[FOUNTAIN]Where are the fresh faces?Qu Yuan, the famed ancient Chinese poet from the Chu kingdom during the Warring States Period, once wrote, “After you wash your hair, you should keep your hat fair. After a bath, you should keep your dress clean.”
The phrase “dusting off one’s hat” first appeared in the vast history of Chinese literature. It meant to prepare yourself to achieve objectives.
However, the phrase came to have a completely different meaning over time. Here is the background story of how the phrase took on its new meaning.
In the West Han Dynasty, Wang Ji and Gong Yu were very good friends. They were more than mere acquaintances and shared mutual aspirations. The two friends were faced with the fate of being dismissed from office under the reign of Emperor Xuan of West Han.
During the reign of Emperor Yuan, however, Wang Ji was allowed to return to his service. Upon the news of Wang’s reappointment, Gong Yu thought he would soon be reinstated. Greatly pleased by the prospect of returning to government service again, he took out the official uniform cap and dusted it off.
On the two friends, the Book of Han writes that word got around that Gong Yu dusted his hat off when Wang Ji resumed government service.
People began using the idiom, “dusting hats off and congratulating each other.” The phrase might appear to be about friendship, but in fact it is a satire of the shady under-the-table deals in bureaucratic society. It is a derogatory phrase reminding us of bureaucrats celebrating and rejoicing as they pull and push one another.
“Dusting off one’s hat” is often followed by phrases such as “cleaning one’s dress” or “preparing the hat strings.” The string on the hat symbolizes government positions. These idioms all refer to corruption and inappropriateness in a bureaucratic society.
A new foreign policy and security lineup has been established in the government.
Despite the criticism from the public, the appointments reflect the president’s “code.” The president promoted those close to him, and a resigned minister is said to still have strong influence even out of office.
The foreign policy and security officials are condemned for having committed blunders and having lost an initiative role in the face of the North Korean nuclear crisis.
It would have been nice to appoint fresh faces this time, but the president and his entourage faithfully stuck to the old favorites once again.
by Yoo Kwang-jong
The writer is the Beijing correspondent of the JoongAng Ilbo
with the Korea JoongAng Daily
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