Slow Brain, Quick Tongue


Special Focus - - Contents - Qing Si 青丝

Qian Zhong­shu once ar­gued per­sua­sively about proper speech by say­ing that some peo­ple tend to com­pete for the floor in con­ver­sa­tion just to show­case them­selves. Read­ing th­ese words, a few ideas im­me­di­ately come to my mind.

An­cient peo­ple listed Proper Speech as one of the Four Sub­jects in Con­fu­cius’ teach­ing— bear­ing the same im­por­tance as Mo­ral­ity, Gov­ern­ment, and the Re­fined Arts. Many peo­ple have got­ten over­looked for be­ing slow in the brain but quick in the tongue.

Dur­ing the Qing Dy­nasty ( 1636- 1912), af­ter war­ships were built by a mil­i­tary fac­tory in Fu­jian, a gov­er­nor would be in­vited to con­duct the fi­nal in­spec­tions. The lo­cal gov­ern­ment would then de­lib­er­ately send an ar­tic­u­late of­fi­cial to ac­com­pany the gov­er­nor, serv­ing as a nar­ra­tor— but ‘ ar­tic­u­late’ and ‘smart’ don’t al­ways go to­gether.

The gov­er­nor came to the hatch where fresh wa­ter was stored and jok­ingly said: “The well is so deep that I’m afraid a kid might drown if he falls into it.”

The es­cort­ing of­fi­cial butted in: “Even if a re­spectable adult like your­self falls into it, you will drown as well.”

Sud­denly, the gov­er­nor’s smil­ing face wasn’t so smi­ley.

( From Chi­naNewsweek , May 2016. Trans­la­tion: Zhang Xue­qin)

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