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Chinese Idioms 成 语

Lesson 10
Yī gŭ zuò qì
【一 鼓 作 气】
To Rouse the Spirits With the First Beats of the Drum

During the Spring and Autumn Period (770-476 BC), the State of Qi prepared itself for battle with the State of Lu. Qi drummers goaded the Lu army to fight. As the Lu ruler was about to give the order to attack, his counselor Cao Gui stopped him and said: "We should wait until the third drum roll, sire." The Lu ruler was perplexed by this advice, but decided to heed it. On the third drum roll, the Lu army launched their attack and won. After the battle, the Lu ruler asked Cao Gui the reason for his odd piece of advice. Cao Gui answered: "Fighting requires spirit, sire. The Qi soldiers' spirits were roused by the first drum roll, but were depleted by the second. And, by the third, they were completely exhausted. We attacked when their spirits were exhausted. That's why we won."

This idiom now describes a situation where something is done in one go, in one sustained and concentrated effort.

jiàng fēng
Having the qualities of a great commander; the poise of a great general
kuài rén xīn
Describes something that is the most gratifying to the people or is to the immense satisfaction of the people
Xiăo xīn
With the utmost care; with extreme caution
Xiăo rén zhì
Describes a situation where a mean-spirited person, a bigot or hypocrite is in a position of power and control