When things backfire: 此地无银三百两


Remember that one How I Met Your Mother episode where Marshall becomes sports guy, has too much cash on hand from running a fantasy league and becomes paranoid from carrying all the money around? A similarly ridiculous incident caused by paranoia has happened in Chinese history. This is known as 此地无银三百两 (Cǐdì wú yín sānbǎi liǎng).

A long time ago, there was a man called Zhang San 张三 (Zhāng sān). He saved up 300 Silvers and he was wondering where to hide his wealth.

Zhang San put his money in a chest and locked it with a padlock. Then he locked it with another padlock. Then he scratched his chin and furrowed his brow. It didn’t seem safe enough for him. To hide his money in a safer place, Zhang San dug a hole under a tree that night and buried the chest.

But even that wasn’t enough for Zhang San. What if someone had seen him digging and realized his money was now buried there? But then, he thought of an ingenious plan: he would write a sign that said “300 Silvers aren’t buried here” “此地无银三百两”. No one would realize 300 Silvers was actually buried there, he thought. Satisfied with his plan, he returned home to rest.

In fact, his neighbour Wang Er 王二 (Wáng èr)had been watching his every move. After Zhang San left, Wang Er crept towards the tree and stole the money.

“Wait.” Wang Er muttered. “What if Zhang San suspects I am the thief?”

To be safe, he posted a note on top of the original note that read “Your neighbour Wang Er didn’t steal the buried money.”

I’m sure you can guess what happened the next day when Zhang San passed the tree and saw the sign.

Well, what does this story tell you? When you try to hide things, it ends up backfiring. Real bad.


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