Following on from the Chinese Idiom Stories Postage Stamps issued on March 20, 2015, Chunghwa Post has commissioned a set of four more stamps depicting four other idioms: “This infant can be taught,” “To hold bamboo in your breast,” “To rub your eyes and see anew” and “To add the eyes to the dragon.”
StampNews.com invites stamp collectors to get acquainted with an original design of each philatelic item.
1. This infant can be taught (NT$5): Zhang Liang lived in seclusion in the State of Hán during the Warring States Period (403-221 BCE). One day he was walking across a bridge when an old man in shabby clothing deliberately dropped his shoe under the bridge and rudely ordered Zhang Liang to pick it up and put it back on his foot. Zhang Liang quietly obeyed.
The old man said “this infant can be taught.” Later he tested him to see if he really could stand insults that most people would flinch at and determined he was a person of outstanding talent, giving him Taigong’s Art of War and so enabled him to help Liu Bang, founder of the Han (206 BCE-220 AD) to gain the empire. The saying has since been applied to many young people who can be educated.
2. To hold bamboo in your breast (NT$5): Wen Tong (aka. Yu Ke) of the Northern Song (960-1127 AD) excelled at poetry and painting and was particularly famed for his paintings of bamboo. He was a cousin of the poet Su Shi. He loved bamboo so much he planted a whole forest of bamboo outside his window and minutely observed how it grew and changed.
Before he painted bamboo he already had the entire shape in his breast and so his hand responded perfectly to his heart and he succeeded in expressing the spirit of bamboo to perfection. “To hold bamboo in your breast” means that you must concentrate on whatever you do.
3. To rub your eyes and see anew (NT$5): Lü Meng, a general in the kingdom of Wu during the Three Kingdoms era (220-280 AD) had a hard childhood and rarely read books. Sun Quan, warlord of Wu, encouraged him many times to read books of history and military tactics and so develop his education. He obeyed and began to study furiously.
Once General Lu Su of Wu was inspecting the camp Lü Meng was responsible for and, after talking things over, acknowledged that Lü Meng was no longer the most ignorant person in Wu. Lü Meng replied, “Scholars who are apart for three days, will see each anew if they but rub their eyes.” It is later used to refer to looking at things with fresh eyes.
4. To add the eyes to the dragon (NT$5). In the Record of Famous Artists, Zhang Yanyuan of the Tang (618-906 AD) notes that during the era of the Southern Dynasties (420-589 AD), in Liang, Zhang Sengyou once drew four dragons on the wall of Anle Temple in Jinling but did not give them eyes. He said, “If I paint their eyes, the dragons will fly away.”
People thought he was fooling them and insisted he added the eyes. He did so for two of them, which in a crack of thunder broke the wall down and flew up to heaven on clouds. The expression to add the eyes to the dragon is later used to refer to adding a stroke in a key place in painting or writing such that the whole work will be more vibrant. It also means that in doing anything you have to grasp the essentials.