What I lost in translation at both ends of the Great Divide.

And what I found for making that attempt to bridge the chasm.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

The Art and Wit of Ding Cong. 丁聪和他的漫画.


I was reading a book “Wit and Humour from Ancient China” 古趣集 gǔqù jí depicting 100 cartons of the famous Chinese artist Ding Cong 丁聪 Dīng Cōng who signed his works as 小丁 Xiǎo Dīng. In fifty years of his career, Mr. Ding had drawn and illustrated a very wide range of subjects including illustrating for many famous writers such as Lu Xun (especially for his brilliant illustrations of Lu Xun’s masterpiece “The True Story of Ah Q”) and many other modern Chinese writers.

Story 42 is titled “A Difference of Words” and we will see what a small difference can make. On assuming a new office, a self-proclaimed honest official put up a notice in his hall. It consisted of three “don’t wants”- 三不要 sānbùyào. It said he –

不要钱 bùyào qiánDon’t want money.
不要官 bùyào guānDon’t want post.
不要命 bùyào mìngDon’t want Life (meaning not afraid to die).

A few days later, someone made a few small additions at the bottom of the words.

不要钱 嫌少 bùyào qián xiánshǎoDon’t want money, if it is too little.
不要官 嫌小 bùyào guān xiánxiǎoDon’t want post, if it is lower.
不要命 嫌老 bùyào mìng xiánlǎoDon’t want Life, if it is too short.

So beware of the person who said he “don’t want” when he means “too little”. A common trait of the corrupt, something 丁聪 understood.



  1. Too little, better than don't have

  2. If you never had that much in the first place, how would you know that the little you have is little? It would already be a lot to you.

    Only if you previously had a lot more will the little you currently have cease to mean anything to you.

  3. Comes to think about it, that is what corruption is all about; isn't it? It starts with a little and ends up with "too little". Reminds me of 人心不足蛇吞象 [rén xīn bù zú shé tūn xiàng]"a man whose heart is not content is like a snake trying to swallow an elephant".

    On another matter, one should not compare the little one has with what one had before. That is a sure recipe for dissatisfaction. One should just consider the little that one has and wonder if one should be thankful for small blessing.

  4. Unfortunately not many people know how to do that. The things that matter to us, all men want purely for themselves