取而代之 (qǔ ér dài zhī): An Ancient Taboo that you should never mention

0
92

Do you dare to speak out? They may be wildest dreams, brutally honest comments, blatant truths that nobody is willing to talk about…

 

If your answer is no, you evidently aren’t fit to even think about being the ruler of China. One person during the Qin dynasty in China expressed his ambition of seizing the throne despite the risk of execution. Here is a story about a youth named Xiang Yu 项羽 (Xiàngyǔ).

During the Warring States Period 战国时期 (Zhànguó shíqí), the ancient state 秦国 (Qín guó) took over all other states. This marked the founding of the Qin Dynasty 秦朝 (Qín cháo).

 

To assert his authority and dominance, the Qin Emperor 秦始皇 (Qínshǐhuáng) always paraded around the country. When he was parading in Huiji County 会稽郡 (Guìjī jùn), a city in Southern China, a young boy in the crowd Xiang Yu, all of the sudden, said, “彼可取而代之 (Bǐ kě qǔ’érdàizhī)”, which meant “I can take down the King and replace him”. Listening to such heresy, his uncle immediately covered Xiang Yu’s mouth and scolded him fearfully. The reason why he reacted this way was considered taboo in Ancient China if someone mentioned usurping.

 

Anyway, when Xiang Yu grew older, he became one of the individuals from Chu 楚 (chǔ) who led the overthrowing of the Qin Dynasty. Later on, he was proclaimed 西楚霸王 (Xī chǔ bàwáng) which meant “Hegemon of the Western Chu kingdom”.

 

In Xiang Yu’s fearless speech, he said “彼可取而代之 (Bǐ kě qǔ’érdàizhī)”. The phrase 取而代之 (qǔ é dài zhī) meant “replace”, which can refer to someone or something. If you’re buying a new notebook to replace the old one, you may say “我会以新的笔记本将旧的取而代之 (Wǒ huì yǐ xīn de bǐjìběn jiàng jiù de qǔ’érdàizhī)”, which means “I am going to replace the old notebook with a new one”. It’s not as taboo as what Xiang Yu said, but it can certainly show a bit of ambition!

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here