So, is learning easy or not? I can’t tell you. But I do have a good piece of Chinese article to share with you. I’ve translated it into English, so happy reading and learning!

On Learning

By Peng Duan-shu (1699–1779), translated and edited by Weque Radney

Are things around us easy or difficult? No matter how difficult one thing is, you can do it if you give it a try. Vice versa, you will make the thing more difficult if you do not give it a try. How about learning? Is learning easy or difficult? No matter how difficult the concept is to understand, you can handle it easily if you try to learn it. On the other hand, easy concepts will become difficult if you do not try to learn it.

I am innately fatuous, which makes I cannot catch up with the most; I am mediocrely talented, which cannot be compared with others. Every day, I am perseveringly improving myself; nevertheless, I have forgotten my fatuity and mediocrity. Even if I am more talented and have more abilities than the others, but I do not exert it, there is no difference compared to a normal person who we can find anywhere. The knowledge of our great Confucius was passed on by his not very clever student—Zeng Shen. Looking from this way, why are cleverness and fatuity still immutable?

There were two monks at the frontier of Sichuan, one of which was poor, and the other one was rich. “I want to go to the South China Sea, what do you think?”, said the poor monk. The rich one asked, “By what virtue do you go there?”. The poor monk, however, said, “I will only need a water bottle and a bowl for holding the rice.” The rich one said, “In recent years, I wanted to hire some ships which would take me to the downstream of Chang Jiang, but there was not a success. By what virtue do you go there!” After a year, the poor monk came back from the South China Sea and told the rich monk his experience there. The rich monk was ashamed by this.

The poor monk arrived at the South China Sea, which was miles away from Sichuan, yet the rich monk could not make it. If one is determined in learning, isn’t it the same to the poor monk?

Thus, cleverness and agility can be both relied on and not; one relies on cleverness and flexibility but doesn’t; put effort into learning actually ruins oneself. Fatuity and mediocrity can apparently limit someone, but not at all. Only if one is able to get rid of the limit of fatuity and mediocrity, thus work indefatigably, can one achieve oneself.

The original Chinese version






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