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City

| 2018-11-01
(Chinese Social Sciences Today)

This character often refers to a city, especially with regard to its walls and defenses. Originally, the region inside the defensive wall was called cheng while the areas outside were called guo.


 

众志成城
zhòng zhì chéng chéng

Zhong zhi literally means the willpower of all the people while cheng cheng means to build a city. This proverb often implies that when there is teamwork and collaboration, things can be achieved. This proverb originated from a story about King Jing of Zhou (?–520 BCE) during the Spring and Autumn Period (770–476 BCE). King Jing of Zhou ordered the construction of a huge bell to play music. It took 24 years to finish the bell at the expense of countless hours of labor and money. All the palace musicians who tried to flatter the king said that the bell sounded excellent except one named Zhou Jiu, who told the king that people hated the bell because it had exhausted them and drained their treasury. With combined effort in pursuit of common goals, people can achieve things they desire and destroy what they dislike. Zhou tried to persuade the king not to oppress his people because if they united, their power would be as strong as the city walls. Today, it has a similar meaning as the saying, “Unity makes strength.”

 

城春草木深
chéng chūn cǎo mù shēn

Cheng refers to the city and chun is spring. Cao mu refers to grass and trees while shen means to be deep. This proverb seems to depict a vigorous view in spring, in which a city is filled with thick trees and high grass. However, it reveals a sense of sadness due to the collapse of a country.
This is a verse from the famous poem, “Chun Wang,” or “A Spring View” by the Tang poet Du Fu (712–770). “Even though a state is crushed, its hills and streams remain. Now inside the walls of Chang’an, grasses rise high among unpruned trees” (translated by Rewi Alley). In 755, the An Lushan Rebellion broke out and took control of the Tang western capital of Chang’an. Du was captured and imprisoned in Chang’an. He wrote the poem the following year after witnessing the bleak and desolate condition of the city, which suffered widespread damage during the war. These verses above express his sorrow over his fallen homeland.

 

(edited by REN GUANHONG)