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only; merely; just; but
to take; to get; to choose; to fetch
one; single; a; (before verbs) as soon as, once; (before a noun) entire (family, etc.)
dipper; ladle drink
trad. (弱水三千,只取一瓢飲) 弱水三千
simp. (弱水三千,只取一瓢饮) 弱水三千


From: Chapter 91 of the Dream of the Red Chamber

  • Literally: (although) the Ruo River is three thousand li long, one only drinks one ladle worth of water from it.
    Later on, this phrase was used as a metaphor for choosing only one companion out of all potential mates.




  1. there are so many potential lovers to choose from, but you only pick one from among those potential lovers