Chinese Idioms – a drop in the bucket

Chinese Idioms - a drop in the bucket

 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.
西汉时代有个很有名的大将军名叫李陵,他骁勇善战,百战百赢。

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.
有一次,虽然李陵的军队奋勇杀敌,因为兵力不足而战败投降。

li ling shamefully surrendered for the moment, planning to wait for an opportunity to strike back.
李陵打算暂时先忍辱投降,以便伺机等待机会反击。

but when news of the surrender reached the capital, the emperor’s jealous ministers began to degrade li ling in front of the emperor.
但当李陵投降的消息传到首都,皇上身边嫉妒的大臣们都开始指责李陵。

what he heard made the emperor so angry that he had li ling’s wife and mother put to death.
皇上十分气愤,他将李陵的妻子与母亲都赐死了。

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.
司马迁一直很敬重李陵,他不信李陵会无缘无故投降,便谏言皇上不要听信谣言。

this time, the emperor grew angry at sz-ma chian, and locking him up, punished him severely.
但就因为这样,皇上便迁怒司马迁,并将他囚禁,进行严惩。

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.
司马迁随后写了一封长信给他的朋友,说道:“我现在在写一部历史长篇,如果我死了,就如同九牛一毛般微不足道,但我愿意承受住这般的惩罚,来完成这部书。”最终,司马迁完成了这部名流千古的史学著作——《史记》。

【文化链接】
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”

下面我们一起来看几个例句:

(1)”i’m sorry i scratched your car.”
“很抱歉,刮花了你的车。”

“don’t worry about it. it’s just a drop in the bucket. that car has more scratches on it than i can count.”
别担心,小事一桩~这车本来就被刮了很多次了。

(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.
当我意识到这个世界上的人是何其多,我的个人问题简直是微不足道。

下面我们来看一句特蕾莎修女的名句:

“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.”
“我们自己总是会觉得我们的所作所为犹如沧海一粟,但是这一整片大海却少不了这一粟。”

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)

Related: 

Chinese Idioms Learning – Quenching Thirst by Watching Plums


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