Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Today we are going to learn a very simple Chinese word, 米. It may look like an asterisk "*", but this word is very important to human being, especially Asian people.

Ok, the word that we going to learn today is 米, pronounced as "mi". The meaning of this word is rice. We all know what is rice, something that we eat. Apart from it default meaning, it also has different meanings.

We like to say someone that rich, or seem to be rich, "有米", mean got rice. Why we say rich people got rice, but not got gold, got silver, or got grass, but we say the bugger got rice. To understand this sentence, we need to go back to few thousand years ago, back to Qing dynasty 秦朝.

At that moment, all the government workers are paid using rice. For example, the prime minister annual salary at that time is ten thousand stone rice. One stone is around 150 pounds of rice. Which mean, the prime minister was given 1.5 million pounds of rice as his salary. So, if you want to buy something, like fish or house, you can pay the vendor using rice. If you want to know the price of an item, you may ask "How much rice?". Therefore, the rich people are those who owned lots and lots of rice.

The story now go to Jin dynasty 晋朝 (the dynasty after the three kingdoms), the vary famous author named Tao Yuan Ming said a very famous idiom, 不为五斗米折腰, we can direct translate it as "don't bow for 5 pecks of rice". According to history, one peck of rice is about 15 pounds, so 5 pecks is around 75 pounds of rice. Tao Yuan Ming was resigning from his post because he did not want to put down his pride to please the higher post officer. A great person don't work for money, there are far more important things than money.

Ok, that's all for today about the rice story.