原: 莊子, 秋水/1 中
望洋之歎 (망양지탄, wàng yáng zhī tàn, ぼうよう－したん), look / sea / [then] / sigh
Sighing after looking at a great sea. Admiring another’s greatness, and feeling shame over one’s shortcomings.
Long time ago, at a place called Maeng-jin (孟津) on the midstream of the Yellow River (黃河) lived a god (河神) named Ha-baek (河伯). He was impressed with the golden gleam of light reflecting from the river, and said, “There is no other body of water like this in this world.”
A voice replied, “No, that’s not true.” Ha-baek turned his face to find an old turtle nearby, and asked.
“Is there a body of water greater than the Yellow River?”
“Yes. Near where the sun rises is the North Sea (北海, now known as 渤海), and it is said that all rivers flow into it. So, the breadth and width of that place is many times greater than the Yellow River.”
Ha-baek shook his head in disbelief. He had never left Maeng-jin, and he couldn’t believe the words of this old turtle.
“How could such a big body of water exist? I can’t believe it unless I see it myself.”
Then autumn came. The Yellow River rose very high due to many days of rain. While watching this, Ha-baek was suddenly reminded of his conversation with the old turtle, and decided to follow the river to see the North Sea himself.
When Ha-baek reached North Sea, a god (海神) of that place named Yak (若) came out to greet him. He raised his hands and cut through the air to calm the waters, and before them was a horizon of water that stretched far beyond what Ha-baek had ever seen before.
Ha-baek was taken aback by the breadth and width of what he was seeing, and his jaw dropped. He was ashamed of his past ignorance and said to Yak, “I heard of the greatness of North Sea, but did not believe it until now. If I did not see this here today, I could not have understood how little I had seen and known in life.”
Yak smiled and said, “You were a frog in a small well, weren’t you? Without coming to know about the great sea (大海) you would’ve been recognized as a god with little knowledge of the world, but now you have managed to get yourself out of such place.”