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Wang Anshi was a Song Dynasty (960–1279 AC) scholar, who advocated for education. He wrote an article about a child prodigy from his hometown to display the importance of education.
His essay – 《伤仲永》 (Shāng Zhòngyǒng, “The Pity of Zhongyong”) – tells the story of a boy named 方仲永 (Fāng Zhòngyǒng). Born to a family of farmers, at the age of five, Zhongyong never (不曾bù céng) saw stationery. One day he suddenly asks his father for paper, brush and ink. They don’t have these tools at home, so his father has to borrow (借jiè) it from a neighbor (邻居lín jū). Zhongyong writes a poem on the spot and signs his name.
Zhòng yǒng zhǎng dào wǔ suì shí, bùcéng rènshì shūxiě gōngjù.
Tā de fùqīn jiù xiàng línjū nàlǐ bǎ nàxiē dōngxī jiè lái gěi tā.
Zhongyong’s well written poem (诗 shī) receives many compliments and his literary talent generates admiration among the entire town. From now on, he was able to complete eloquent poems about any subject. People start to treat his father with respect and even pay money to buy Zhongyong’s poems. His father seizes the opportunity, and instead of sending Zhongyong to school, takes him to visit the town’s people every day.
Yǒu de rén huā qián qiú qǔ zhòng yǒng de shī.
Zhòng yǒng fùqīn rènwéi zhèyàng yǒulì kě tú, jiù měitiān dàilǐngzhe zhòng yǒng sìchù bàifǎng tóng xiàn de rén, bù ràng tā xuéxí.
A couple of years later, Zhongyong was already twelve or thirteen years old when Wang Anshi returns to his hometown. At his uncle’s house he meets Zhongyong and asks him to write a poem. His poetry, though, doesn’t live up to his reputation (名声míng shēng). Seven years later, Wang Anshi visits his uncle again and asks about Zhongyong. His uncle tells him that Zhongyong lost his talent, he has no special skill now.
Xiě chūlái de shī yǐjīng bùnéng yǔ cóngqián de míngshēng xiāngchèn.
Tā de cáinéng xiāoshīle, hé pǔtōng rén méiyǒu shé me qūbiéle.
Wang Anshi explains that even a gifted ability can wither without proper education. Natural talent should be appreciated, and nurtured as well. Even a child prodigy should be educated. Don’t neglect your natural aptitude and 好好学习！ (hǎo hào xuéxí, “study well”).
Watch the animated version of the story:
不曾bù céng = never
借jiè = to borrow
邻居lín jū = neighbor
诗 shī = poem
有利可图yǒu lì kě tú = profitable
学习xué xí = to study
名声míng shēng = reputation
消失xiāo shī = to vanish
区别qū bié = difference
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