© 2018 by Ilaria Vigilante.

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  • 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!













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!