I've been working through the 三字经 and came across this section which reminds me of three categories of people learning Chinese: the naturally talented, those who achieve skills from hard work and study, and lastly those with 'no talent'. :( The last category learn mainly from life experiences.
The relevant section of 三字经 (Part XIII) is presented below:
三才者，sān cái zhě ……………….there are three kinds of talent
天地人。tiān dì rén ………………..(from) heaven, earth and man.
三光者， sān guāng zhě ………….there are three kinds of light
日月星。rì yuè xíng …………………sun, moon and stars.
The first two lines actually refer to three kinds of people – people with three different kinds or levels of talent: 天才 tiāncái, 人才 réncái and 地才 dìcái (those people born talented; those who have skills that they have learnt, and lastly those who have talents based on experience – it could also translate as people with no talent in the sense of no learning. In the old days it may have referred to farmers and labourers. In contemporary China it may refer to people who are good dealing with other people (‘a good people person’.)
The next two lines mirror the first two lines (this kind of duality is common in Chinese writing.) In a sense this is saying that you have to live with what you are born with (the hand you have been dealt.) In contemporary China it would be re-interpreted more optimistically as don’t give up, you may actually make something of yourself. It is interesting that in old texts they are interpreted according to the prevailing ethos.
者 zhě (a person, but also can refer to a thing.)
才 cái (talent)
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