Episode 5: 买椟还珠 To Buy The Jewelbox But Return The Jewel

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Hello readers/listeners! I'm a bit late with last week's Chinese idiom because I got super sick during this temperature change. Won't happen again! I got sick because I hate wearing pants, but I learned my lesson and will wear pants more often during these winter months.

This next story is one of my faves. It talks about how some rich folks know the price of everything, but the value of nothing. 

It's called: 买椟还珠, which means "to buy the box, but return the jewel"

During the Spring and Autumn period (circa 771 - 476BC) before China was modern day China, there was a kingdom called Chu. There was a man from the kingdom of Chu who got his hands on a huge pearl. He wanted to sell this pearl at a decent price, so he hired a designer to custom-build a box made with magnolia wood...specifically for this pearl. 

This bespoke box was then decorated with jade and other gems and was absolutely beautiful. The box itself looked like it was worth a million bucks.

So this man from the kingdom of Chu went to the neighboring kingdom of Zheng where he could peddle his precious pearl. He then placed the pearl in the beautiful custom box and took it to the market. 

A rich fellow from the Zheng kingdom was strolling through the market and immediately fell in love with the box. He simply could not keep his hands off of it!

When the salesman from Chu saw that the rich fellow wanted the box, he jacked up the price. Without hesitation, the rich man immediately took out his money to complete the transaction. To the surprise of the salesman, the wealthy buyer took the pearl out of the beautiful box and returned it to him...walking away with only the box. 

Moral of this idiom: Some people completely miss the point. They ignore the fundamental situation at hand because they have poor judgment (or in this story - poor taste in jewels).

ORIGINAL IDIOM: 买椟还珠

春秋时有个楚国人,他得到一粒大珍珠,为了将珍珠卖个好价钱,他专门请人用上等的木兰香木做了一只精致的木盒,还用彩色的玉石镶嵌出漂亮的图案,再用名贵的香料一熏,盒子显得华贵无比。

楚人将珍珠装进木盒,带到郑国集市上叫卖。

有位郑国的富豪走过来,他取过盒子,仔细观看,爱不释手。

楚人见他喜爱,便报出一个很高的价位这富豪毫不犹豫,马上取钱买下了他打开的盒子,把珍珠随手还给楚人,抱着空盒子高高兴兴地走了。