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Say It Right Series

Chinese Idioms - 胸有成竹

Posted by vann0000 February 9, 2009 in the Group General Discussion.

Tags: idiom, song dynasty, art, mind, plan, bamboo, wen tong, yuke

 

 

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Having Had Ready Plans Or Designs In One's Mind

 (胸有成竹 xiong you cheng zhu)

Having Had Ready Plans Or Designs In One's Mind

In the song Dynasty (960-1279), there was a scholar whose name was Wen Tong and who styled himself the nickname “Yuke”.  He was not only admired by others for his great learning, but he also enjoyed widespread fame for his skill at bamboo drawing.  His drawings of the bamboo plants were exceptional and unique in their beauty and style.  He was so popular in this skill, that every day there were always people who called at his house to ask for one of his bamboo drawings.

As a matter of fact, there were quite a few painters contemporary with him who could draw bamboos fairly well. These other artists were very skilled.  But yet, Wen Tong’s art stood apart.  It was as if he had an element of understanding of the subject that the other artists lacked.  This issue was the subject of much discussion and wonderment.  Many people argued that there was some special technique or understanding that Wen Tong had that the other artists did not. 

The answer to this question is lost to time.  However, great friends of the artist have their strongly held opinions.  And these opinions have been passed down through the ages.  Su Shi and Chao Buzhi, gave vivid explanations in their respective poetic and prose works.

They claim that the secret to the great art was fundamental to Wen Tong’s success.  That they thought that he had the great understanding of the subject matter of the Bamboo because of his great love for the bamboo.  Wen Tong loved bamboos so much that he had grown various bamboos everywhere around his house. No matter what season it was and no matter whether it was sunny or rainy, he used to go to the bamboo forest to observe how they were growing. He pondered over the length and breadth of the bamboo poles as well as the shapes and colors of the leaves. Whenever he had gained a new understanding, he went back to his study, spread a piece of paper and prepared some ink by rubbing an ink stick on an ink slab, and drew what was in his mind on the paper. Through accumulation over a long period of time, the images of the bamboo in different seasons, under different weather conditions and at different moments were deeply imprinted in his mind. So whenever he stood before the paper and picked up a painting brush with concentrated attention, the various forms of the bamboo which he had observed at ordinary times at once rose before his eyes. And so every time he was drawing bamboos he appeared confident and at ease, and all the bamboos he had painted were very vivid and true to life.

When people spoke highly of his paintings, he always said modestly that he had just put the images of the bamboo imprinted in his mind on the paper.

A young man wanted to learn bamboo drawing; when he knew that Chao Buzhi had made a profound study of Wen Tong's art of drawing, he went to Chao Buzhi for instruction. Chao Buzhi wrote a poem to him. In the poem, there are the following two lines:

When Yuke was painting the bamboos,

He had their images ready in his bosom.

Later people have summarized the lines as “having had the images of the bamboo ready in one's bosom," which means having had ready plans or designs in one's mind before doing a certain job so that its success is guaranteed. It is also used go mean being calm and cool - headed in dealing with things.

This story comes from an article written by Su Shi concerning Wen Yuke's art of bamboo drawing.
 

xiong1

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cheng2

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宋画家文同,字与可.他画的竹子远近闻名,每天总有不少人登门求画.文同画竹的妙诀在哪里呢?原来,文同在自己家的房前屋后种上各种样的竹子,无论春夏秋 ,阴睛风雨,他经常去竹林观察竹子的生长变化情况,琢磨竹枝的长短粗细,叶子的形态、颜色,每当有新的感受就回到书房,铺纸研墨,把心中的印象画在纸 .目积月累,竹子在不同季节、不同天气、不同时辰的形象都深深地印在他的心中,只要凝神提笔,在画纸前一站,平日观察到的各种形态的竹子立刻浮现在眼 .所以每次画竹,他都显得非常从容自信,画出的竹子,无不逼真传神.

当人们夸奖他的画时,他总是谦虚地说:"我只是把心中琢磨成熟的竹子画下来罢了."

有位青年想学画竹,得知诗人晁补之对文同的画很有研究,前往求教.晃补之写了一首诗送给他,其中有两句:"与可画竹,胸中有成竹."

故事出自北宋苏轼《文与可yún dāng谷偃竹记》."胸有成竹",比喻做事之前已作好充分准备,对事情的成功已有了十分的把握;又比喻遇事不慌,十分沉着.

 

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