Today I was looking in my book for a Chinese saying about the guy that quenched his thirst by thinking about plums.

I'm shy to admit, but it's one of my favorites.

How does the saying go? How do you spell it?

2 Answers 2


望梅止渴 wàng méi zhǐ kě lit. to quench one"s thirst by thinking of plums (idiom), fig. to console oneself with illusions The expression is a chengyu (成语, cheng2yu3).

There's a story behind it: in the Three Kingdoms period, general Cao Cao (曹操 Cáo Cāo (155-220)) was leading his troops on a journey to battle. They were in a dry place and his troops were very thirsty. Cao Cao tricked them by telling them they were not far from a wood of plum trees, where the plums were juicy and sweet; they would be able to quench their thirst there. Thinking of the plums got the soldiers' mouths watering. They no longer felt so thirsty and were able to continue their route. Soon after they arrived at a place where they found water.

I got this info from a very good French-Chinese book called "Il était une fois Au pays des chengyu" by Fei-Fei CHEN and Claire JOURNIAC.



A Chinese English Dictionary

quench one's thirst by thinking of plums-console oneself with false hopes; feed on fancies

and some Chinese:


解释 口渴时想到吃到梅子,流出口水,就不渴了。比喻用空想或空话来安慰自己或别人。也作“望梅消渴"。

语见 《水浒传》五一回:“雷横道:‘我赏你三五两银子也不打紧,却恨今日忘记带来。'白秀英道:‘官人今日见一文也无,提甚三五两银子。正是教俺望梅止渴,画饼充饥。'" 例句 如果现在丢开这些基本的书籍不认真苦读,一心想找秘本,只恐望梅止渴,无济于事。(马南邨《燕山夜话·有书赶快读》)

近义 画饼充饥

反义 把饭叫饥

提示 “渴"不要写作“喝"。

辨析 〔参见〕画饼充饥

典故 三国时期,有一次曹操率领军队行军,走到一个没有水的地方,士兵们口渴难忍。曹操就骗他们说:前面有片很大的梅树林,结了许多梅子,又甜又酸,可以解渴。士兵们听了,想起梅子的酸味,嘴里顿时流出口水,就不感到渴了。

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