Immobilize the Army
After careful consideration, you decide to wait for a more opportune moment. This behavior can be described with the following phrase.
Today's phrase is “an bing bu dong”. Bing means soldier in Chinese. So our listeners can guess this phrase has something to do with the army. Yes, the meaning of the idiom is to immobilize the army for now, but keep it mobilized for a more opportune moment. It can also express hesitation to take action after an order has been given. Here is the story behind it.
Over two thousand years ago, in the Spring and Autumn Period, there was a small dukedom called Wei who was forced to be the puppet of its stronger neighbor Jin. Then one day Wei fell under the rule of a new duke who put a final end to the humiliating alliance.
The Duke of Jin, Zhao Yang, was indignant from this betrayal and swore to get revenge on Wei. But first, he sent his official Shi Mo to investigate. The undercover official was instructed to return with information on Wei in a month's time.
But one month later, Shi Mo did not return, nor did he send back any information. Zhao Yang was furious. The people of Jin imagined Shi Mo was being held prisoner and called for an immediate attack. But Zhao Yang held a different opinion. He said since Wei had dared to end the relationship with Jin, it must be well-prepared for battle by now. Jin shouldn't be too hasty with its military action.
Half a year later, Shi Mo returned at last. Zhao Yang was all ears. Shi Mo announced that serious changes had taken place in Dukedom Wei. The new ruler had gained unanimous support from his countrymen by rallying them against Jin. When he told them that Jin had claimed their daughters as hostages, the citizens were outraged. They vowed to fight Jin until death. If Jin declared war against Wei at this point, Jin was sure to suffer severe damage.
Zhao Yang agreed. He decided to postpone military offense and to wait for a more opportune moment for attack.
From Zhao Yang's decision comes the idiom “an bing bu dong”. Since then it has become a popular phrase which can refer either to the immobilization of the army or to any decision to wait and see.