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Chinese Idiom – 懸梁刺股 Xuán Liáng Cì Gǔ – To Study Diligently and Tirelessly

If you dedicate yourself to the job that you are doing, success will not be far away. (Image: Mira John via flickr/CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)
If you dedicate yourself to the job that you are doing, success will not be far away. (Image: Mira John via flickr/CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

During the Warring States Period of Chinese history, there was a political strategist called Sū Qín (380-284 B.C.). Although his family was very poor, he dreamed of being successful even when very young. He studied from dawn until dark, and often felt extremely tired after long hours of study.

He discovered he could stay awake by stabbing himself in the thigh with an awl. The pain would then keep him awake so he could continue studying. At long last, Sū Qín became highly respected because of his knowledge. He was made prime minister of the six kingdoms of ancient China: Qi (齊), Chu (楚), Yan (燕), Han (韓), Zhao (趙) and Wei (魏), as well as his own country, Qin.

SuQin

Sū Qín. (Image: Wikipedia Commons)

Another inspiring story takes us to the Han Dynasty. It is about a young man called Sūn Jìng, who was very hard working. He stayed at home, and reading became his hobby. Because he seldom went out, when he did go to the market, people called him “Mr. Door Shut” behind his back. Sūn Jìng studied late into the middle of the night, and he couldn’t help but doze off once in a while.

To stay awake, he tied one end of a rope to his hair and the other end to the beam of the roof. When he fell asleep sitting at his desk, the rope would tug at his hair when his head drooped downwards. The pain served to wake him up so that he could continue studying. Over years of continuous hard work, he eventually became a knowledgeable and well-known scholar.

Warring_States_bronze_ding_with_gold_and_silver_inlay

A Warring States bronze ding vessel with gold and silver inlay. (Image: Gary Lee Todd via wikipedia / CC BY-SA 2.0)

These two stories gave rise to the idiom 懸梁刺股 [to study diligently and tirelessly], and they have inspired people from different generations. If you dedicate yourself to the job that you are doing, success will not be far away.

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