Stories behind Idioms: Kill Two Birds with One Arrow

PureInsight | December 3, 2007

[] Zhangsun
Sheng, whose style name was Ji Sheng, was born in Luoyang during the
Northern and Southern dynasties. He was very bright and read a wide
range of books. He was especially good at archery and much more agile
than most people. When he was eighteen, he was posted as the Siwei
Shangshi of the Houzhou kingdom.

She Tu was the chief of the Tujue tribe in northern China. He espoused
building up the relationship with the Houzhou by marriage. The emperor
of Houzhou agreed to marry princess Qianjin to She Tu. Zhangsun Sheng,
Yuwen Shengqing and other officials were assigned to accompany and
guard the princess on her journey to Tujue.

There were quite a few attendants accompanying the princess to Tujue,
but Chief She Tu only respected Zhangsun Sheng and always invited him
to go hunting with him. She Tu also persuaded him to stay in Tujue for
a year after the mission. One day, when they were hunting, She Tu saw a
vulture flying and fighting for a piece of meat in another vulture's
beak high in the air. She Tu handed two arrows to Zhangsun Sheng and
asked him to shoot the two vultures. Zhangsun Sheng whipped his horse
and galloped after them. While the two vultures were fighting fiercely
for the meat, he drew his bow and shot both of the vultures with only
one arrow. She Tu was very pleased and ordered all the aristocrats and
his relatives to come close to Zhangsun Sheng and learn archery from

From that story came the idiom "Kill Two Birds with One Arrow," indicating achieving two things with one stroke.

Translated from:

Add new comment