Digging a Well when Thirsty

PureInsight | August 29, 2007

[PureInsight.org] During the
Spring and Autumn Period, there was internal disturbance in the Lu
State. Lu Zhao Gong, the King of Lu, was forced to leave his state and
ran to the Ji State. When Qi Jing Gong, king of the Ji State, asked
him, "You are so young and you've lost your state. Do you know why?"

Zhao Gong said, "Because I am young, many people took care of me but I
did not treat them well. When many people gave me advice, I did not
listen. As a result, there is no one to assist me internally and no one
to support me externally. Now there is no one really wanting to help
and support me. I am surrounded by fawning officials and people who
want favors from me. I am just like the fluffy grass in autumn, the
roots are all drying up but the leaves and branches still look pretty.
When the wind blows, it will be uprooted."

Jing Gong thought that what he said was quite reasonable and told Yan
Zi. Jing Gong said, "If I help Zhao Gong go back to the Lu State, will
he become a kind and good king?"

Yan Zi said, "Not so. The foolish ones become complacent easily.
Incompetent people often think they very capable. When these people are
drowning or lost, it is due to their negligence and not paying
attention to the route and direction. They try to understand the nature
of water only when they are about to drown. They ask for directions
only after they are lost.  Just the same, when a state is having
crisis, people start to produce weapons and when people are choking on
their food, they start to dig a well to get water. Even though these
are fast actions, it is too late."

Later what Yan Zi said became an idiom: Digging a well when
thirsty.  It means trying to deal with problems only when it turns
into a crisis and it is too late.

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