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Mark the Boat to Find the Lost Sword Ignoring the Changing Circumstances of the World in Chinese / Japanese...

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Mark the boat to find the lost sword
Ignoring the changing circumstances of the world

China kè zhōu qiú jiàn
Japan kokushuukyuuken
Mark the boat to find the lost sword / Ignoring the changing circumstances of the world

This originally-Chinese proverb is a warning to people that things are always in a state of change. Thus, you must take that into account, and not depend on the old ways, or a way that may have worked in the past but is no longer valid.

This idiom/proverb comes from the following story:
A man was traveling in a ferry boat across a river. With him, he carried a valuable and treasured sword. Along the way, the man became overwhelmed and intoxicated by the beautiful view, and accidentally dropped his prized sword into the river. Thinking quickly, he pulled out a knife, and marked on the rail of the boat where exactly he has lost his sword.

When the boat arrived on the other side of the river, the man jumped out of the boat and searched for his sword right under where he'd made the mark. Of course, the boat had moved a great distance since he made the mark, and thus, he could not find the sword.

While this man may seem foolhardy, we have to take a great lesson from this parable: Circumstances change, so one should use methods that can handle the change. In modern China, this is used in business to mean that one should not depend on old business models for a changing market.


This proverb dates back to the Spring and Autumn period (770–476 BC) of the territory now known as China. It has spread and is somewhat known in Japan and Korea.

Search for Mark the Boat to Find the Lost Sword Ignoring the Changing Circumstances of the World in my Japanese & Chinese Dictionary




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

Title CharactersRomaji(Romanized Japanese)Various forms of Romanized Chinese
Mark the boat to find the lost sword
Ignoring the changing circumstances of the world
刻舟求劍
刻舟求剑
kokushuukyuuken
kokushukyuken
kè zhōu qiú jiàn
ke4 zhou1 qiu2 jian4
ke zhou qiu jian
kezhouqiujian
k`o chou ch`iu chien
kochouchiuchien
ko chou chiu chien
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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A nice Chinese calligraphy wall scroll

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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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