Wén jī qǐ wǔ
Translation: To rise up upon hearing the crow of a rooster and practice with the sword.
Meaning: To study hard in order to achieve a lofty goal; or simply to study with diligence and stamina.
This proverb derives from a biographical chapter found in one of China’s many historical books called the Jinshu 晋书(Book of Jin), which covers the history of the Jin dynasty from 265–420 ce. Its editorship has been attributed to Fang Xuanling (579–648), an official of the Tang dynasty. The biographical record is about Liu Kun and his contemporary Zu Ti. The former was a Jin statesman and military strategist, and the latter a famous general who, until his death, led a series of successful military expeditions against Central China’s long-time enemy in the north, the tribal Xiongnu.
Though an unwilling student when he was young, Zu Ti grew up to be a very conscientious and aspiring man. At twenty-four, someone recommended him for an official position. He declined because he thought he was not yet ready, but he continued to study with great diligence.
Zu Ti had a confidant and good friend in Liu Kun, and he shared his aspiration—to study hard in order to become a useful person for the country when they were ready—with him. They were inseparable, and when they were assigned as officials in the same location, they even became roommates.
One night when they were sleeping, a rooster started to crow. Zu Ti woke up his friend Liu Kun, saying, “A midnight crow of a rooster is said to be a sign of bad luck. But I don’t think so. Why can’t we take advantage of the anomaly and start getting up as soon as a rooster crows and practice our swordsmanship?” Liu Kun readily agreed and since then, they put their words into practice. In due time, they became both literally and martially capable. Eventually, Liu Kun became a military governor and Zu Ti a commander-in-chief. Both saw their dream of serving the country come true.
This proverb is often used to describe a hard-working person who is also aspiring. It is also used to inspire people to do likewise.
|闻||wén||to hear (V)|
|鸡||jī||rooster, chicken (N)|
|起||qǐ||to rise, to get up (V)|
|舞||wǔ||to dance, to practice martial arts (particularly swords) (V)|
|起床||qǐchuáng||to rise, to get up, to get out of bed (V)|
|跳舞||tiàowǔ||to dance (V)|
As the National College Entrance Examination is drawing near, the students all get up early and devote themselves to their studies. They are determined to succeed and get enrolled into colleges.