5 Chinese Idioms to Stay Motivated

Currently, PKU students are all over China and the rest of the world completing online courses, working towards their thesis or learning Chinese. The team here at the Nanyan have compiled five idioms to keep you motivated during this tough semester. The Chinese language is filled with idioms that can be traced to its long history. Some of these phrases are more literary, while others are great folk sayings fun to use in conversation Nearly every situation and mood can be summarized by an idiom. So, learn these five phrases, keep motivated, work hard and let’s all accomplish our dreams.  

1. 好好学习,天天向上 (hǎo hǎo xué xí , tiān tiān xiàng shàng) – Study hard and make progress everyday

A direct quotation from founder of the People’s Republic of China, Chairman Mao Zedong, when meeting students in 1950, he gave a young girl a book with the above-mentioned catchphrase. This eight word-inscription soon became very popular and was seen throughout the country. This phrase translates to study hard and make progress every day.

2. 有志者,事竟成 (yǒu zhì zhě , shì jìng chéng) – When there is a will, there is a way

Found in the famous book 《后汉书》, this idiom describes Geng Wei’s heroic actions. During a battle in the Eastern Han Dynasty Period he was sent to attack an enemy, during the battle an arrow was shot into his thigh, he pulled out his sword and cut it out. Then he would go on to win the battle. The legend became folklore. This idiom refers to his will and determination to finish his task, regardless of the obstacles. So, pull an arrow out of your leg and continue learning some Chinese! 

3. 千里之行,始于足下 (qiān lǐ zhī xíng, shǐ yú zú xià) – A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step

This idioms dates back to the Spring and Autumn Period.  In his book《道德经》the famous philosopher 老子 explains his philosophy of dealing with things before they occur. The big tree comes from a small seedling, a big house begins with a bucket of mud and a journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step. The biggest achievements all begin with small actions.

4. 熟能生巧 (shú néng shēng qiǎo) – Practice makes perfect

This idiom originates from the Song Dynasty. The story goes that one day a talented archer called 陈尧咨 was practicing shooting arrows. He was very good a crowd gathered around him. When he finished everyone in the crowd applauded except and old man. 陈尧咨 asked the man “what do you think of my skill?” the old man replied, “just okay, nothing special” , “what can you do then?” said 陈尧咨. The old man put his bottle on the ground a coin (with a whole in the middle) over the mouth of the bottle. He then began to pour oil from a height through the whole in the coin without making any mess. Everyone was amazed. Then the old man said, “I can do this because I have practiced a lot.”

5. 撸起袖子加油干 (lūqǐ xiùzi jiāyóu gān) – Roll up your sleeves and work hard

Voted as a top 10 phrase of 2017, this saying comes directly from President Xi Jinping’s 2017 New Year message. The phrase literally translates to roll up you sleeves and add more oil. Success only comes from hard work, so roll up your sleeves and get cracking.

Wherever you are in the world, keep motivated, work hard and don’t quit on your dreams! We look forward to seeing you all back on campus some time in the future. stay safe and stay strong PKU family!

Written by: Lewis D-G


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