中文 |

只许州官放火,不许百姓点灯

By : | Published: 2011-11-30

只许州官放火,不许百姓点灯

宋朝田登做州官,为避官讳不许百姓言“登”,因登和灯同音。于是点灯就成了“点火”。元宵放灯就只好“本州依例,放火三日”,吓得百姓四散。这就是“只许州官放火,不准百姓点灯”的由来。

北宋时,有个州的太守名田登,为人专制蛮横,因为他名“登”,所以不许州内的百姓在谈话时说到任何一个与“登”字同音的字。于是,只要是与“登”字同音的,都要其它字来代替。谁要是触犯了他这个忌讳,便要被加上“侮辱地方长官”的罪名,重则判刑,轻则挨板子。不少吏卒因为说到与“登”同音的字,都遭到鞭打。

一年一度的元宵佳节即将到来。依照以往的惯例,州城里都要放三天焰火,点三天花灯表示庆祝。州府衙门要提前贴出告示,让老百姓到时候前来观灯。可是这次,却让出告示的官员感到左有为难。

怎么写呢?用上“灯”字,要触犯太守;不用“灯”字,意思又表达不明白。想了好久,写告示的小官员只能把“灯”字改成”火”字。这样,告示上就写成了“本州照例放火三日”。

告示贴出后,老百姓看了都惊吵喧闹起来。尤其是一些外地来的客人,更是丈二和尚摸不着头脑,还真的以为官府要在城里放三天火呢!大家纷纷收拾行李,争着离开这是非之地。当地的老百姓,平时对于田登的专制蛮横无理已经是非常不满,这次看了官府贴出的这张告示,更是气愤万分,忿忿他说:“只许州官放火,不许百姓点灯,这是什么世道!”

The prefect is free to set fire to things, while the common people are forbidden even to light a lamp—The bosses can do just what they want, while they impose stupid restrictions on the common people.”

A Song Dynasty prefect named Tian Deng was an arrogant, domineering fellow, and always abused his power. Because his given name was Deng, he ordered the people not to say or write the word “deng.” Anything pronounced “deng” was forbidden, so people had to use substitutes for such words. For example, the Chinese word for “lamp” is pronounced “deng”. When people wanted to say “light a lamp”, they were not allowed to say “dian deng” but had to say “dian huo” which really means “lighting a fire.” Whoever said or wrote any word pronounced “deng” would be in deep trouble. This chap Deng had people flogged for a mere slip of the tongue. Understandably, the people were really fed up with all this.

One day shortly after the Lunar New Year, the government put up a notice telling the local people to prepare for the upcoming Lantern Festival. In accordance with custom, they should display their homemade festival lanterns. People called it “fang deng”—“to display lanterns”. Now, if the word “deng” for “lantern” is replaced by the word “huo” meaning “fire,” the phrase for “display lantern” becomes “fang huo” or “start a fire”! Of course, the official who wrote the notice dare not write the word “deng.” So he worded it like this: “According to tradition, this prefecture will ‘start fires’ for three days.”

Reading the notice, the local people didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. Outsiders visiting the place were astounded by the phrase “start fires for three days”. When they knew how it came about, they sarcastically said: “Humph! The PREFECT is free to set FIRE to things, while the COMMON People are forbidden even to light a LAMP!”

Later, people began to use this phrase as an idiom to describe the high-handed way people in power do things. They can do anything they feel like, while they make life miserable for ordinary people. The idiom drives home people’s complaint about the inequality between officials and the common folks.

More Headlines From Around the Web
Follow
Copyright © 2008 Kunming All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part without permission is prohibited. E-mail: inkunmingkmxxg@hotmail.com