一字千金 Every word is worth one thousand taels of gold

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CBBECKY
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Joined: Mon Nov 01, 2010 3:20 pm

一字千金 Every word is worth one thousand taels of gold

Post by CBBECKY »

一字千金 Every word is worth one thousand taels of gold
一字千金

战国末期,秦国有一个大商人,名叫吕不韦,他因在赵国经商时,曾资助过秦庄襄王(名子楚,当时在赵国做质子--抵押品)又把他的妾赵姬送给子楚为妻,待子楚接王位后,便被封为文信侯,官居相国。庄襄王在位仅三年便病死了,由他十三岁的儿子政(赵姬所生)接王位,便是历史上有名的秦始皇,尊吕不韦为仲父,行政大权全操在吕不韦和赵姬的手中。

当时养士之风甚盛,有名的战国四公子便都养有门客数千人,吕不韦也养了三千门客,作为他的智囊,想出种种办法来巩固他的政权。这些门客,三教九流的人,应有尽有,他们各人有各人的见解和心得,都提出来写在书面上。汇集起来,成了一部二十馀万言的巨着,提名“吕氏春秋”。吕不韦就把这部书作为秦国统一天下的经典。当时吕氏把这书在秦国首都咸阳公布,悬了赏格,说有人能在书中增加一字或减一字者,就赏赐千金(合黄金一斤)。

这段记载,见“史记”:“吕不韦传”。后来的人,根据这个故事,引申成“一字千金”这句成语,用来形容一篇文章的价值很高,或者称赞一篇文章在修辞上特别出色,字字珠矶,不可多得。例如我们读到一位名学者的新作,他提出了一个新的教学方法,不但能提高学生的学业程度和品质,还能相应增加教师本身的进修,对这样的一篇价值极高的文章,我们便可说它“一字千金”了。在近代的社会中,样样都成了商品,文章也不例外,那么我们说,某著作家的一篇文章,稿费价格之高,相当于“一字千金”。不过,通常我们还是用来形容文章的价值或修辞的美妙比较妥当。

Every word is worth one thousand taels of gold —Valuable and beautiful writings

About 2,250 years ago, at the end of the Warring States Period, there lived a very rich merchant named Lu Buwei in the State of Zhao. One day, when he was on business in the capital, Handan, he met Prince Zichu of the State of Qin, who was being held as a hostage in Zhao. He thought this should be a good chance for him to climb higher on the social ladder, and get richer. So he sent his most beautiful concubine to Zichu’s house, and offered her to Zichu as a gift. Later, he rescued Zichu and helped him get back to Qin. The rich merchant then spent lots of money helping Zichu ascend the Qin throne. To show his gratitude to his savior, Zichu, now called King Zhuangxiang,made Lu Buwei prime minister. Three years later, the king passed away and was succeeded by his thirteen-year-old son, who was to become China’s first emperor Qing Shihuang. The young king called Lu Buwei “Second Father.” In fact, Lu Buwei had long been having an affair with the Queen Mother, and was the power behind the throne.

At that time, there were several powerful merchant-princes in other states, such as Prince Xinling of Wei, Prince Pingyua of Zhao and Prince Mengchang of. To enhance their prestige, they all vied with each other in making friends with talented men, and loved to treat or feed them in their houses with great hospitality. Powerful as the state of Qin was, it could not compare with these states, which were so proud of their merchant princes. Lu Buwei was embarrassed by this. So he too began to collect scholars, whom he treated very generously. As a result, more than three thousand scholars were lavishly entertained in his house. Lu Buwei asked every one of his guests to write down whatever they had heard or seen, and collected their writings into a big volume. The collection ran to more than two hundred thousand characters, and dealt with all things under the sky, ancient or contemporary. Lu gave the book the title, “Master Lu’s Spring and Autumn Annals”. After the book was published, he asked his bailiff to hang the huge volume on the capital’s city gate, together with one thousand catties of hard currency above it. A notice posted on the city wall invited all the scholars and guests of the principalities to read the book, and promised that anyone who could prove it necessary to add or take away even one single word would get the money as a reward.

However, the people all knew that Lu Buwei was rich and powerful, and he just wanted to show off. So, a long time passed, but nobody stepped forward to try and claim the attractive reward.

Although Lu Buwei meant to show off his wealth and power, people drew from the story an idiom to describe valuable or beautiful writings: Yi Zi Qian Jin meaning “One thousand catties of gold for one word”.

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