Chinese Idiom: 熟能生巧 - Practice Makes Perfect

November 10, 2022

Today, we want to share the story behind the popular idiom “熟能生巧" (shú néng shēng qiǎo).

It is roughly translated as "practice makes perfect” in English. We have included both the Chinese and the English versions of the story below.

Now, let's find out what it really means…

熟能生巧 shú néng shēng qiǎo 1

从前有个人叫陈康肃,箭术高超,百发百中。他因此十分骄傲,常常夸耀自己的本领,认为自己的箭术无人能及。一些想跟陈康肃学箭术的年轻人,每天都说些赞美的话,让他开心。

Long ago, there lived a man called Chén Kāng Sù, who was very skilled at archery. He never missed his target. Because of this, he was incredibly proud and often bragged about his ability. He thought very highly of himself. Some of the youth wanted to learn from Chén Kāng Sù and praised him every day, making him quite chuffed with himself.

有一天陈康肃带着徒弟练习射箭,有一个卖油的老翁正好走过,便停下来看。

One day, Chén Kāng Sù took an apprentice out to practice archery. Just then, an old man selling oil walked by and stopped to look.

陈康肃举起了弓,搭上箭,一连发出十枝箭,每支箭都正中红心。徒弟们在旁边拍手叫好,他也很神气的对老翁说:“你看怎么样?”那个老翁只是微微点头,并不叫好。

Chén Kāng Sù raised the bow, mounted the arrow, fired ten arrows in a row, and hit the bullseye every time. The apprentice applauded him on the side. He turned to the old man and boasted: “What do you think of that?” The old man tilted his head but didn’t praise him.

陈康肃心里很不舒服,不客气的问他:“喂,你这个老头也会射箭吗?”“不会。”“那么是我的箭射得不好吗?”“好是好,不过,这只是一平常的技术罢了,并没有什么了不起。”听完,陈康肃生气起来。老头却说:“年轻人,你先别生气,我说的是真话。你的箭术的确平常的很,没什么值得夸赞的。”陈康肃特别不服气:“老头儿,听你这么说好象很内行,那你就露两手给我们瞧瞧。”“小兄弟,这射箭的本领我可没有,不过我可以倒油给你们看看。”大家都嘲笑他:“倒油,这还用得着你这个老头来表演吗?倒油谁不会?别开玩笑啊!”老翁笑着说:“你们还是看了再说吧。”

Chén Kāng Sù felt uneasy and impolitely asked the old man, “Oi, are you able to shoot archery, old man?” “No.” “Then why don’t you think my archery is good enough?” “It is good, but your technique is ordinary, nothing to boast about.” Chén Kāng Sù got angry when he heard this. The old man said: “Young man, don’t get mad, I’m trying to be honest with you. Your skill is average, nothing to brag about.” Chén Kāng Sù found this unacceptable “Old man, you’re talking like you’re an expert. Why don’t you show us what you've got?” “Dear boy, I cannot shoot archery, but I can show you how to pour oil.” Everyone laughed at him. “Pouring oil…this is this all you've got? Who doesn’t know how to pour oil? Stop kidding around!” The old man laughed. “How about you see it before you judge?”

Chinese idiom 熟能生巧 shú néng shēng qiǎo 2

老翁说完,就拿了一个葫芦放在地上,又在葫芦口上面放了一枚有孔的铜钱。然后舀了一勺油,眼睛看准了,油勺轻轻一歪,那些油就像一条细细的黄线,笔直的从钱孔流入葫芦里。倒完之后,油一点儿也没沾到铜钱。

When the old man finished speaking, he took a gourd, put it on the floor, and put a Chinese coin on the gourd's opening. He scooped some oil up, looked right at the target, lightly tipped the spoon, and a thin golden stream of oil flowed into the gourd through the centre hole of the coin, straight as an arrow. Not one drop of oil landed on the coin when he was done.

老翁很谦虚的向陈康肃说:“这也是一种平常的技术罢了,也就是熟能生巧的道理啊!”陈康肃听了十分惭愧,从此更加努力地练习射箭,再也不夸耀自己的箭术。后来他的人品和箭术一样好。

The old man was very modest and said to Chén Kāng Sù: “This is also an ordinary skill. It's also the logic behind 'practice makes perfect'.” Chén Kāng Sù heard this and was utterly ashamed. From that day on, he worked very hard and practised archery and never boasted of his skill. In the end, his character was as good as his archery.

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熟能生巧的意思是:说明不管做什么事情,只要勤学苦练掌握规律,就能找出许多窍门,干起来得心应手。

shú néng shēng qiǎo means: Regardless of what you do, as long as you practice it earnestly and grasp the core logic, you’ll understand the trick and become incredibly skilled.

shú (Familiar)

熟  shú in 熟能生巧 shú néng shēng qiǎo

néng (Able, ability)

能 néng in 熟能生巧 shú néng shēng qiǎo

shēng (Grow)

生 shēng in 熟能生巧 shú néng shēng qiǎo

qiǎo (Trick)

巧 qiǎo in 熟能生巧 shú néng shēng qiǎo

例句 (Example Sentences)

万事开头难,但时间长了就会熟能生巧,由难变易。
Wànshì kāitóu nán, dàn shíjiān zhǎngle jiù huì shúnéngshēngqiǎo, yóu nán biànyì.
Many things are difficult initially, but they will get easier after a while. Practice makes perfect.

写汉字没有捷径,只有苦练,才能熟能生巧。
Xiě hànzì méiyǒu jiéjìng, zhǐyǒu kǔ liàn, cáinéng shúnéngshēngqiǎo.
There are no shortcuts to learning Chinese characters. You have to put in the work. Practice makes perfect.

开车虽然不是什么大本领,但想熟能生巧,也得开个一年半载。
Kāichē suīrán bùshì shénme dà běnlǐng, dàn xiǎng shúnéngshēngqiǎo, yě dé kāi gè yī nián bàn zǎi.
Driving may not be a special talent, but you should still practice for a year or so if you want to improve.

About the Writer

Zhao Laoshi

Hainan Normal University graduate; Previously taught Chinese in Indonesia. Zhao laoshi is loved for her friendly attitude in class.

ZHAO LAOSHI CY AUTHOR


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