Episode 1: 一字千金 One Word Is Worth 1,000 Pieces Of Gold

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The idiom in this episode is called: 一字千金 which means, one word equals one thousand pieces of gold. That's a lot of gold! Why are words so expensive? Listen to find out!

This is where I introduce ancient Chinese idioms (成语故事) that have been passed down for centuries, and I do my best to make them more understandable to the non-Chinese-speaking world. 

Learning Chinese is HARD. Even a fluent speaker like myself (so humble I know...) will have trouble understanding the backstory behind each idiom. But I cannot emphasize the importance of learning Chinese in this decade. So here's to making my language fun!

I'll begin the first entry with the importance of the number one.

During China's Warring States circa 475-221 BC, a wealthy businessman by the name of Lu Bu Wei became the prime minister. He invited celebrity scholars from across the land, and gathered at least 3,000 of them all at once. Prime Minister Lu asked them to collect their finest work to put together one final masterpiece. This compilation resulted in 26 volumes, with an estimate of 260,000 words, featuring content about everything in life. 

Prime Minister Lu called it, <The Annals>, and published it for the world to see. He decreed, "Anyone who can find fault in the compilation of works, or can eliminate even one word, will receive 1,000 pieces in gold." 

Several days passed, and not a single soul dared to edit <The Annals> for the people feared the power of Prime Minister Lu. Nobody wanted to challenge authority. 

Moral of the Idiom: It literally meant that one word was equal to 1,000 pieces in gold. "One Word is Worth One Thousand in Gold" refers to the massive power that can come from a single word. 

ORIGINAL IDIOM: 一字千金

战国后期,吕不韦当了秦国的丞相。他广招学者名士,一时竟有三千人之多。吕不韦叫他们发挥个人的特长写作,然后将作品编辑成一部巨作。这部作品共26卷,计260,000 字,内容可谓应有尽有。

吕不韦把书定名为 《吕氏春秋》,并把原稿公开展览,还宣布说:能指出错误的人,或能删一字的人,重赏千金。

几天过去,始终没有人去碰。一字千金的运气,《吕氏春秋》是吕相国的得意之作,谁有胆量去指出它的不是呢?

翻译:一个字价值千金。形容文辞精妙,价值很高。