Chinese Idiom Stories
To Seek Small Gains But Incur Big Losses
In ancient times, the king of Ch'in once led his army to attack the kingdom of Shu. When the army reached the Shu border, however, they discovered that the terrain was all mountains, and the roads were full of bumps. No one could figure out how to get through.
Finally one of the soldiers thought of a way to trick Shu: the men took five large rocks and chisled them into cows. They then placed several gold pieces behind each cow, and told people that the cows' manure could turn into gold. When the king of Shu heard this, he sent many strong young men to go fix the road, and bring back the five cows. But as the cows were being pushed back, the Ch'in army was right behind them. And so, when the cows arrived, the kingdom of Shu was destroyed. At that point, the king of Shu realized that in seeking a little bit of Ch'in's gold, he had lost his entire kingdom. He thoroughly regretted having been so greedy, but it was already too late.
Thus, the idiom "To Seek Small Gains But Incur Big Losses" me ans to make a small profit but incur a great loss as a result.