Shǒu zhū dài tù
Once upon a time there was a lazy farmer. He didn’t like toiling in the fields day after day and, while he did do his work, he took breaks whenever he could and cut a lot of corners. He wished that life didn’t have to be so hard, just to feed himself and his family!
One day, while he was looking out over his scraggly field, he saw a curious sight – a rabbit, bounding along, ran straight into a tree stump and knocked itself unconscious!
Not believing his luck, the farmer walked over and picked the rabbit right up with no problems! It was so easy! “Oh, we’ll eat well tonight,” the farmer said to himself, already imagining he could smell the rich scent of tender rabbit stew wafting through the air, “this beats turnips any day!”
The problem was, after that lucky day (and delicious dinner!) the farmer was even more reluctant to work hard on his crops. Instead, day after day, he would wait by that stump for the next rabbit to bound along and knock itself out.
This is a tricky one to translate as it literally means ‘guard a tree-stump and wait for rabbit’; some less-than-concise translations include ‘to trust to chance rather than show initiative’ or ‘to wait idly for opportunities’.
While these translations capture the meaning of the idiom, they don’t roll off the tongue. I prefer ‘wait for a windfall’ – what do you think? How would you express this idiom?