새옹지마(塞翁之馬) – Korean 4 Character Idioms

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With Explanation

There once lived an old man near the border of China. One day, his horse went over that border and ran away. Neighbors comforted him for his loss, but he answered, "Who knows this will be a blessing?" After a few days, that horse came back with a female horse, his wife. His neighbors were amazed and celebrated him, but he told them, "who knows this will cause a disaster?" As he had a new horse, the son of this old man tried to tame her, but he fell from the horse and his legs were broken. His neighbors comforted him again, but he answered like before, "there will be some blessing thanks to this accident." After the accident, some foreign people invaded China and many young male had to participate, but his son didn't have to thanks to his injury.

We cannot predict the future, there is always something bad, after that something good comes to us. After the story of this old man, the 4 character idiom, 새옹지마, is created. 새 means rural, 옹 means old man, 지 means of, 마 means a horse. 새옹지마 means the horse of a rural old man. We use this expression to express ups and downs of our lives or to emphasize the hardness to predict the future.

Examples

지금이야 힘들지만, 인간만사 새옹지마라고 좋은 날도 올 것이다.
It is hard now, but there are ups and downs in our lives, so there will be good days for me.

새옹지마라는 말을 항상 생각하다 보니, 언제부터인가 기쁜 일이 생겨도 자만하지 말고 준비하고, 슬픈 일이 있어도 괴로워하지 말고 노력하는 사람으로 변해 있었다.
I always remember that an evil may sometimes turn out to be a blessing in disguise, or vice versa. I cannot remember when, but I started not to be arrogant and prepare for the future even though something good happens, and not to be sorrowful and try my best to be better even though there is something bad.

그는 20대에 세계적인 기업의 사장이 되어 모든 사람을 놀라게 했지만, 10년이 지난 지금 회사는 부도의 위기에 처했고, 아내와는 얼마 전 이혼했다. 새옹지마라는 말이 떠오른다.
He became a CEO of an international company in his twenties and made people surprised. After 10 years from that, his company is nearly bankrupt and he divorced his wife not long ago. It reminds me that everyone has ups and downs in their lives.