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Windsor Chinese Academy

Chinese Proverb: Dian Shi Cheng Jin 点石成金

A picture of two ancient Chinese turning a stone into gold

Dian Shi Cheng Jin

Dian Shi Cheng Jin is a Chinese proverb. Chinese proverbs are short sayings (usually 4 characters) that summarize a story that teaches a moral. They have been passed down for hundreds of years, and their continued relevance speak of their ability to reflect on the human condition.

Diǎn Shí Chéng Jīn 点石成金 literately means touch a stone and turn it into gold. This Chinese proverb tells us a story about “Xuxun, from Nanchang, was the head of Jingyang at beginning of Jin dynasty; he turned stone into gold with gentle touch to pay enough taxes.”. Now it’s usually being used to describe someone who has special ability or gift that his action can seem like magic.

In fact, Jīn in the phrase of Diǎn Shí Chéng Jīn was metal, instead of gold; Shí was ore, instead of common stone. The primary meaning of Diǎn Shí Chéng Jīn was to turn ore into metal, and to do this in ancient time was really a very hard work.

Here said the dramatic personae of Dian Shi Cheng Jin to be Natural Master Xuxun. However, if examined carefully, here just continued the saying in the past, the primary antetype figures of this affair was actually Zhang Daoling and Zhang Heng. Zhang Daoling (and Zhang Heng) was chemist and metallurgist in Eastern Han dynasty. As recorded in Daoist document, Zhang Daoling had followed the famous alchemy Wei Boyang as teacher, and deeply understood the principle of fire in the alchemic stove. He could smelt metals out of ore to supply the people’s demands. Alchemy thereafter spread over the country, the saying Dian Shi Cheng Jin appeared correspondingly.

Listen carefully to the story about Diǎn Shí Chéng Jīn 点石成金 in Chinese.

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