塞翁が馬(さいおうがうま)Everything in life is like the horse of the old man, Sai

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Jul 20, 2011 13:50
When I was very sad, my friend taught me an old saying originated from ancient China; 人間万事塞翁が馬(じんかんばんじさいおうがうま)or more simply and frequently 塞翁が馬(さいおうがうま). Smiling, he said this is a saying rather irresponsibly used to soothe a person in grief. But I like this saying very much and I want to share the taste of it with you.


It is about a story included in the book called 淮南子(えなんじ), which is dated to the second century BC. The story is about an old man called 塞翁(さいおう). The word 人間 is read じんかん instead of にんげん, and means 'life'. The word '万事' literally means many things or everything. The 'が' appeared in the saying is an old use and means 'の' or 'of'. Thus, a literal translation of the saying is like "Everything in life is like the horse of the old man, Sai."

So, what happened to his horse? The following link is for an explanation in Japanese. In English, "Every cloud has a silver lining" may mean something quite similar to this saying.
http://mizote.info/image/02profile/30kaisetu_jinkan.html

I'll try to translate that version of explanation into English.


中国の北の方に占い上手な老人が住んでいました。
There was a old man who was good at fortune telling in the north part of China.

さらに北には胡(こ)という異民族が住んでおり、国境には城塞がありました。
To the north from his place, lived alien people 胡(こ), Ko, and there was a fort at the border between the two countries.

ある時、その老人の馬が北の胡の国の方角に逃げていってしまいました。
One day, a horse of the old man had broken loose and run away towards the northern country Ko.

この辺の北の地方の馬は良い馬が多く、高く売れるので近所の人々は気の毒がって老人をなぐさめに行きました。
Horses around this northern area were generally pretty good, and often fetched a good price, so that his neighbours felt sorry and visited him to soothe.

ところが老人は残念がっている様子もなく言いました。
However, the old man didn't look remotely sad and said,

「このことが幸福にならないとも限らないよ。」
"You can't really say that this is never going to be a fluke afterwards."

そしてしばらく経ったある日、逃げ出した馬が胡の良い馬をたくさんつれて帰ってきました。
After a while, the horse came back to the old man with many excellent horses from Ko.

そこで近所の人たちがお祝いを言いに行くと、老人は首を振って言いました。
When the neighbours visited the old man for a celebration, the old man shook his head and said,

「このことが災いにならないとも限らないよ。」
"You cannot really say that this is never going to be a disaster afterwards."

しばらくすると、老人の息子がその馬から落ちて足の骨を折ってしまいました。
After a while, the son of the old man fell from one of the horses and broke his leg.

近所の人たちがかわいそうに思ってなぐさめに行くと、老人は平然と言いました。
When the neighbours felt sorry and visited the old man to console, the old said like nothing happened,

「このことが幸福にならないとも限らないよ。」
"You can't really say that this is never going to be a miracle afterwards."

1年が経ったころ胡の異民族たちが城塞に襲撃してきました。
A year later, the aliens of Ko made an attack to the fort.

城塞近くの若者はすべて戦いに行きました。
All the youngsters around the fort went to the war.

そして、何とか胡人から守ることができましたが、その多くはその戦争で死んでしまいました。
They managed to save the fort from Ko people, but most of them were killed during the war.

しかし、老人の息子は足を負傷していたので、戦いに行かずに済み、無事でした。
However, because the son of the old man had a broken leg, he didn't go to the war and he was safe.


So this story is telling you that the horse of the old man Sai caused unhappiness from happiness and happiness from unhappiness in his life; What you think is good or bad can easily betray your judgement.