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In 632 BC, Duke Wen of the Kingdom of Jin was about to lead an army against the forces of the Kingdom of Chu.
The Duke asked one of his advisers, Jiu Fan, how they could possibly win the impending battle, as they were drastically outnumbered.
Jiu Fan said, "All is fair in war", and went on to suggest a plan of dishonorable tactics (cheating).
The Duke was not sure of this advice, so he asked another adviser, Yong Ji, who replied, "If you catch fish by draining the pond, you can certainly get all the fish. But there will be no fish the following year. You can cheat this one time in battle but such tactics can only be used once, as the enemy will be wise in future encounters".
The Duke heard the words of his wiser adviser but cheated to gain victory in the battle. However, he rewarded Yong Ji more than Jiu Fan at the victory celebration, stating that while Jiu Fan's advice gained one victory, the wise words of Yong Ji would last forever.
This Chinese idiom/proverb is still used, over 2600 years later to remind people not to burn bridges, cheat, or dishonor oneself in exchange for a short term gain, while sacrificing the future.
竭澤而漁 is very similar to the meaning of the English phrase, "Kill the goose that lays the golden eggs".
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The following table may be helpful for those studying Chinese or Japanese...
|Title||Characters||Various forms of Romanized Chinese|
|Drain the pond to get all the fish||竭澤而漁|
|jié zé ér yú|
jie2 ze2 er2 yu2
jie ze er yu
|chieh tse erh yü
|In some entries above you will see that characters have different versions above and below a line.|
In these cases, the characters above the line are Traditional Chinese, while the ones below are Simplified Chinese.
Below are some entries from our dictionary that may match your drain the pond search...
If shown, 2nd row is Simp. Chinese
|Simple Dictionary Definition|
| jié zé ér yú / jie2 ze2 er2 yu2
chieh tse erh yü
lit. to drain the pond to get at the fish (idiom); fig. to kill the goose that lays the golden eggs
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Professional calligraphers are getting to be hard to find these days.
Instead of drawing characters by hand, the new generation in China merely type roman letters into their computer keyboards and pick the character that they want from a list that pops up.
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Even with the teachings of a top-ranked calligrapher in China, my calligraphy will never be good enough to sell. I will leave that to the experts.
The same calligrapher who gave me those lessons also attracted a crowd of thousands and a TV crew as he created characters over 6-feet high. He happens to be ranked as one of the top 100 calligraphers in all of China. He is also one of very few that would actually attempt such a feat.
Check out my lists of Japanese Kanji Calligraphy Wall Scrolls and Old Korean Hanja Calligraphy Wall Scrolls.
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