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· A swan feather sent from one thousand li away千里送鹅毛
A swan feather sent from one thousand li away千里送鹅毛

A swan feather sent from one thousand li away

Today, we’ll learn a new phrase which literally means “a swan feather sent from one thousand li away.” In Chinese it reads, “qian li song er mao.” There is an interesting story behind it.

During the Tang Dynasty more than 1,000 years ago, local officials had to pay tribute to the emperor by sending him gifts. Once, a local official sent a man called Mian Bogao to take some swans to the emperor to pay tribute. Mian therefore started his long journey to the capital with swans in cages. As he was passing a lake, he saw that the swans were hot and dirty. He proceeded to open the cages and let the swans loose so they could have a bath in the lake. But the swans didn’t appreciate his kindness. They flew away the minute they were let of their cages. All that was left were a few feathers. The man suddenly became very frightened. What would he say to the emperor? Mian began to cry. All of a sudden, he hit upon an idea. He picked up a feather from the ground and headed for the capital.

The emperor was at court accepting tributes and all the escorts were coming up to present their precious gifts. Then, Mian presented his feather. Everyone at the court was shocked. Mian asked the emperor to give him a chance to explain.

He the began to sing, “I’ve come a thousand li to pay my tribute. But I lost my swans at a lake. Please forgive me, your majesty. My gift is light, but my love and respect for you are true.”

The emperor was pleased and impressed by Mian’s wit. Instead of punishing him, he gave him a big reward.

People then drew the idiom “a swan feather sent from a thousand li away.” Li is a measurement, equaling half a kilometer. The ancient Chinese used the term a thousand li to describe a long distance away.

In Chinese, the idiom reads, “qian li song er mao.” We use it to describe a small gift sent from afar with good-will.

 Source :  Editor: Dong Wenwen
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