Chinese Idiom Stories
To Watch The Dust Settle And Be Unable To Catch Up
During the Northern and Southern Dynasties Period, there lived a very capable man named Wu Ching-jr, who worked as a secretary for the government official Wang Yi-gung. When Wang Yi-gung was executed by the emperor for a mistake that he had made, Wu Ching-jr blamed himself, and resolved that he would never again work for the government.
Because Wu Ching-jr was so talented, the next person to fill Wang Yi-gung's position, a man named Wang Kung, also asked for his help. But Wu Ching-jr refused, saying, "I really don't understand anything; Wang Yi-gung only asked for my help because he liked me. If anyone else were to hire me, it would be like raising a fish in a tree, or putting a bird in water." And with this, he turned and rode away on his horse. Wang Kung raced after him, but saw only the dust stirred up by his horse galloping on ahead. No matter how fast his horse ran, Wang Kung could not catch up.
Today, "to watch the dust settle and be unable to catch up" means to be too far behind another person to be able to catch up, or too inferior to bear comparison.