Idiom/Proverb – China


“Hypocritical – Contradictory”

“A spear and shield”

Shanling told me that she learned this Chinese idiom when she was in Chinese school in Denver, Colorado. She told me that it refers to a story well know in China about some person that was a hypocrite. The story is about a salesman from the past that sold weapons in China. One day he was advertising that he had a spear that could travel through anything, it was a perfect spear. Also, he had in his possession a perfect shield; the shield could stop any weapon that was launch at it. Someone asked the salesman what would happen if he threw the perfect spear into the perfect shield. He was stunned and did not answer the question. She told me that this salesman is a perfect example of a hypocrite. Shanling first heard the idiom form her mother. One example is when she got offered an internship at Boeing and was struggling whether she should take it or not. She wanted and needed the money but did not want to work for it; she just wanted to get money for doing nothing. Then her mother told her that she was being just like the salesman that sold a spear and shield. She thinks that this is a perfect lesson for students to learn and that the idiom is perfect to use when someone is a hypocrite.

I agree with Shanling with the use of this idiom. The Salesman is being a hypocrite as he is advertising two contrary perfect things. They can not both be perfect, if one shall use the perfect spear against the perfect shield one of them has to break and this will reveal the lies coming from the salesman. This is a great example how some people can be two-sided only to benefit themselves. This idiom can help people realized when they are being hypocrite. However, one needs to know the story in order to relate the two together. If the story is not known, the idiom will not make any sense. This idiom could probably only be told to people from China or people that are familiar with that Chinese story. Once, they know the story, making the connection between the salesman and hypocrisy will not be too complicated.