成語故事

To Quench One's Thirst By Thinking of Plums

Cao Cao of the Three Kingdoms period (220-265) was not only a capable politician in managing state affairs, but also a strategist good at leading troops in going to war.

One summer, Cao Cao was leading his troops in a punitive expedition against Zhang Xiu. It was extraordinarily hot. The burning sun was like a fire, and the sky was cloudless. The soldiers were walking on the winding mountain paths. The dense forest and the hot rocks exposed to the sun on both sides of the paths made the soldiers feel suffocated. By noontime the soldiers' clothes were wet through with sweat, and the marching speed slowed down. Some solders of weak physique even fainted on the roadside.

Seeing that the marching speed was slower and slower, Cao Cao was very worried because he feared that he might bungle the chance of winning the battle. But how could they quicken their speed? Cao Cao at once callde the guide and asked him on the quiet whether there was a source of water nearby. The guide shook his head, saying that the spring water was on the other side of the mountain, which was very far to have to make a detour to reach. Cao Cao realized that time didn't permit them to make such a detour. After thinking for a moment, he said to the guide, "Keep quiet. I'll find a way out." He knew that it would be to no avail to order his troops to quicken the steps. He had a brain wave and found a good solution. He spurred his horse and came to the head of the column. Pointing his horsewhip to the front, Cao Cao said, "Soldiers, I know there is a big forest of plums ahead. The plums there are both big and delicious. let's hurry along, and we will reach the forest of plums after bypassing this hill." When the solders heard this, they immediately slobbered. Picturing in their minds the sweet and sour flavour of the plums, the soldiers felt as if they were actually eating the plums, the soldiers felt as if they were actually eating the plums themselves. The morale greatly boosted, the soldiers quickened their steps a great deal automatically.

This story comes from "The Fake Tangery" in Anecdotes of This World by Liu Yiqing of the Southern Dynasties period (420-589). From this story, people have derived the set phrase "quenching thirst by watching plums" to refer to trying to comfort oneself of others by idle dreams.

望梅止渴

曹操小的時候不好好讀書,喜歡遊蕩,他的叔父把這事告訴了曹操的父親,曹操被父親狠狠的責備了一頓。曹操想了一個辦法:一次看見叔父來了,曹操假裝倒地,像是中風的症狀。叔父忙去告訴曹操的父親,等他父親趕來,見曹操安然無恙,問他,他說:「我從來都沒有這個病,叔父不喜歡我,所以瞎說。」以後叔父再說曹操的過失,他父親就不聽了。

後來,有一次曹操率軍出征,天氣酷熱,部隊沒有水喝,行軍速度很慢。曹操對士兵們說:「士兵們,我知道前面有一大片梅林,那裡的梅子又酸又甜,我們快點趕路,繞過這個山丘就到了!」士兵們聽了精神大振,步伐不由得加快了許多。

「望梅止渴」比喻用空想安慰自己或他人。


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