The title of this node sounds like a famous modern Chinese
"an inch of gold is too little to buy an inch of time."
(In Chinese: cun4-jin1 nan2-mai3 cun4-guang1-yin1
There are many variants on this saying in the old books and predating the beautiful Zen koan quoted by gn0sis. The Han dynasty collection Huainanzi puts it like this:
In the turning of time back and forth
the gaps are not enough to draw breath in.
Too soon and you've gone too far;
too late, and you can't catch up.
Now, the moon revolves as the sun retires,
and the hours do not travel alongside humankind.
Therefore the sage does not consider a foot of jade worth money,
but values an inch of time.
This is because time is easy to lose though hard to obtain.
An "inch of time" is not just a poetic expression, but must refer to a measurable distance on the clepsydra
or the sundial
A later saying (6th century) has this thought:
"An inch of time is like a year." cun4-yin1 ruo4 sui4
Other Chinese literary allusions