This post is the first one under the new ‘Tasteful Expression’ category. In honor of this occasion I would like to talk about one of my favorite Chinese idioms. Not only does it use food as a metaphor but also its moral is exactly what FOODragon is all about:
因 (yīn) – indicates reason, because of
噎 (yē) – to choke
废 (fèi) – abandon, give away, leave
食 (shí) – food, (eat in ancient Chinese)
literally it means to give up eating for fear of choking but what it’s really trying to say is one should not refrain from doing what is necessary simply because there are some risks involved. It’s a bit similar to the saying “if you wanna make an omelette you gotta break some eggs”.
This idiom is a Chengyu. That means it derives from ancient Chinese literature and there’s a whole story behind it. As the story goes one day a high ranking official almost choked to death on a piece of meat. This near death experience was so devastating he decided that from that day on neither he nor anyone else in his court shall ever eat again. Everyone almost starved to death until he decided to give the whole food thing another chance and saw it was actually rather safe.
This lesson very much applies to people who are coming to China yet refuse to try local food. Of course in our day and age they will not starve as China offers plenty of other option they are more familiar with, but still they are kinda missing the point. And let us not forget that the danger of choking is not strictly limited to food consumption.