Where Water Flows, a Channel Will Form
“Where water flows, a channel will form” (shuǐ dào qú chéng) is a Chinese idiom that says that success will naturally come when the necessary conditions are fulfilled; there is no need for strong pursuit.
It originates from a story from the Song Dynasty (A.D. 960–1279).
The story is based on a letter written by a man named Su Dongpo to his friend Qin Taixu, in which Su told how he overcame worry during a period of time when he had no income but had a large family to support.
Su Dongpo wrote that he fretted a great deal at first but later became determined to change his predicament and face up to the need to control spending and save money.
He decided to follow the example of his old friend Jia Yun. On the first day of every month, he took 4,500 units of currency from his savings and divided it into 30 amounts of 150 each. He then hung the 30 portions from the rafters of his house.
Every morning, he used a pitchfork to take down one portion of the money and then asked a family member to hide away the pitchfork.
This portion was the allotted spending for the day. Should any money be left over, he put it in a thick bamboo tube for safekeeping and used it to entertain guests.
“The money I have can still last over a year. By then I will make other plans,” he wrote in his letter.
“Where water flows, a channel will form; therefore, there is no need to worry about it until then, and that’s why I have no worry in my heart at all,” he told his friend.
People later used the expression from Su Dongpo’s letter, “where water flows, a channel will form,” to advise that when conditions are ripe, success will naturally come.
The idiom also carries the meaning that there is no need to worry, to try to force a result, or hold onto a heavy heart of pursuit, as things will happen as a matter of course; when the time comes, the results of efforts will be seen.
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