사자성어: 유비무환 (有備無患)
All cultures revere the distant past. In Europe, people revere the Roman empire or ancient Greece. Some like to use Latin or ancient Greek expressions to appear learned and wise.In Korea there is a similar reverence for ancient Chinese. So like Europeans and Latin expressions, Koreans use Chinese expressions to achieve the same effect. They use 사자성어 or Four character idioms. Today I want to introduce one of them: 유비무환 (有備無患).
사자성어, Four Character Idiom
We have covered a few Korean proverbs so far, but today I want to introduce an expression that is quite peculiar. It is an expression known as 사자성어 or a four character idiom. These expressions are called as such because they are composed out of just 4 hanja characters. These four character idioms, however, are more often used as nouns rather than real sentences like other proverbs.
Mastering four character idioms is difficult as the real meaning is not that clear unless someone explains it to you. However, if you do manage to master one and use it during a conversation, you can expect Koreans to not only be surprised, but admire your dedication to their language. Of course, like Latin, don’t overdo it because then it will start coming over as being pompous.
Please be aware that learning 사자성어 is something optional for Korean learners; unless you want to explore Korean literature. Furthermore I would advise beginners against dabbling into these four character idioms.
The first 사자성어 I want to discuss is 유비무환, written in Hanja that is 有備無患. This four idiom means: When you prepare in advance, you needn’t worry later. The meaning of this idiom is derived from a story like most, if not all 사자성어. The stories attached to the idioms are what give them their true meaning. These stories can tend to be quite interesting. So learning four character idioms can also be part of your drive to discover Asian history.
According to what I found looking around this proverb’s source is something Wei Jiang, a prime minister under duke Dao of Jin, said. The original saying of Wei Jiang was: “We should think dangers when we are in peace. Then, we are well prepared. If we are prepared, the anxieties will be gone.” The part ‘If we are prepared, the anxieties will be gone.’ is the source of this four idiom character 유비무환.
Using a 사자성어 depends on their meaning so that in itself can be challenging:
Example: 매일 유비무환이라는 생각으로 돈을 조금씩 모아요. 그래서 저는 아플때 의사한테 갈 수 있어요.
Translation: Everyday I put a little bit of money on the side as assurance, so I when I’m sick I can go to the doctor.
Have you ever used this four character idiom before? Have you seen it in a sentence you liked? Let us know in the comments below. Seeing these idioms in use, is the best way for others to master this expression.