On “Shí”时


Special Focus 2017年12期

By Zou Xinsheng

On “Shí”时

By Zou Xinsheng

Life is but a span of time.The first challenge for each of us, men and women alike, is not to try to manage time, but to sharpen our awareness of time. As illustrated in Shuowen Jiezi (Origin of Chinese Characters), the first well-known Chinese Dictionary, the Chinese character 时 (shí) was def i ned as“season; year,” which is echoed in a poem called “Late Spring” by Wei Zhuang, a Chinese poet of the Tang Dynasty(618-907): “万物不如酒,四 时 唯 爱 春 ” (wànwù bùrú jiǔ,sìshí wéi ài chūn), meaning “Wine is superior to anything as spring,my favorite, is to the four seasons.”

A c c o r d i n g t o X i n h u a Dictionary, the first Dictionary of Contemporary Chinese, the character 时 combines two parts;the left part is 日 (rì), which means “sun, day,” and the right part is 寸 (cùn), which means “inch;tiny.” Obviously, the most original and prevalent meaning of the character 时 is“time.” The famous proverb “寸金难买寸光阴 ” (cùn jīn nán mǎi cùn guāngyīn) is the best example of that meaning, which literally means “time is more precious than gold.” In other words, people should treasure time to attain their goals in life.One of the magic elixirs for success in life seems to be becoming the master of time,rather than its slave.

Influenced by Chinese cultural contexts, the connotation of the character 时 has evolved and been amplified in a variety of aspects. The character 时 is often used in “时 常 ”(shícháng, frequently). It is known by many that Confucius’s enlightening views are based on his philosophy of benevolence and humanity, as manifested in The Analects (Lunyu),which asks “Don’t you think it is a pleasure to often review and practice after study?” (学而时习之,不亦说乎,xué ér shí xí zhī, bú yì yuè hu.) There exists a similar spirit in an oft-quoted English proverb: “Practice makes perfect.” Integration of theory with practice makes a difference.

The character 时 can also be def i ned as a certain moment. For instance,most Germans have a reputation for punctuality (准 时 , zhǔnshí) and rigor which characterize them as trustworthy business partners. With such partners,we are more likely to complete our projects on time (按时 , ànshí).

Life is not all roses. Sometimes it’s sunny, sometimes it’s gloomy as we describe it in the phrase “时 阴 时 晴 ”(shí yīn shí qíng). Therefore, we need to grasp the moment and take the chance 时机 (shíjī). Life is too short to waste time.Only with full awareness of time will luck be on one’s side as life goes on. ♦


畅想 把握每一次时机跨越成长
流年无恙 光阴留香