Origin of the Chinese Idiom, "Even if I Wanted to Stop, I Could Not Do It Now"

Yi Dou

PureInsight | March 1, 2004

[Pureinsight.org] Yan Hui was from the warring state of Lu. He and his father Yi Lu went to study under Confucius.

After studying under Confucius for a while, Yan Hui said with a deep sigh, "The more I looked up at IT-the Master's word, the higher IT soared. The deeper I bore down into IT, the harder IT becomes. I saw IT in front; but suddenly IT is behind. Step by step the Master skillfully lures one on. He had broadened my thinking with ancient and modern classics, restrained my actions with ritual. Even if I wanted to stop, I could not do it now. And when at times I have exhausted all of my powers, still something seems to stand majestically before me; yet though I long to pursue IT, I can find no way of getting to IT at all." (The Analects by Confucius Book 9:10)

Yan Hui was very poor. He could only afford to eat a handful of rice followed by a gourd of water per meal. His living quarters were also very bad. Others could not have stood such hardship, yet he did not lose his cheerfulness. (The Analects by Confucius Book 6:9) Confucius thought highly of him.

Unfortunately Yan Hui died soon afterwards. One day, King Ai of the Warring State of Wu asked Confucius which one of the disciples was fondest of learning. Confucius answered him: "There was Yan Hui, - he was fond of learning. He never vented his wrath upon the innocent, and he never repeated a fault. Unfortunately his life was short and he died. Now there is none like him, nor have I heard of anyone who is fond of learning." (Book 6:2)

The Chinese idiom "Even if I wanted to stop, I couldn't do it now" is based on the story of Yan Hui.

Translated from: http://www.zhengjian.org/zj/articles/2004/2/12/25786.html

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