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March 24, 2010

Some of you may know that Old China Hand James Fallows has a bit of a bee in his bonnet about frogs. Specifically he has been waging war against the common trope that if you put a frog in a pot of water and turn up the heat it will just sit there and die without realizing what is happening. (You can see how this metaphor would come in handy.) It’s not true, however. Frogs will jump out when the water gets hot.

As the leading Anurathological and Sinological blog on the internet (a very small pond) I thought it might be worthwhile to point out that Chinese people used to use a version of this one as well. In Joan Judge’s Print and Politics, which deals with the early 20th century journalists associated with the Shibao she finds one of them denouncing the Chinese people for their general lack of readiness for constitutional government, concluding

“Alas! The Dung beetle eats shit and rejoices. A fish swimming in a kettle forgets the water is boiling”

A fish in a kettle has fewer options than a frog in a pot, since the fish may not be able to jump out, and even if they did that might not improve their position too much. Still, it seems about the same. Are either of these standard Chengyu? I have not been able to find either, although I have not tried very hard

More entries: What's wrong with China ? (3), A Record of the Pavilion of an Intoxicated Old Man, In hot water (1), TO SOMEONE (3)

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01:07 AM Mar 25 2010


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