Chinese Idiom Stories

To Sleep On Brushwood And Taste Gall


During the Spring and Autumn Period, He Liu, the king of Wu, attacked the kingdom of Yue. During the battle, his right foot was cut off by the general of Yue, and he died. Fu Cha, the crown prince of Wu, took over the throne, and late led the Wu army back into Yue to retaliate. Fu Cha defeated Yue, captured their king, Gou Jian, and took him back to Wu, where he was forced to guard He Liu's tomb and care for the king's horses.

Although Gou Jian had been captured, he never forgot his great aspiration of rebuilding his country and avenging himself. During his time in captivity, he acted very faithful and obedient to Fu Cha, so that finally he earned Fu Cha's trust and was released.

After returning to Yue, Gou Jian slept every night on brushwood. And before eating or going to sleep, he would taste a bit of gall from the gallbladder of an animal which he always kept nearby. This was to remind himself of the imprisionment. After ten years of preparation, Gou Jian attacked and defeated Wu, rebuilt Yue, and made it one of the strongest and most prosperous kingdom of the time.

Today, "To Sleep On Brushwood and Taste Gall" means to take whatever measures are necessary to achieve one's goal - usually indicating hard work and self-denial.





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