Duàn zhī quàn xué
Translation: To cut the threads on a loom to encourage learning.
Meaning: To encourage people to learn.
The origin of this proverb is found in Le Yangzi qi zhuan (A Biography of Le Yangzi’s Wife), a chapter of the famed Houhan shu 后汉书(History of the Later Han) compiled by Fan Ye (398–445 ce), a Chinese historian of the Southern and Northern dynasties (420–589). Later, Confucians substituted Mencius and his mother for the original Le Yangzi and his wife as the main characters.
Le Yangzi lived in Henan County during the Eastern Han dynasty (25 ce–220 ce). He was known as a lucky man because he married an intelligent and rational woman who later supported him to reach his goals and become successful.
Not long after their marriage, Le Yangzi made a short trip away from home. One day, on his way back, he found by change a gold nugget someone had dropped on the road. He handed it to his wife when he returned, expecting a happy surprise and generous compliment from his wife. Instead, his wife admonished him, saying, “I heard that a man should not steal or beg from others. He mustn’t disgrace his virtue by profiting in an ignoble way!” Feeling ashamed, Le Yangzi discarded the gold nugget in the wild and embarked on his journey to pursue his studies.
A year later, Le Yangzi came back and told his wife that he had missed her so much that he couldn’t bear being apart from her any longer. Upon hearing this, his wife took a pair of scissors, went up to the loom at which she had been working every day, and made a gesture suggesting that she would cut the silk warp on it. Pointing at the warp, she told her husband that a useful piece of cloth was woven thread after thread, inch by inch. By cutting the warp before its completion, one simply wasted all the time and effort already spent on weaving it. Looking her husband in the eyes, she then continued, “Knowledge is like this cloth. It’s accumulated by days of hard work. If you stop half way, how can you become a learned man in the end?”
Deeply touched by his wife’s words of advice, Le Yangzi returned to school and finished his studies. This proverb is used to encourage people to persevere in doing something, particularly in the pursuit of knowledge.
|断||duàn||to break (V)|
|织||zhī||warp (N); to weave (V)|
|劝||quàn||to try to persuade, to encourage (V)|
|学||xué||to study or learn (V)|
|剪断||jiǎnduàn||to cut off with scissors (V)|
|织布||zhībù||to weave (cotton) cloth (V)|
|学习||xuéxí||to study; to learn (V)|
The teacher told the student who hated studying and wanted to drop out of school, the ancient story of “Cutting the warp on a loom before a piece of cloth is woven,” to encourage him to continue his studies and not waste the time he had already invested.
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