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Posts Tagged ‘7th century’

Fishing For The Moon In The Water

Posted by Admin on July 21, 2016

If someone tells you that your idea is nothing more than fishing for the moon in the water, they mean that you aren’t seeing things as they are, and your idea is a pipe dream.  It may sound nice and it might even look nice, but it’s not realistic in their opinion.

From June 16 to July 29, 2011 the James Cohan Art Gallery in New York City hosted an art show curated by Leo Xu, a curator and writer based in Shanghai, China.  The art show was titled, “Catch The Moon In The Water.”  The show featured artists such as Shanghai-based Zhou Tiehai; Beijing-based Guo Hongwei, Zhao Zhao, Chen Wei, Hu Xiangqian, Sun Xun and Liang Yuanwei; and Hangzhou-based Cheng Ran.

The press release stated that the title of the art show came from a poem by Chinese artist, calligrapher, scholar, government official, and poet Huang Tingjian (1045 – 1105) who lived during the Song Dynasty, and is considered one of the Four Masters of the Song Dynasty.   included this line:

Seize the flower in the mirror,
Catch the moon in the water.

IMPORTANT NOTE 1:  The Song Dynasty began in 960 A.D. through to 1279 A.D.  It was preceded by the Tang Dynasty, and was followed by the Yuan Dynasty.

In Oliver Stone’s movie “W” there’s a scene where George Bush Sr. and George Bush Jr. discuss what George wants to do with his life.

Who do you think you are?  A Kennedy?  You’re a Bush.  Act like one.  You can’t even hold a job.  We always worked for our living.  It’s damned time you joined the rest of us and decided just what it is you’re gonna do with your life.

I know, Poppy. I’m — I’m — I’m just having
a devil of a time trying to figure it out.

Well, then figure it out soon, Junior.  Your brother Jeb graduates Phi Beta Kappa.  What did you get? Cs?  You only get one bite at the apple, you know.

Jeb’s not me and I don’t wanna be Jeb, Poppy.  Look, what I’d really love —  I mean, what I’d really love to do is to find something in baseball.

What? You can’t play.  Coach? You’re fishing for the moon in the water.

The movie was released in 2008 and the script was written by Stanley Weiser, but four biographers who have written about the Bush family said that while the screenplay was based in fact, there was more caricature than three-dimensional character in the main roles.  That being said, the movie provided an opportunity to talk about fishing for the moon in the water.

The question, however, is whether this idiom was one that would have been known by George Bush Sr. at the time it was inserted into the movie’s timeline.   According to the United States Foreign Broadcast Information Service, in the February 7, 1987 edition of the “Daily Report: People’s Republic of China,” an article was published with the idiom as its title.  It was listed thusly:

HK090605 Beijing RENMIN RIBAO in Chinese 7 Feb 87 p 6

[“International Jottings” by Yue Lin (2588 7207):  “Fishing For The Moon In The Water“]

While there aren’t many published references to this idiom in English, it’s a very well known saying in China.  Just as the Western world has Aesop’s fables, China has its own fables as well including this one.

One evening, a man went to the well to fetch water.  Looking into the well, he saw the moon shining back at him.

Alarmed, the man said, “I must hurry back home for my fishing rod, and fish the moon out of the well.”

Once he returned to the well, he lowered the hook in and waited for the moon to bite.  He waited and waited and waited until something tugged at the line.

The man pulled hard, but the moon pulled even harder until suddenly the line broke and the man fell flat on his back.

When he sat back up, he saw the moon was back in the sky as it should be and he was proud of his hard work.

The next day when he met his friends in the village, he proudly told them of his achievement the previous night, and not one person in the village dared tell him that the moon had always been in the sky and had never been in the well.

The fable was first recorded by Dao Shi (618 – 683) in his book, “Fa Yuan Zhu Lin (The Dharma Treasure Grove).”

Posted in Ancient Civilizations, China, Idioms from the 7th Century | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments »

Cats Always Land On Their Feet

Posted by Admin on August 5, 2013

Every once in a while, someone will say that a cat always lands on its feet when talking about how some people wind up coming out of bad situations without suffering any negative consequences. It’s based on the belief that cats actually have a way of always landing on their feet. But is it a fact or a myth? And if it’s a myth, how did it become an idiom?

It would seem that, according to journalist Kathy Antoniotti of the Akron Beacon Journal, the tale that a cat always lands on its feet is a myth, as discussed in their article of August 4, 2013 entitled, “9 Superstitions and Myths About Cats.” Taking on a select number of superstitions, myths and old wives’ tales about cats, she discussed the belief that cat’s always land on their feet by writing this:

Cats always land safely on their feet: Although cats are amazingly flexible, a cat can be injured in a fall. They have been known to break their front legs and jaws if they land on their feet.

When the Sunday Herald in Connecticut published an article on why a cat always lands on its feet in their October 2, 1960 edition of the newspaper, journalist Chapman Pincher included diagrams from Dr. Donald McDonald of London, England. The article was brief but detailed, and stated clearly that cats who were blindfolded fell in a heap and sustained injuries. Interestingly enough, cats that were born without the normal balancing organs present in the ears still managed to land safely on all four feet, and so it would seem that sight is the primary sense needed for a cat to land safely on its feet from any height. The article was aptly entitled, “A Cat Always Lands On Its Feet.

Back in the Calgary Daily Herald on November 23, 1933, the newspaper carried a news article written by Howard W. Blakeslee who was the Associated Press Science Editor at the time. The story was from Massachusetts, a little less comprehensive than the article published in the 1960 newspaper example, and began with this paragraph:

Solutions of some household mysteries — how a fly dodges a swat, why a cat always lands on its feet, how your canary hovers in the air — were shown to the National Academy of Sciences today.

Of course, the description of how the cat mystery was resolved was disconcerting as the article stated that a cat was dropped over a table from a height of 18 inches, where the cat immediately flailed about in the air until it managed to right itself when it was “barely more than four inches above the table.”

Historically speaking, Baldwin III, Count of Ypres, is said to have thrown cats from a tower in 962.  The town (located in Belgium) marked the event with a cat festival, and up until 1817, it was recorded that cats were thrown from a 70-meter tower to mark the event.  However, starting in 1818, toy cats were thrown from the tower instead.  The cat festival is celebrated every three years, with the next one scheduled for 2015.

But where did the myth originate that so many people repeat as an idiom these days?

To find the answer to that, we have to go to the Middle East. There you will find an ancient folk legend, according to Encyclopaedia Iranica, that explains that once upon a time, the first Imam, Alī, blessed the cat’s back by caressing it. Because of this folk legend, the expression gorba-ye Mortażā-Alī or “Alī’s cat” began to be used to refer to people in difficulty who always found a way out of their troubles, thereby “landing on their feet.” The legend appears to go trace back to the 7th century.

Posted in Ancient Civilizations, Middle East | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »