S1E02-Fen-wise and Yuan-foolish

For listeners in China, if the SoundCloud player doesn’t work for you, please try this player:

In this new episode (weekly, as advertised), Laszlo introduces a story from the early 4th Century BCE, the Warring States period that preceded unification of China under Qin Shihuang.  It concerns the ruler down in the southwest kingdom of Shu, centered around Chengdu. Thanks to his greediness for a small gift, he ended up losing big later on. He was so busy counting his pennies earned in a quick score that he lost sight of the pounds he’d lose down the road.  This ruler’s moment of weakness was immortalized by Lü Buwei in his highly respected Lü Shi Chunqiu who called him out as one who Tan Xiao Shi Da.


1/100th of a Yuan

   100 fen = 1 Yuan (or 1 RMB)

Zhongguo 中国 China, Middle Kingdom

chengyu   成语 Chinese Saying, proverb, idiom

King Huiwen of Qin   秦惠文王 King of the Qin State from 338-311 BCE (a century before Qin Dynasty founding emperor Qin Shihuang)

Qin   秦 The name of the dynasty and state with the Ying 赢 family as its core

Xian   西安 Capital of Shaanxi Province, formerly known as Chang’an

Shiniu Dao   石牛道 the Stone Cattle Road

Qinling Mountains 秦岭山 Mountain chain in southern Shaanxi separating northwest and southwest China

Shaanxi   陕西 Province in China

Sichuan   四川 Province in China

Tan  贪 to covet or be greedy for something.

Xiao 小 small

Tan Xiao 贪小 greedy for small things.

Shi 失 to lose

Da 大 great or big

Shi da 矢大 lose big.

Tan Xiao Shi Da 贪小失大 because you are greedy for the small thing, you end up losing the big thing.

Shu 蜀国 Ancient kingdom centered around Chengdu

Ba State   巴国 Just east of Shu. Centered around Chongqing

Lü Buwei   吕不韦 Early advisor to Qin King Ying Zheng (and rumored to be the King’s father). Later executed after Ying Zheng became Emperor Qin Shihuang

Lüshi Chunqiu   吕氏春秋 The Spring and Autumn Annals of Lü Buwei, a leading primary source of these times.


  • Thank you for making this available via an alternate player.

    I’m in New Orleans in the USA and the SoundCloud one is no longer working.

    • We’re still trying to sort out the best possible solution for these players. Seems there’s no one-size-fits-all solution. Everything’s also available on my YouTube Channel.

  • I sure wish that you would put tone marks on everything in the list of terms for each podcast. I noticed in The sayings podcast that sometimes you do and sometimes you don’t and our whole list of terms with no tone marks.
    Thanks! Nice to see all these varieties of podcasts from Laszlo.

    • Hi Michael, Ever since I started getting these requests I have been faithfully putting the tone marks in the Terms from each episode. Older episodes don’t have the tone marks. It’s just too big a fast right now to go back and fix all past episodes…but if I can hire someone one day…for sure that’s on the To Do list. But from about the latest episode or two of the CHP….everything will have tone marks….All CSP’s….because there aren’t that many of them….will have tone marks. Rest assured…this will be a top rate classy organization one day!!!

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