Chinese Idiom:三令五申 (sān lìng wǔ shēn)

In the Spring and Autumn Period (chūn qiū 春秋时期,770-476 BC), the famous strategist Sun Wu (sūn wǔ 孙武) known as Sun Zi (sūn zǐ 孙子) came to see the King of the State of Wu (wǔ guǒ 吴国) , bringing along his great work The Art of War (sūn zǐ bīng fǎ 孙子兵法).

He offered to help turn the State of Wu into a more powerful kingdom by training a strong army for it.The king was not quite convinced and asked, "Can you try your method out on a small army?"
"Yes", Sun Wu answered.
"Can you try them out on some women?"
"Why not?"
Then the king called in one hundred and eighty maids of honor and ordered Sun Wu to train them.Sun Wu organized the young ladies into two teams and appointed two of the king’s favorite concubines team leaders. Everyone was given a weapon and stood in line.

Then, Sun Wu asked these women, "do you know how to march forward, backward, to the left and to the right?"
"Yes, we do." They replied.
In spite of this, Sun Wu explained to them in great detail now to march in the four directions. He also told them time and again that they must obey orders and explained why.
Now, Sun Wu beat the drum and ordered the army to march to the right. To his disappointment, the young ladies who had never received military training before did not act as he had ordered but giggled. Sun Wu did not blame them but said in all seriousness: "It’s the general’s fault if he hasn’t made himself clear." He then repeated several times what he had said a moment before.


Now, he beat the drum and gave an order to march to the left. The ladies giggled instead of taking his order. This time, Sun Wu said seriously: "Now the order has been made clear, so that’s the leaders’ faults not to obey that!" He ordered to behead the two leaders.

The king who was watching the training all the time was shocked and immediately sent someone to plead for mercy for his two concubines. But Sun Wu rejected the pleading. On his insistence, the two-team leaders were executed. Sun Wu appointed two new team leaders and went on with the training. Everybody turned very serious and acted correctly to Sun’s orders, just like soldiers.

From then on, the troops of the state of Wu were trained by Sun Wu and became stronger and stronger.

From how Sun Wu repeated his orders comes the idiom "Repeating an order time and again".

      春秋时期,著名的军事家孙武(即孙子)带着他的著作《孙子兵法》去见吴王。他提出要帮助吴国训练一支强大的军队,使吴国成为一个更加强大的国家。 吴王并不是非常相信他,问道:“你能用一支小型军队操演一下你的方法吗?”孙子回答说:“可以。”





三令五申 (sān lìng wǔ shēn)
【翻译】Repeated injunctions.

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