© 2018 by Ilaria Vigilante.

  • White Facebook Icon
  • White Twitter Icon
  • White Pinterest Icon
  • White Instagram Icon
  • Ilaria Vigilante

Chengyu #2: “Have you ever seen the sea?”

How often do we judge the outside world from our own limited point of view?

What does it mean, to be a “frog in the well”? Let’s discover it together in this chengyu!


井底之蛙


有一只青蛙长年住在一口枯井里。它对自己生活的小天地满意极了,一有机会就要当众吹嘘一番。有一天,它吃饱了饭,蹲在井栏上正闲得无聊,忽然看见不远处有一只大海龟在散步。青蛙赶紧扯开嗓门喊了起来:“喂,海龟兄,请过来,快请过来!”海龟爬到枯井旁边。青蛙立刻打开了话匣子:

“今天算你运气了,我让你开开眼界,参观一下我的居室。那简直是一座天堂。你大概从来也没有见过这样宽敞的住所吧?”

海龟探头往井里瞅瞅,只见浅浅的井底积了一摊长满绿苔的泥水,还闻到一股扑鼻的臭味。海龟皱了皱眉头,赶紧缩回了脑袋。青蛙根本没有注意海龟的表情,挺着大肚子继续吹嘘:

“住在这儿,我舒服极了!傍晚可以跳到井栏上乘凉;深夜可以钻到井壁的窟窿里睡觉;泡在水里,让水浸着两腋,托住面颊,可以游泳;跳到泥里,让泥盖每脚背,埋住四足,可以打滚。

那些小虫子、螃蟹、蝌蚪什么的,哪一个能比得上我呢!”

青蛙唾沫星儿四溅,越说越得意:“瞧,这一坑水,这一口井,都属我一个人所有,我爱怎么样就怎么样。这样的乐趣可以算到顶了吧。海龟兄,你不想进去观光观光吗?”

海龟感到盛情难却,便爬向井口,可是左腿还没能全部伸进去,右腿的就被井栏卡住了。海龟只能退了回来,青蛙摇摆头。

海龟说:“你看过大海吗?大海水天茫茫,无边无际。用千里不能形容它的辽阔,用万丈不能表明它的深度。

传说四千多年以前,大禹做国君的时候,十年九涝,海水没有加深;三千多年以前,商汤统治的年代,八年七旱,海水也不见减少。

海是这样大,以至时间的长短、旱涝的变化都不能使它的水量发生明显的变化。青蛙弟,我就生活在大海中。你看,比起你这一眼枯井、一坑浅水来,哪个天地更开阔,哪个乐趣更大呢?”

青蛙听傻了,鼓着眼睛,半天合不拢嘴。


The frog in the well


There was a frog who lived for a long time in an old well. He was so greatly satisfied with his own little world that, when the opportunity presented itself, he'd boast in the presence of all. One day, after lunch, he was squatting idly on the well's railing beside the well, feeling bored, when suddenly he spotted, not very far, a big sea turtle strolling by.

The frog hastily started to call at the top of his voice: “Hey, brother sea turtle, please get closer, quickly, get closer!” The sea turtle dragged himself beside the old well. The frog immediately began to chat:

“You are very lucky today, I'll allow you to broaden your outlooks and visit my house. It's simply a paradise! You probably have never seen such a spacious dwelling?”

The turtle craned his neck to look inside the well, and only saw that the shallow bottom of the well stored a pool of muddy water where green algae grew all over; he also sniffed a waft of foul smell. The turtle wrinkled his brows, and hastily withdrew the head. The frog hadn't paid any attention to the turtle's expression, and straightening up he continued to boast.

“Living here, I'm so comfortable! At dusk I can jump on the railing and enjoy the cool; at night, I can get through the holes in the wall to sleep; I can swim, floating in the water, letting the water soak me to my armpits and support my cheeks; I can roll, jumping in the mud, letting the mud cover both my legs and back, burying all my four limbs.

All those worms, toads and tadpoles, none of them can compare with me!”

The frog's spray of saliva splashed all about, and the more he spoke the prouder he was: ”You see, this pit of water, this well, they all belong to me, and I do what I please. There's no greater delight. Brother sea turtle, don't you want to come and visit?”

The turtle felt that it would have been ungracious not to accept, so he dragged himself to the mouth of the well. But his left leg wasn’t yet completely outstretched, that his right leg got already stuck in the railing. The sea turtle only could move back, and the frog's head swayed.

The sea turtle said: ”Have you ever seen the sea? The water of the sea is boundless as the sky, limitless and vast. Even with a thousand li you can't figure its vastness, and even with ten thousand zhang you can't understand its depth.

It is said that more than four thousand years ago, when Yu the Great was ruling the land, there were floods nine years out of ten, but the sea would not increase its depth; and more than three thousand years ago, at the time of Shang Tang's government, there were droughts seven years out of eight, but the water of the sea didn’t seem decreased.

The sea is so big, that the variation of times of droughts or floods cannot cause an evident variation of the quantity of its waters. Brother frog, I live in the sea. You see, compared with a glance to your old well and pool of shallow water, which world is wider, which delight is greater?”

The frog of the well listened, stunned, bulged his eyes, and for the rest of the day couldn't close up his mouth.


How often do we content to live in a shallow well, instead to go looking for the sea? That’s what this chengyu is trying to tell us: don’t base your judgments on your incomplete point of view, go and make experiences and never stop learning from others; see the world, get lost in its width and depth, and you’ll truly be happy.


What do you think? Do you ever feel like a frog in a well? Let me know in the comments!

Speaking of new experiences, what about learning a new language? Try the Chinese Language Course with Rocket Chinese!