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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 Vertical Wall Scroll

刻舟求劍 is an originally-Chinese proverb which serves as 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Thus, you must take that into account, and not depend on the old ways, or a way that may have worked in the past but is no longer valid.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.

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Mark the boat to find the lost sword / Ignoring the changing circumstances of the world Vertical Wall Scroll
Mark the boat to find the lost sword / Ignoring the changing circumstances of the world Vertical Wall Scroll
Mark the boat to find the lost sword / Ignoring the changing circumstances of the world Vertical Wall Scroll
Mark the boat to find the lost sword / Ignoring the changing circumstances of the world Vertical Wall Scroll


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Mark the boat to find the lost sword / Ignoring the changing circumstances of the world Vertical Portrait
Mark the boat to find the lost sword / Ignoring the changing circumstances of the world Horizontal Wall Scroll
Mark the boat to find the lost sword / Ignoring the changing circumstances of the world Vertical Portrait



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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

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Trying to learn Chinese calligrapher - a futile effort

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

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

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