Fuseki chinboku

Here's a handy Sino-Japanese expression I recently learned: 浮石沈木, fuseki chinboku, or ishi o ukase, ki o shizumu: "float stone, sink wood." It's from a short passage in the Xīnyǔ 新語, attributed to Lù Jiǎ (?) 陸賈. Here's a quick and ugly translation of the original:


Dig: When enough people get to building things up and tearing them down, they can float stone and sink wood. When the wicked get to work, the straight becomes crooked, and when people don't understand what they see, white becomes black. Crooked and straight are different shapes, white and black are different tones: these are the easiest things to see in the world, but when people's eyes are mistaken or their spirits uncertain, that's when they go astray.

So 浮石沈木 refers to the madness of crowds: the failure of the noble and the success of the unworthy, driven by collective judgments that go against all logic. (Insert joke about your least favorite TV series/book/cultural phenomenon here.)

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