A Narrow Strip of Water in Between.
We often refer to Japan as China's “Yi Yi Dai Shui neighbor” to describe the close relation between the two countries. What's the meaning of the idiom?
Today, we'll learn a phrase describing how close two places are, even though they are separated by a river, a lake, or the sea. It reads “Yi Yi Dai Shui,” literally meaning a strip of water as narrow as a belt. Here is the story behind it.
In ancient times, China was divided into two parts by the Yangtze River for hundreds of years. In 581 AD, the founder of the Sui Dynasty, the Emperor Sui Wen, established his rule in the north. Wanting to reunite the whole country, he implemented a series of policies to make the army and the state powerful.
By contrast, in the south, the ruler lived a debauched life, and totally ignored his duties. Although he knew Emperor Sui Wen desired to reunite the country, he paid little attention to it, depending on an impregnable natural barrier - the Yangtze River.
But the Emperor Sui Wen in the north was busy preparing to achieve his ambition. One of his officials, Gao Jiong contributed a good idea. He said, “The harvest time in the south is earlier than ours in the north. If you threaten to attack the south during their harvest time, the south must hurry to prepare for the upcoming war, and ignore their mature crops. They'll work hard preparing their defenses, but we'll do nothing. Then we repeat this ruse several times, until they no longer believe we'll really attack, and they no longer make any preparations. Then we attack. ”
The Emperor Sui Wen accepted this clever suggestion. After seven years of preparation, he at last sent his troops across the Yangtze River. Before leaving, he told Gao Jiong, “I'm the protector of the whole country. I can't leave the people in the south in hardship only because of the Yangtze River, which is a strip of water as narrow as a belt.”
With firm determination, the Emperor Sui Wen won the war and took over the rule of the south. Because of his efforts, China was reunited again.
Later, people drew the idiom “Yi Yi Dai Shui” from the Emperor's words. It can be applied to two places which are very close, although there is water in between. For instance, we usually refer to Japan as China's “Yi Yi Dai Shui neighbor” to describe the close relation between the two countries.