name of an ancient city book; letter swallow (bird); surname; place name to speak; to say; persuade (politically) trad. (郢書燕說) 郢 書 燕 說 simp. (郢书燕说) 郢 书 燕 说
Literally “Ying writes a letter and Yan reads it”.
This idiom came from an anecdote told by Han Fei (韓非): A man from Ying (郢) in the state of Chu (楚) was writing a letter to the minister of Yan (燕). As he was writing at night, he ordered to “hold up the candle”, but he accidentally wrote down what he said. When the minister of Yan received the letter, he interpreted “hold up the candle” as “honor the enlightened” or “promote the wise”, which led to the regulation of the state of Chu.