The Origin of the Chinese Idiom: Remain Diligent at Both Dawn and Dusk

The Three Character Classic is a children’s reader written by Wang Yinglin in the 13th century. Every line of the book is composed of three characters, and every four sentences form a group. Children love to read its rhymed verses. The book also is very interesting to read and very educational. It has remained a popular teaching text over the past hundreds of years, and has been revised and improved upon many times since it was first published. The current version of the Three Character Classic has a total of only 1,500 characters. But it covers a variety of subjects including ethics, astronomy, geography, history and education.

For example, the Three Character Classic tells children to study diligently. It says, “The dog can stand watch at night and guard the door, the rooster can herald the break of day in the morning, and domestic animals all cleave to their duty. If we fail to study diligently and make progress, but instead, only get by carelessly, what qualifications would we have to be a human being?” As to how to study, it says, “It is important to read with the mouth but think with the heart. One must study in early morning, and also in the evening. One should persevere in doing this.” It also says, “Zhao Pu, a prime minister in Song dynasty, still read ‘Confucian Analects’ diligently everyday even when he was very old. He didn’t neglect studying even though he was already an important official.”

"Remain diligent at dawn and dusk” is used to describe how people should study diligently with perseverance.

“Three Character Classic tells children to study diligently. It says, “The dog can stand watch at night and guard the door, the rooster can herald the break of day in the morning, and domestic animals all cleave to their duty. If we fail to study diligently and make progress, but instead, only get by carelessly, what qualifications would we have to be a human being?””

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