成語故事

Retreating about Thirty Miles as Condition For Peace

During the Spring and Autumn Period (770-476 B.C.), Duke Xian of the State of Jin Killed the crown prince Sheng because he had heard slanders about Sheng and believed them. He also sent his men to arrest Chong Er, Shen Sheng and believed them. He also sent his men to arrest Chonh Er, Shen Sheng's brother. Hearing the news, Chong Er escaped from the state of Jin, remaining a fugitive for more than ten years.

After innumerable hardships, Chong Er arrived at the State of Chu at last. King Cheng of the State of Chu treated him with high respect as he would have treated the ruler of a state, believing that he would have a vright fuure.

One day, King Cheng of the State of Chu gave a banquet in honoudr of Chong Er. Suddenly, amid the harmonious atmosphere of drinking and talking, King Cheng of the State of Chu asked Chong Er. "How will you repay me when you return to the State of Jin and become its ruler one day?" After thinking for a moment, Chong Er said, "You have plenty of beauties and attendants as well as jewelry and silk cloth, and the state of Chu abounds in rare brides and animals. What treasure can the State of Jin boast having to present to your majesty?" King Cheng of the State of Chu said, "You are too modest. Nevertheless, you still have to show your gratitude to me in one way or another, I presume?" Smiling, Chong Er answered, "If I should be fortunate enouge to return to the State of Jin and become its ruler, the State of Jin would be friendly to the State of Chu. If, one day, there should be a war between the two states, I would definitely order my troops to retreat three SHE (one SHE is equivalent to thirty LI. The LI is a Chinese unit of length equivalent to half kilometre. And, therefore, three SHE is about thirty miles.) as a condition for peace. If, under that condition, you were still not reconciled, I would have to fight with you."

Four years later, as might be expected, Chong Er returned to the State of Jin and became its ruler. He was none other than Duke Wen of the State of Jin famous in ancient Chinese history. Ruled by him, the State of Jin became increasingly powerful.

In the year 533 B.C., the Chu troops and the Jin troops confronted each other in a battle. Faithful to his promise, Duke Wen of the State of Jin ordered his troops to retreat about thirty miles. After retreating, the Jin troops were stationed at Chengpu. Seeing that the Jin troops were retreating, the Chu troops thought that the enemy troops were afraid, and began chasing them. Taking advantage of the Chu troops' arrogance and their talking the Jin troops lightly, the Jin troops concentrated their forces and inflicted a crushing defeat on the Chu troops, thus winning the victory of the battle of Chengpu.

This set phrase, "retreating about thirty miles as a condition for peace," is derived from the Chapter "The Twenty-second Year of Duke Xi" in ZuoZhuan, the famous commentary by Zuo Qiuming on The spring and Autumn Annals. The idea of this set phrase is to give way to somebody in order to avoid a conflict.

退避三舍

春秋時候,晉獻公聽信讒言,殺了太子申生,又派人捉拿申生的弟弟重耳。重耳聞訊,逃出了晉國,在外流忘十幾年。

經過千幸萬苦,重耳來到楚國。楚成王認為重耳日後必有大作為,就以國群之禮相迎,待他如上賓。

一天,楚王設宴招待重耳,兩人飲灑敘話,氣氛十分融洽。忽然楚王問重耳:「你若有一天回晉國當上國君,該怎麼報答我呢?」重耳略一思索說:「美女待從、珍寶絲綢,大王您有的是,珍禽羽毛,象牙獸皮,更是楚地的盛產,晉國哪有什麼珍奇物品獻給大王呢?」楚王說:「公子過謙了。話雖然這麼說,可總該對我有所表示吧?」重耳笑笑回答道:「要是托您的福。果真能回國當政的話,我願與貴國友好。假如有一天,晉楚國之間發生戰爭,我一定命令軍隊先退避三舍(一捨等於三十里),如果還不能得到您的原諒,我再與您交戰。」

四年後,重耳真的回到晉國當了國君,就是歷史上有名的晉文公。晉國在他的治理下日益強大。

公元前633年,楚國和晉國的軍隊在作戰時相遇。晉文公為了實現他許下的諾言,下令軍隊後退九十里,駐紮在城濮。楚軍見晉軍後退,以為對方害怕了,馬上追擊。晉軍利用楚軍驕傲輕敵的弱點,集中兵力,大破楚軍,取得了城濮之戰的勝利。

故事出自《左傳·僖公二十二年》。成語「退避三舍」比喻不與人相爭或主動讓步。


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