Interesting times

May you live in interesting times” is typically claimed to be a Chinese expression, but it actually originated with the British. Joseph Chamberlain — Neville’s dad — used the phrase “interesting times” frequently in speeches:

I think that you will all agree that we are living in most interesting times. I never remember myself a time in which our history was so full, in which day by day brought us new objects of interest, and, let me say also, new objects for anxiety.

Joseph Chamberlain

Joseph’s other son Austen was the first to claim it originated as a Chinese saying. Quote Investigator theorizes that Austen, in conversation with his diplomat colleagues, learned about a Chinese proverb that expresses apprehension about living in what his father would call “interesting times” and assumed that was the source of Joseph’s phrase. But the wording of the real proverb is entirely different:


Better to be a dog in days of peace, than a human in times of chaos.

Feng Menglong