温故知新 — Onkochishin

Today’s Yojijukugo is 温故知新 (Onkochishin). This means “to learn from the past” and is an expression which, while new to me, has a big impact on me considering my newly consciously developed love for self-improvement.

Its meaning in the dictionary is 「前に習ったことや昔の事柄を復習し考えて新たな道理や知識を会得すること。」. This roughly translates into “Review matters of the past or learned previously to grasp new knowledge and logic”. To put it in simpler terms, this means “Developing new ideas based on the study of the past“.

Here’s one example: 自己発を目指していたら、温故知新の精神を持つ必要があります。(Jikokeihatsu wo mezashite itara, onkochishin no seishin wo motsu hitsuyou ga arimasu.)Rather literal translation => If your goal is self-improvement, you need to keep a(n open) mind of learning from the past.

More fluid translation => If you wish to improve yourself, you need to be ready to learn from the past.

It appears that this expression comes from the Analects of Confucius (said to have been written about 500 years BC) in which is written: “Confucius said, ‘Exploring the old and deducing the new makes a teacher.’
This was written as below:
- Traditional Chinese (but still simplified compared to the original): 子曰、温故知新、可以為師矣。
- Japanese: 子曰、きをねてしきをれば、もって師たるべし。

This Yojijukugo is in the Kanji Kentei Level 5 (5級) and has other with a close meaning: 覧古考新 (Rankokoushin).
This compound means “to think hard about old things and consider new problems.”
While the overall meaning is still close, I believe 温故知新 goes further for two reasons:
1) There is a nuance that appears thanks to the difference between 温 and 覧. Indeed, while the first one’s meaning is to review, the second only mentions the action of seeing. Therefore, the act of using the past in itself creates a small nuance.
2) By insisting on the knowledge. Indeed, while 覧古考新, through the last 2 characters, insist on the “new thoughts”, 知新 goes deeper by making it “new knowledge”.

温故知新の精神を持って、これからも頑張りましょう!

Originally published at yuhakko.wordpress.com on November 21, 2018.

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Polyglot speaking 6 languages. Writer. Helping the world to learn languages and become more understanding of others. Say hi → https://linktr.ee/MathiasBarra

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