Around 1,500 years ago, during the Southern Dynasties period of ancient China, the famous leader Cao Cao led his troops through a mountainous region on a scorching summer day. The soldiers, exhausted and thirsty, were struggling and complaining after losing their way.

Seeing his troops’ morale plummet, Cao Cao had a clever idea. He rode to the front and announced, “Soldiers, there’s a big forest of plums ahead. The plums are big and delicious. Let’s hurry and we’ll reach it after this hill.” Hearing this, the soldiers imagined the sour, refreshing plums and felt invigorated, their complaints forgotten.

This incident gave rise to the proverb “to quench thirst by thinking of plums,” meaning to find comfort in imagining something desirable.

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