Chinese Idiom Explained: 愚公移山

November 16, 2022

The popular Chinese idiom “愚公移山" (yú gōng yí shān) can be roughly translated as “fierce determination” in English.

In this blog, we will share with you both the Chinese and the English versions of the story behind the idiom “愚公移山" (yú gōng yí shān), what it means, as well as how to use it in a sentence.

Let’s dive in!

愚公移山 yú gōng yí shān 1


Once upon a time, there was an old man called Yú Gōng. The road from his home was blocked by two great big mountains. Every time he left the house, he had to take a longer route just to get around the mountains; it was extremely inconvenient.


One day, Yú Gōng said to his family: “Let’s work together and move those mountains blocking our home so that the road from our house will lead straight to the main road. What do you think?” Everyone nodded and agreed with Yú Gōng.

愚公移山 yú gōng yí shān 2


The second day, Yú Gōng , along with his son and grandson, began digging at the foot of the mountain. Zhì Sǒu, another old man, couldn’t help but laugh at them. He said: “Yú Gōng, you’re not thinking straight. At your age, your energy is limited. You couldn’t move the mountain even if it was the last thing you did.”


Yú Gōng heard him and laughed: “Zhì Sǒu, you’re the one not thinking straight! I may be old, but my son will continue the work, then my grandson, and so on. There is no limit to my family’s manpower. Seeing as the mountain won’t grow, there will be a day we move the mountains.” Zhì Sǒu heard this and was speechless, and so he turned around and left.


The gods heard this and were moved by Yú Gōng’s spirit, and so they sent two immortal beings down to move the two mountains. The mountains no longer blocked Yú Gōng’s home.

愚公 yú gōng (The main character's name)

愚公 yú gōng in 愚公移山 yú gōng yí shān


移yí move

shān (Mountain)

山 shān mountain

例句 (Example Sentences)

Zuòshì rúguǒ yǒu yúgōngyíshān de jīngshén, yù dào zài dà de kùnnán yě bùpà.
If you do things with strong determination and perseverance, there is no problem you can’t overcome.

Wǒmen yào jìchéng hé fāyáng yúgōngyíshān de jīngshén.
We must inherit and carry forward this spirit of determination.

Wǒmen yào yǐ yúgōngyíshān de jīngshén zhēngfú shāmò, ràng tā biàn chéng lǜzhōu.
We must conquer this desert with great determination to turn it into an oasis.

About the Writer

Zhao Laoshi

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


Want to learn more? We have more Chinese Idioms in store for you!