见微知著 – Chinese philosophy and culture

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jiànwēi-zhīzhù 见微知著

Learn About What Is Forthcoming by Observing Tiny Clues

发现细微苗头,就能知道事物的演变趋势或整体状态。“微”即隐微、不明,指事物尚处于不易被察觉的潜在状态;“著”即显著、明显,指事物的本质已经充分显现或事物的发展已处于充分展开的状态。任何事物都有一个由隐而显、由小变大的过程,其间还可能引发其他连锁反应。做任何事情,都要深刻认识、精准把握事物演变的内在规律,既要着眼全局,又要关注细微处,提前防范可能出现的差错、问题,保障行动顺利进行。其中隐含着对于科学认知的诉求。

By finding tiny signs of change, one is able to learn about trends and developments in the status of things. Tiny things are unobtrusive and hard to notice. But they may later cause very obvious consequences. Everything goes from being hidden to being conspicuous, and from small to large, and other chain reactions may occur in the process. So when doing something, we should fully understand and carefully handle its dynamics. We should see both the big picture and small details, get ready early to address any errors and problems that may arise, and ensure success of the undertaking. This also calls for gaining a good understanding of science.

引例 Citations:

◎纣为象箸,箕子怖……圣人见微以知萌,见端以知末,故见象箸而怖,知天下不足也。(《韩非子·说林上》)

(商纣王制作了象牙筷子,箕子恐惧了……圣人见到细微的事情就知道事物的苗头,见到事情的开端就知道最终的结果,所以见到象牙筷子后箕子就恐惧了,知道全天下的东西都满足不了商纣王的贪欲。)

Seeing that King Zhou of Shang had chopsticks made of ivory, Jizi the sage became fearful… Seeing tiny signs, he knew what would sprout from them; seeing the clues, he could foretell the outcome. Therefore when seeing the ivory chopsticks he was fearful as he knew that all under heaven was not enough to satisfy the King’ greed. (Hanfeizi)

◎故圣人见微知著,睹始知终。(袁康《越绝书》卷十四)

(所以圣人看到细微的苗头,就能知道事物的演变趋势或整体状态;看到事物的初始情况,就能知道它最终会有什么样的结果。)

Therefore, when the sage sees tiny clues, he knows what is forthcoming; when he observes the beginning, he knows the end. (Yuan Kang: The History of Yue)

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