Learn Chinese Words: 南辕北辙 (nán yuán běi zhé)

Wednesday, November 22, 2023

南辕北辙 (nán yuán běi zhé) is an ancient idiom, originating from a story in ancient China. It means taking actions that are opposite to one's goals and ultimately failing to achieve them.

Meaning

“南”的意思是南边。
“nán” means south
“辕”的意思是车前部驾牲畜的两根直木。
“yuán” means two straight logs for driving livestock in the front of the car.
“北”的意思是向北、北方。
“bei” means north.
“辙”的意思车轮在地面上碾出的痕迹。
“zhé” means the wheels of a vehicle roll over the ground and leave marks on it.

Story

During the Warring States period, King Wei of Wei decided to attack the capital of the state of Zhao, Handan. The courtiers opposed this decision, and an official named Ji Liang told a story to him: a man driving a carriage to the state of Chu drove northward, and thus he went further and further away from his destination. The competition for supremacy is not won by military might, but by winning the hearts of the people. Going to war is like driving a carriage towards the south while sitting in a carriage facing north. King Wei of Wei decided not to go to war.

Revelation

To achieve success, it is necessary to have a clear direction and goal from the outset in order to fully leverage one's favorable conditions, otherwise it will only have the opposite effect. If one aims to achieve a certain goal but acts in a contrary manner, then such actions will only lead to greater distance from success.

Sentences

  1. His plan sounds great, but in reality, it's completely off track and difficult to achieve.
    他的计划听起来很好,但实际上是南辕北辙,难以实现。
    tā de jì huà tīng qǐ lái hěn hǎo, dàn shí jì shàng shì nán yuán běi zhé, nán yǐ shí xiàn.
  2. Our goal is to encourage more people to use environmentally friendly products, and your actions are completely the opposite.
    我们的目标是让更多的人使用环保产品,你这样做简直是南辕北辙。
    wǒ men de mù biāo shì ràng gèng duō de rén shǐ yòng huán bǎo chǎn pǐn, nǐ zhè yàng zuò jiǎn zhí shì nán yuán běi zhé.
  3. You want to go east, but he wants to go west. It's like driving in opposite directions, we can't agree.
    你想往东走,他却要往西去,真是南辕北辙,无法相投。
    nǐ xiǎng wǎng dōng zǒu, tā què yào wǎng xī qù, zhēn shì nán yuán běi zhé, wú fǎ xiàng tóu.

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