Once upon a time, in the land of ancient China, there lived a creature known as the Wu Weasel. The Wu Weasel was a peculiar creature, known for its vast array of skills. The renowned philosopher Xunzi often spoke of this creature, remarking: "The Wu Weasel is skilled in five ways, yet it always ends up impoverished."
The Wu Weasel was not an ordinary weasel; it held a certain uniqueness that differentiated it from its kin. According to the "Er Ya," an ancient Chinese dictionary, the Wu Weasel was a special kind of weasel, almost mythical in its reputation.
An old scholar named Guo Pu provided a vivid description of this creature. "The Wu Weasel," he said, "resembles a small fox, yet its bearing is much like a bat. It has fleshy wings, a winged tail, and flanks. Its fur is a purplish red, like the hue of the setting sun, its back is colored like the green mugwort and ai grass, and its belly gleams with a yellowish tint. Its beak and chin are sprinkled with white, providing a striking contrast. Its feet, though short, possess long claws, and its tail spans about three feet in length. It can fly and lactate, much like a flying mammal."
Despite its remarkable traits, the Wu Weasel was most known for its skills. The "Shuowen Jiezi," an ancient dictionary of Chinese characters, mentioned that the Wu Weasel was a weasel with five unique abilities. It could fly, yet it couldn't soar over a house. It could cling onto trees, yet it couldn't exhaust a tree. It could swim, but valleys were too vast for it to cross. It could burrow into the earth, but it couldn't conceal its body entirely. And it could run, yet it could never outrun a human.
This led to the metaphorical understanding of the Wu Weasel's plight, serving as a cautionary tale that resonated across generations. The five skills of the Wu Weasel mirrored the struggles of those who spread themselves too thin. The story of the Wu Weasel served as a reminder that being a jack-of-all-trades without mastery in a particular area could lead to failure or poverty. Despite possessing multiple skills, the Wu Weasel always ended up impoverished, a metaphor for those who failed to specialize and focus in life. Thus, the tale of the Wu Weasel became a symbol of the need for focus and specialization.
The phrase "梧鼠五技而窮" (wúshǔ wǔ jì ér qióng) is from the Chinese philosopher Xunzi. The term "梧鼠" (wúshǔ) is commonly interpreted as a kind of weasel or flying squirrel, "五技" (wǔ jì) translates to "five skills", and "而窮" (ér qióng) means "but poor" or "end up impoverished".