Chinese Idiom Stories
To Neglect The Root And Attend To The Tip
During the Warring States Period, the king of Ch'i once sent a messenger to the kingdom of Chao, to call on the king and deliver a letter sending his regards. Before the king of Chao even opened the letter, he asked the messenger, "How are the crops in Ch'i growing this year? How are the people? Is the king in good health?" The messenger very angrily answered, "It is the king of Ch'i who sent me to call on you, and yet you first ask about the crops and the people. Could it be that you are concerned more with the lowly than with the noble?" The king replied, "You don't understand. If we know that a country has no crop, how could it have any people? And if it has no people, where does the king come from? Could it be that you want me to neglect the root, and attend to the tip?"
Today, the idiom "To Neglect The Root And Attend To The Tip" means to attend to trifles to the neglect of the essentials.