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Idioms Lesson 37
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Whoever plays with fire shall perish by it

During the Spring and Autumn Period (770-476 B.C.), prince Zhouyu of the State of Wei killed his brother, Duke Huan of Wei, and became the new emperor. Zhouyu was a tyrant, oppressing his people and indulging in wars of aggression. By launching wars, he tried to divert his people's attention and reduce their discontent with him.

The Duke of the State of Lu learned about Zhouyu's usurpation of state power and his ambitious plan to annex other states. He then asked one of his officials, "Could Zhouyu, in your opinion, attain what he aims for?" The official answered, "He indulges in wars and brings his people much disaster. He won't get their support. And he's capricious, so few of his close friends follow him. He will never achieve his ambition. Moreover, war is like fire. If one launches wars endlessly without restraint, he'll eventually burn himself."

As it turned out, with the help of the State of Chen, the people of Wei overthrew Zhouyu and killed him in less than a year.

Later, people use the idiom to say that those who do evil will ultimately ruin themselves.

wán huŏ zì fén





míng zhēng àn dòu
both open strife and veiled rivalry

yǒu yăn wú zhū
have eyes but no pupils; have eyes but see not; undiscerning

xiōng duō jí shăo
bode ill rather than well; be faced with a precarious situation; be fraught with grim possibilities

huà xiăn wéi yí
turn danger into safety; get out of the jaws of danger

tóng gān gòng kŭ
share weal and woe; share comforts and hardships; go through thick and thin together

qiú tóng cún yì
seek common ground while reserving differences

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