Chop Wood Carry Water in Chinese / Japanese...

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Chop Wood, Carry Water

Before enlightenment or after, chores remain.

dùn wù zhī qián kǎn chái tiāo shuǐ dùn wù zhī hòu kǎn chái tiāo shuǐ
Chop Wood, Carry Water Scroll

頓悟之前砍柴挑水。頓悟之後砍柴挑水。 means, "Before enlightenment, chop wood, carry water; After enlightenment, chop wood, carry water.

This Chinese proverb is attributed to 吴力 (Wú Lì) who lived between 1632 and 1718 - living part of his life as a devout Buddhist, and many years as a Catholic Jesuit Priest in China - what an interesting life!

This has been explained many times in many ways. I am a Buddhist, and here is my brief take on this proverb...

Before enlightenment, one may find daily chores mundane, tedious, and boring. However, upon reaching enlightenment one is not relieved of the details of daily life. An enlightened person will, however, see such chores as a joy, and do them mindfully.


There is another version floating around, which is 在你領悟之前砍柴、運水。在你領悟之後,砍柴、運水。
If you want this other version, just contact me. The meaning is the same, just different phrasing.




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The following table may be helpful for those studying Chinese or Japanese...

Title CharactersVarious forms of Romanized Chinese
Chop Wood, Carry Water頓悟之前砍柴挑水頓悟之后砍柴挑水
顿悟之前砍柴挑水顿悟之后砍柴挑水
dùn wù zhī qián kǎn chái tiāo shuǐ dùn wù zhī hòu kǎn chái tiāo shuǐ
dun4 wu4 zhi1 qian2 kan3 chai2 tiao1 shui3 dun4 wu4 zhi1 hou4 kan3 chai2 tiao1 shui3
dun wu zhi qian kan chai tiao shui dun wu zhi hou kan chai tiao shui
tun wu chih ch`ien k`an ch`ai t`iao shui tun wu chih hou k`an ch`ai t`iao shui
tun wu chih chien kan chai tiao shui tun wu chih hou kan chai tiao shui
In some entries above you will see that characters have different versions above and below a line.
In these cases, the characters above the line are Traditional Chinese, while the ones below are Simplified Chinese.


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Chop Wood, Carry Water Scroll
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Chop Wood, Carry Water Scroll


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Dictionary

Lookup Chop Wood Carry Water in my Japanese & Chinese Dictionary


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When the calligrapher finishes creating your artwork, it is taken to my art mounting workshop in Beijing where a wall scroll is made by hand from a combination of silk, rice paper, and wood.
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A nice Chinese calligraphy wall scroll

The wall scroll that Sandy is holding in this picture is a "large size"
single-character wall scroll.
We also offer custom wall scrolls in small, medium, and an even-larger jumbo size.

A professional Chinese Calligrapher

Professional calligraphers are getting to be hard to find these days.
Instead of drawing characters by hand, the new generation in China merely type roman letters into their computer keyboards and pick the character that they want from a list that pops up.

There is some fear that true Chinese calligraphy may become a lost art in the coming years. Many art institutes in China are now promoting calligraphy programs in hopes of keeping this unique form of art alive.

Trying to learn Chinese calligrapher - a futile effort

Even with the teachings of a top-ranked calligrapher in China, my calligraphy will never be good enough to sell. I will leave that to the experts.

A high-ranked Chinese master calligrapher that I met in Zhongwei

The same calligrapher who gave me those lessons also attracted a crowd of thousands and a TV crew as he created characters over 6-feet high. He happens to be ranked as one of the top 100 calligraphers in all of China. He is also one of very few that would actually attempt such a feat.


Check out my lists of Japanese Kanji Calligraphy Wall Scrolls and Old Korean Hanja Calligraphy Wall Scrolls.

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