十年九潦,而水弗為加益;湯之時八年七旱,而崖不為加損。夫不為頃久推移,不以多少進退者,此亦東海之大樂也。』於是埳井之鼃聞之,適適然驚,規規然自失也。
  2. Chairman Mao Zedong intepreted the story differently. According the Chairman Mao, the frog was in fact a tyrant of the well.
Last modified on 26 August 2013, at 00:29