Chinese Idiom: 乐不思蜀 - To forget where you came from

August 24, 2022

Today, we want to share the story behind the popular idiom “乐不思蜀” (lè bù sī shǔ).

It is roughly translated as "To forget where you came from” in English. We have included both the Chinese and the English versions of the story below.

Now, let's find out what it really means…

乐不思蜀chinese idiom

三国时,蜀国的君主刘备死后,他的儿子刘禅就当了蜀国的君主,称为“蜀后主”。刘禅的小名叫阿斗,是一个非常无能的人,每天只知道吃喝玩乐,一点儿都不关心朝政。刚即位时,有诸葛亮、蒋琬等人一起辅佐他,国家还算繁荣稳定,但是辅佐他的人慢慢地都去世了,朝政越来越腐败,公元263年,魏国灭了蜀国。

During the Three Kingdoms Period, Liú Chán took the throne of the state of Shu after his father, Liú Bèi, passed away. They called him "shǔ hòu zhǔ 蜀后主" to highlight the fact that he was the second king of Shu.

Liú Chán’s nickname was A Dou, a name for someone weak and inept. He was incompetent and useless. He only knew how to eat, play, and relax and couldn’t care less about how his kingdom was doing.

When Liú Chán took the throne, Zhūgě Liàng and Jiǎng Wǎn were there to assist him. They kept the kingdom relatively stable. But when the court aids died, the kingdom slowly fell apart. By 263 BC, the state of Wei took over the state of Shu.

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魏王接受了刘禅的投降,就让他全家离开蜀国,搬到魏国的都城洛阳,第二年,魏王封他为“安乐公”,并给他提供了衣食住行和很多仆人,刘禅在魏国过着舒服、快乐的生活,觉得非常满足。

The king of Wei accepted Liú Chán’s surrender. He allowed him and his family to leave Shu and move to the capital of the state of Wei, Luo Yang. The year after, the king of Wei named him "the carefree Duke" and provided him with servants and all the necessities for life. Liú Chán was so comfortable in Wei and lived in sheer bliss.

China Three Kingdom map - shu wei wu

有一天,司马昭邀请刘禅及蜀国以前的大臣参加宴会。宴会上,特地为刘禅演奏了蜀国的音乐,舞蹈,在场的蜀汉大臣们看了,都因思念自己的国家而十分难过,有的甚至流下了眼泪,只有刘禅看得越来越高兴,完全没有亡国之痛。司马昭看到刘禅的样子,就悄悄地对一位大臣说:没想到他竟然这么糊涂,即使诸葛亮没有死,也没有办法扶持好这样的国君啊!”于是又问刘禅:“你现在还想回蜀国吗?”刘禅直接回答说:“我在这里很快乐,一点儿也不想去蜀国!” 蜀官们听了他的回答,都非常失望和伤心。

One day, Sīmǎ Zhāo invited Liú Chán and the previous ministers of the state of Shu to a banquet. At the banquet, they performed Shu music and dances especially for Liú Chán.

The ministers watching became so nostalgic about the past and began weeping. Only Liú Chán was watching gleefully, without any thought to the pain his kingdom felt.

Sīmǎ Zhāo looked at Liú Chán and whispered to a minister: "I didn’t think he would be so clueless. Even if Zhūgě Liàng didn’t die, there’s still no way he would become a good monarch!” So he turned and asked Liú Chán: “Do you still want to return to Shu?” Liú Chán answered bluntly, “I’m quite happy here, I have no need to go back.”

When his ministers heard this, they were hurt and disappointed.

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后来,蜀国原来的大臣郤正告诉刘禅,如果司马昭再问你想不想蜀国,您应该哭着说:“我非常想念蜀国,时时刻刻都想回去。”也许我们还有回到蜀国的希望。” 刘禅便牢牢记住了郤正的话,正好有一次,司马昭又问刘禅想不想回蜀国。刘禅便按照郤正教他的话回答,司马昭猜到一定是郤正教刘禅说的,便故意问道:“你说的话怎么和郤正说的完全一样呢?” 刘禅听了非常吃惊,说道:“就是他教我的。” 听后,司马昭和旁边的人都大笑了起来,蜀国的旧臣们听说了这件事之后,没有一个不痛恨刘禅的无能。

Then, Xì Zhēng, a prominent minister of the state of Shu, said to Liú Chán, "If Sīmǎ Zhāo asks if you miss Shu, you should cry and tell him 'I miss it so much, and I think about going back all the time.' Then we might have some hope of regaining our kingdom."

Liú Chán took what he said to heart. The time came when Sīmǎ Zhāo asked Liú Chán whether he would want to go back to Shu state. Liú Chán answered as Xì Zhēng instructed. Sīmǎ Zhāo guessed that those were the exact words that Xì Zhēng said, and intentionally asked Liú Chán: "How is possible you say the exact words Xì Zhēng said?" Liú Chán was taken aback and replied: "He told me to say it."

After hearing this, Sīmǎ Zhāo and his people began to laugh. When the old ministers of Shu heard this, they loathed Liú Chán’s incompetence even more.

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后来,人们就把刘禅的这种行为叫作“乐不思蜀”。

From this day onwards, “lè bù sī shǔ” was used to reference people who act like Liú Chán.

比喻在新环境中过得很愉快,只顾贪图享乐而忘了自己原来的地方。

It is a metaphor for those so enthralled by their new surroundings that they forget where they came from.

人们也常常嘲笑不努力、没出息的人,就叫作“阿斗”或“扶不起的阿斗”。

These people are often lazy and show no promise. Sometimes they are also referred to as "A Dou" or "The A Dou that can’t be helped."

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乐 lè (happy)

le for the lebusishu Chinese idiom article

不 bù (no, not)

bu for the lebusishu Chinese idiom article

思 sī (think)

si think illustration for the lebusishu Chinese idiom article

蜀 shǔ (Referencing the Shu State)

China Three Kingdom map - shu wei wu

例句 (Example Sentences)

他在大城市生活得非常幸福,早就乐不思蜀了。
Tā zài dà chéngshì shēnghuó dé fēicháng xìngfú, zǎo jiù lèbùsīshǔle.
He is happy in the city, he certainly isn’t thinking of home.

他本来打算出国学习半年就回国,谁知道他到了国外,就乐不思蜀了,再也没有回来。
Tā běnlái dǎsuàn chūguó xuéxí bànnián jiù huíguó, shéi zhīdào tā dàole guówài, jiù lèbùsīshǔle, zài yě méiyǒu huílái.
Originally, he was planning to study abroad for half a year, who knew that as soon as he left, he would never look back.

这座楼就像是一个绿色海洋上的平台,让居住者们乐不思蜀。
Zhè zuò lóu jiù xiàng shì yīgè lǜsè hǎiyáng shàng de píngtái, ràng jūzhù zhěmen lèbùsīshǔ.
This building is like a platform on the ocean, people living here must never want to leave.

About the Writer

Hou Laoshi

Inner Mongolia University For Nationalities graduate; 10+ years experience in teaching Chinese. Hou laoshi is loved for her caring and patient teaching style.

HOU LAOSHI CY


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