To Start From Scratch – Chinese Idiom

Entrepreneurship is becoming more and more common place now that the web has provided an equal platform upon which to build a business,  and with us being smack bang in the middle of the second ‘dotcom’ bubble makes it all the more apt to learn this following idiom.

白手起家(白手起家)

Pinyin: bái shǒu qǐ jiā
English: to start from scratch; to create something from nothing
Notes: 白 here means empty, while 手 is hand. 起 is short for 興起(兴起 xīng qǐ) which means to develop or create, and lastly 家 here is short for 家業(家业 jiā yè) which is family property, or just property. Literally meaning ‘to start from an empty hand and create property’, which sums up entrepreneurship quite well!

To show the usage of this idiom we’ll borrow one sentence (which I am sure is covered under fair use!) from the Chinese version of Crush It, a book written by Gary Vaynerchuck and focusing on  entrepreneurship in the Internet age.

Crush It

Here’s the rest of the vocabulary you’ll need to read this example:

Vocabulary

辛苦(辛苦)

Pinyin: xīn kŭ
English: hard work; to work hard

磨練(磨练)

Pinyin: mó liàn
English: to discipline

創業過程(创业过程)

Pinyin: chuàng yè guò chéng
English: entrepreneurial process; “the process or starting a new enterprise”

渴望(渴望)

Pinyin: kě wàng
English: aspiration; to yearn for

追求(追求)

Pinyin: zhuī qiú
English: to pursue; to go after

一切(一切)

Pinyin: yī qiè
English: everything

Usage

Traditional
我一向認為辛苦才能磨練我們,白手起家的創業過程對我家人很有幫助,也讓我更渴望追求一切

Simplified
我一向认为辛苦才能磨练我们,白手起家的创业过程对我家人很有帮助,也让我更渴望追求一切

Pinyin
wǒ yīxiàng rènwéi xīnkŭ cái néng móliàn wǒmen, báishǒuqǐjiā de chuàngyè guòchéng duì wǒ jiārén hěn yǒu bāngzhù, yě ràng wǒ gèng kěwàng zhuīqiú yīqiè

English
I always believe that only through hard work can we discipline ourselves, the entrepreneurial process of creating something out of nothing was a big help to my family, and also gave me the aspiration to pursue everything

One response to “To Start From Scratch – Chinese Idiom

  1. I just started reading Outliers (异类) in Chinese, and this phrase has come up more than a few times already. Thanks.

Comments are closed.