Text: “水滴石穿”. Water drops and penetrates the stone.
Once upon a time, there was an honest Mayer who caught a corrupt manager who took coins from the budget. The manager said, “It’s just a copper coin!” The Mayer said: “One coin per day, a thousand coins on the thousand days. The rope can saw the wood, and drops of water can penetrate the stone.”
Context: The informant heard this story when she was young. She did not want to do her homework because there were so many of them, and she didn’t know how to do it. Her parents used the four-character word to continue working, but she did not know the meaning of the word. Thus, her parents told her the story. Although the story did not convince her, she memorized it.
Analysis: All of the Chinese four-character words came from historical texts. Ancient history books included stories summarized into four-character words that teach a moral. This story also came from a four-character word, which means that small things build up; If people see wood with a rope every day, the wood will break; If water drops on a stone every day, the rocks will also be worn through. The idea that small things will build up and be impactful is present in many Chinese stories. Taoism has a similar saying, “a journey of a thousand miles begins with a step.” This reflects Chinese people’s belief that a small effort will make a big change.