Idioms Gallery
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Language Gallery by Sharon Hahn Darlin

Jul 5, 2010

梅林止渴 a stopgap measure

梅 (plum) 林 (woods) 止 (stop) 渴 (thirst)

Okay. Just a little bit of history. (Bonus fact: My grandmother's family name was
林, and I am partial to forests. Orchards, too.)


This goes back to Jin Dynasty, to an emperor with many names, who allegedly had ten thousand concubines. His rule was 265 - 290.

So anyway, he and his soldiers, on their way to attack Eastern Wu, got lost, wandered around for a while, and ran out of drinking water. So he came up with this bright white lie. "Dear troops, there should be plenty of plum trees that way, and the branches should be bearing plenty of tart fruit." Hearing this, enough saliva formed in the soldiers' mouths to last them long enough to reach their destination. Or so the tale goes.

Fantasy is sometimes used to (seemingly) satisfy an unreachable goal. And even a poor substitute can be surprisingly adequate. Temporarily.

photo by Sharon Hahn Darlin

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