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Story behind the Chinese idiom 专心致志 zhuān xīn zhì zhì, which means “to do something with single-minded devotion”.

Learn to Read Chinese Characters: Chinese FablesSometimes these idiom stories do a good job tying themselves into the history of the idiom; sometimes they’re more just a vaguely-related tale that will help you remember the idiom. This is one of the latter. This idiom story actually contains 2 other idioms (see the vocab list), so, hey, idiom party.

You might be interested in the way that the author of this story talks about chess. To “play chess” is written like this: 下棋 – xià qí, or literally “to put down chess pieces”. But when we’re talking about someone’s skill level of chess play – in otherwords, the level of chess mastery – the author uses 棋艺 – qí yì, or literally “chess art”. So 下棋 is a verb, “to play chess”, while 棋艺 is a noun, as in “mad chess skillz”.

Here’s the original text on tom61.com.

Let’s t棋艺

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下棋 – xià qí – To play chess
专心 – zhuān xīn – Concentrate
鸿雁 – hóng yàn – Swan goose
胡思乱想 – hú sī luàn xiǎng – Thoughts running wild
心不在焉 – xīn bù zài yān – Absent-minded, one’s heart is not present
传授 – chuán shòu – To have knowledge imparted upon you, esp. by a great master.


从前有一个下棋能手名叫秋,他的棋艺非常高超。

秋有两个学生,一起跟他学习下棋,其中一个学生非常专心集中精力跟老师学习。另一个却不这样,他认为学下棋很容易,用不着认真。老师讲解的时候,他虽然坐在那里,眼睛也好像在看着棋子可心里却想着:“要是现在到野外射下一只鸿雁,美餐一顿该多好。 ”因为他总是胡思乱想心不在焉,老师的讲解一点也没听进去。

结果,虽然两个学生同是一个名师传授,但是,一个进步很快,成了棋艺高强的名手,另一个却没学到一点本事。

SHOW ENGLISH TRANSLATION »
Long ago there was a chess master named Qiu whose chess skills were superlative.

Qiu had two students who studied chess with him, one student studied with concentrated focus and energy. The other, however, wasn’t like that, he thought studying chess was very easy, and there was no need to take it seriously. When the teacher was explaining, although the [the student] sat there, his eyes seemed to be on the chess pieces, he was actually thinking: “If I go to the countryside right now and shoot a goose, I’ll have a lovely dinner.” Because he was always indulging in flights of fancy and absent-mindedness, nothing the teacher said ever sunk in.

As a result, although the two students studied were taught at the same time by the same master, one improved quickly and became a superior chess player, while the other never learned much at all.


10 comments to "Story Behind the Idiom: Zhuan Xin Zhi Zhi"

  1. I love the text but I don’t understand the use of 可 in the sentence with him looking at the chess pieces while being absent minded. I thought it has some idea of 可是 but that seems to be taken by 却 later. Can anyone explain this please

  2. The use of 可 is indeed for the usage of 可是。It can be used along with 却 for a little added emphasis, though 却 carries more of the “on the other hand” kind of connotation.

  3. In this case the usage of …可却心里想着 … would this also work or does it require 可+place+却? Thanks for clarifying that though I should look more into it

    • i’m a chinese.about the question of you。可是 and 却 are very similar in the meaning。but,there is some difference in the emotion of them。
      such as
      我认为这是对的,可是你不这么认为
      我认为这是对的,你却不这么认为
      我认为这是对的,可是你却不这么认为
      the emotion of stress about “你(you)”,become more and more heavy。

    • i’m a chinese.about the question of you。可是 and 却 are very similar in the meaning。but,there is some difference in the emotion of them。
      such as
      我认为这是对的,可是你不这么认为
      我认为这是对的,你却不这么认为
      我认为这是对的,可是你却不这么认为
      the emotion of stress about “你(you)”,become more and more heavy。

      if you have any other questions about chinese.my email 782597034@qq.com

  4. Love this blog. Thanks!

  5. Well looks like some one was not studying hard enough… Just kiding although you do have to study really hard to improve in anything. I’m gonna be a cartoonist or a auto engineer ( probably gonna be an auto engineer and in free time try to start making a mini or big cartoon book ) any ways this is actualy true and and could happen in on the other side thanks again!!
    =)

  6. If that didn’t make sence here is why I brout this up because that stands out for one part of work hard

  7. What the theme?


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