Sayings and Idioms: 不自量力 / Bu Zi Liang Li (Don’t overestimate oneself)

284487521884437891An interesting kernel of Ancient Chinese wisdom! Welcome back and join us for today’s linguistic issue of ‘Bajan,’Chinese Style!

不自量力 / Bu Zi Liang Li

Translation: Don’t overestimate oneself

Definition: This idiom is drawn from the historical annal, 左转,隐公十一年 Zuo Zhuan- Yin Gong 11th year and it outlines the conditions whereby one country ensured its own destruction, due to an overestimation of its political, social and military power. The story goes as follows.

712 B.C, during the Warring states period, there were once two small nations which shared a border. These two nations were Xi and Zheng.  One day, Xi suddenly instigated a War with Zheng and, seeing that Xi was the smaller of these two nations, both in terms of chinese-confuciusmilitary power and geographical size, Zheng expected to have a swift victory over them.

After news of this war reached the larger neighbouring countries, they analysed the situation and came to the conclusion that Xi was well on its way to being destroyed and their dynasty ended.

The reasons for this where:

1:They did not contemplate the morality of their war-mongering actions

2:They were unsure of whether their military strength was able to achieve swift and decisive victory

3:They did not have particularly good relationships with other neighbouring countries

4:They did not provide Zheng with a reason for this military aggression

5:Were unaware of the “crimes of loss” and who would be held responsible in terms of reparations and punishments.

The analysts believed that Xi had committed all five of these errors and thus, their destruction as a nation was inevitable.

After losing the War with Zheng, Xi was made to reimburse Zheng with interest, which shattered their local economy and no more than three years later, Xi was conquered by the its larger neighbour, Chu.

Moral: Always have a grounded opinion of self and do not commit provocative actions especially without sound moral judgement.

Do not over estimate oneself.

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One thought on “Sayings and Idioms: 不自量力 / Bu Zi Liang Li (Don’t overestimate oneself)

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