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I was browsing the Chinese internet looking for a bank that supports Mac OS when I came across this site. They list a range of different banks under a range of different headings, the first of which is 当仁不让.

I've looked it up in my dictionary, but I'm really none the wiser. Can anyone tell me what it means in this context? Where does this expression come from? Thanks!

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3 Answers 3

up vote 11 down vote accepted

This idiom comes from the famous book of 《论语》, a book recording the Confucius and his disciples' words. Here is the source:

《论语·卫灵公》:“子曰:‘当仁,不让于师’。”

Explanations:

卫灵公 is the name of a chapter of that book.

In that chapter, you can read this sentence(the 36th) "子曰:‘当仁,不让于师’。“ The Confucius said:" when [you are] facing 仁(see note), you should not be modest to decline to do it,even if your teacher is next to you.(Don't leave it to the teacher. Just do it yourself!)."

note: 仁 is the core values in Confucius's thoughts. Here I suggest you simply understand as "justice, morality,universal love", since it's hard to explain, especially in a short paragraph.

Today, we use this idiom to say:

when facing something that deserves you doing or undertaking because it conforms to our good values or will benefit someone else, don't be shy to say no.Just do it!

Example dialogue based on some a real dialogue :D :

Ciaocibai: Huang,我在Meta上提名你来做管理员了。Huang, I nominated you as moderator on Meta.

Huang: 谢谢你的好意,不过我担心我做不好,因为我还不熟悉StackExchange的制度和管理员工具。Thanks for your kindness, but I am afraid that I can't be a good moderator,because I am not familiar with the discipline of StackExchange and the moderator tools

Ciaocibai: Huang, 我觉得你应当“当仁不让”. Huang, I think you should not be too shy to be a moderator. Show yourself!

In your case, the owner of that webpage wants to say"the banks are good, and I am glad to list them here and share with you. ".

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That's a great explanation! Thanks a bunch - very helpful! And love the real life example ;-) –  Ciaocibai Jan 17 '12 at 7:43
1  
+1 for the dialogue again ahah :D –  Alenanno Jan 17 '12 at 9:38
    
+1 for the dialogue! –  dusan Jan 17 '12 at 16:45
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+1 chinese is my native language but i didn't know the origin of this. good to know. well done. –  Laguna Jan 17 '12 at 20:47
    
+1 for the careful study, good translation of traditional Chinese and the dialogue! –  coolcfan Jan 19 '12 at 8:23

Huang provided an excellent. I'd like to say more about the meaning in the context.

The banks listed under "当仁不让" are the good ones. Here, the website is personifying the banks, urging them not to be "shy" because they offer good services (similar to people that posses 仁/good moral values).


The column "差强人意" lists banks that are overall acceptable. (positive connotation)

It comes from 《后汉书》:

《后汉书·吴汉传》:“帝时遣人观大司马何为,还言方修战攻之具,乃叹曰:‘吴公差强人意,隐若一敌国矣。’”

Rough translation:

The Emperor found out that Wu Han, a 大司马 (see note), was repairing the weapons after he lost a battle. The Emperor considered Wu's attitude/work ethic overall satisfactory.

Note: 大司马 is a title, suggesting that Wu was in charge of some troops.


"自郐 (kuai4) 以下" suggests that the banks listed in the column are not notable. (negative connotation)

It comes from 《左传》.

《左传·襄公二十九年》:“自郐以下无讥焉。”

Rough translation:

Ji Li was a music critic, but he had not given comments after he saw a performance in Kuai (a state). (All performances are not worth his attention after Kuai.)


The last one is "千夫所指", indicating that you should avoid banks listed in this column.

"千夫所指" comes from 《汉书》:

《汉书·王嘉传》:“千人所指,无病而死。”

Rough translation:

Dong Xian embezzled a lot of money in taxes. Wang Jia saw it, and referenced the idiom "千人所指 (or 千夫所指), 无病而死" to criticize him. Wang believed that Dong wouldn't end up well because everyone censured him for the embezzlement.

"千夫所指" literally means "be subjected to everybody's censure".


The idiom in the green bubble is "三年化碧", suggesting that the banks are always good.

It comes from 《庄子》:

《庄子·外物》:“苌弘死于蜀,藏其血,三年而化为碧。”

Rough translation:

Chang Hong was an honest bureaucrat free from corruption, but was killed in a conspiracy. One of Chang's supporters collected (some of?) his blood, which all turned into jade three years later. Jade often represents candidness and the courage to stand up for what one believes is right.


The idiom in the red bubble is "朝秦暮楚", indicating that the banks are sometimes good.

"朝秦暮楚" comes from 《鸡肋集》:

《鸡肋集·北渚亭赋》:“托生理于四方,固朝秦而暮楚。”

Rough translation:

Qin and Chu were the superpowers at that time, so the smaller countries sometimes side with Qin and sometimes side with Chu to protect themselves.

"朝秦暮楚" now describes people that are fickle or inconsistent about their views. The website here is again personifying the banks.


The website has a very high level of vocabulary. Among the idioms (成语) mentioned here, only 差强人意, 千夫所指, and 朝秦暮楚 are popular in use. Banks are also personified - a very rare phenomenon in the Chinese language.

Native speakers almost always mistakenly treat "差强人意" as a negative idiom. It in fact carries a positive connotation. See other common mistakes here.

Great question and I learned two new idioms as a native speaker!

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Thanks so much for the thoughtful, in-depth answer. Much appreciated! –  Ciaocibai Mar 27 '12 at 13:21

当仁不让.

Just like when you knows something well, and it should be done by someone. Maybe others can do it, but they can't do it better than you. So, there is no need to wait for others(ask you to do or do it themselves), you are going to do it.

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