Carried by Carts and Measured in Dou
Want to express an unquantifiable amount, an uncountable number? And if you want to tell someone that he is very knowledgeable, this idiom can be used to quantify his knowledge.
Today, we'll examine the phrase "che zai dou liang". It is used to describe a quantity so immense that it must be carried by carts and measured in dou, an ancient Chinese measurement. It can also describe something so numerous that it has become common. Here is the story behind it.
The story dates back about one thousand eight hundred years, during the Three Kingdoms period, when China was divided into three battling states: Wei, Shu and Wu. One day, the king of Wu heard news that Shu planned to attack his kingdom. Preparing for warfare, he sent an envoy named Zhao Zi to appeal to Wei for assistance.
The king of Wei was an arrogant ruler who believed his kingdom dominated the three and looked down upon the two others. His first questions upon receiving the envoy were: "What kind of person is your king? Is your state afraid of Wei?"
Though Zhao Zi was keen to the insult, he deemed better to use his indignation to sharpen his tongue. Diplomatically he replied :"My king is a man of great talent and bold vision. His sagacity has selected only the best officials and generals. His mercy for his prisoners demonstrates his kind heart. His skill in the art of war has enabled him to capture big cities with little bloodshed. Sending me here proves his sound strategy. Are we afraid of Wei? Each state has its advantage. Mine counts over a million troops and the Yangtze River is its natural barrier. We have no reason to be afraid of anyone."
The king of Wei was silenced with respect for Zhao Zi's eloquent response. When he asked the envoy how many more such talented officials worked for his state, Zhao Zi replied: "There are eighty to ninety very talented individuals in Wu. As for people like myself, there are so many I cannot even begin to count them -- they must be carried by carts and measured by dou."
From Zhao Zi's articulate description comes the phrase che zai dou liang. If you have too many things, you can use the idiom to say “my stuff is che zai dou liang.”