a drop in the bucket九牛一毛
li ling was a great general during the time of emperor han wu-di (hàn wǔ dì汉武帝). he was a very good fighter, and he won every battle.
one time, however, li ling’s troops were so hopelessly outnumbered by the huns that although they fought bravely, the whole army was soon taken captive.
li ling shamefully surrendered for the moment, planning to wait for an opportunity to strike back.
but when news of the surrender reached the capital, the emperor’s jealous ministers began to degrade li ling in front of the emperor.
what he heard made the emperor so angry that he had li ling’s wife and mother put to death.
ze-ma chian, who had always respected li ling, believed that he wouldn’t surrender without a reason, and urged the emperor not to believe rumors.
this time, the emperor grew angry at sz-ma chian, and locking him up, punished him severely.
sz-ma chian then wrote a long letter to a friend, saying, “i am now in the middle of writing a history book. if i die, it will be as if one ox in a group on nine were to lose a single hair. i am willing to withstand punishment in order to complete this book.” sz-ma chian finally did finish his book – the very famous shr-ji.
英文中对应的“九牛一毛”的表达方式是“a drop in the bucket”，意思就是“一个水桶里的一滴水”，一个大水桶里的一滴水那就是九牛一毛，少之又少啦~同时也可以翻译成“沧海一粟”或者是“微不足道”
（1）”i’m sorry i scratched your car.”
“don’t worry about it. it’s just a drop in the bucket. that car has more scratches on it than i can count.”
（2）when i think how many people there are in the world, i realize that my own problems are just a drop in the bucket.
“we ourselves feel that what we are doing is just a drop in the ocean. but the ocean would be less because of that missing drop.”
就因为这一句话，曾有一次公益活动的名字就叫做“we need your drop.”(我们需要你的帮助）