塞翁失马

The story behind the idiom “A loss, no bad thing”
(Chinese: “塞翁失马,焉知非福”)

翁:wēng, old man • 失:shī, lose/fail/miss
焉:yān, how (an ancient Chinese word)
知:zhī, know/realize • 福:fú, blessing/good fortune

A farmer had only one horse. One day, his horse ran away.
His neighbours said, “I’m so sorry. This is such bad news. You must be so upset.”
The man just said, “We’ll see.”

A few days later, his horse came back with twenty wild horses following. The man and his son corralled all 21 horses.
His neighbours said, “Congratulations! This is such good news. You must be so happy!”
The man just said, “We’ll see.”

One of the wild horses kicked the man’s only son, breaking both his legs.
His neighbours said, “I’m so sorry. This is such bad news. You must be so upset.”
The man just said, “We’ll see.”

The country went to war, and every able-bodied young man was drafted to fight. The war was terrible and killed every young man, but the farmer’s son was spared, since his broken legs prevented him from being drafted.
His neighbours said, “Congratulations! This is such good news. You must be so happy!”
The man just said, “We’ll see.”

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