Kung Fu in Chinese isn’t all about fighting

When you think of the word ‘kung fu’ in Chinese you’d be forgiven for thinking of Bruce Lee, Jacky Chan, and depending on your age, Kung Fu Panda. Though, in actual fact, this word has many more uses than simply martial arts.

Kung Fu

功夫(功夫)

Pinyin: gōng fū (also 工夫)
1: Martial arts
2: Skill, ability
3: Time
4: Effort, energy

That’s quite a few varied definitions for one word, so how is each meaning used in a sentence? Below are four excerpts from actual news article that show each of the usages in action.

Martial Arts

Traditional
大學生搞創意 街頭上演功夫

Simplified
大学生搞创意 街头上演功夫

Pinyin
dàxuéshēng gǎo chuàngyì jiētóu shàng yǎn gōngfū

English
A university student gets creative, performs Kung Fu in the street.

source

Skill, Ability

Traditional
Jolin養瘦!這才是瘦身真功夫

Simplified
Jolin养瘦!这才是瘦身真功夫

Pinyin
Jolin yǎng shòu! zhè cái shì shòushēn zhēn gōngfū

English
Jolin is thinner! Now this is real dieting ability.

source

Time

Traditional
因為問的人多,沒功夫一一回信

Simplified
因为问的人多,没功夫一一回信
Pinyin
yīnwèi wèn de rén duō, méi gōngfū yī yī huíxìn

English
Because so many people asked questions, there was no time to reply to them all.

source

Effort

Traditional
王光亞希望澳門下功夫搞好教育及人才培養

Simplified
王光亚希望澳门下功夫搞好教育及人才培养

Pinyin
wángguāngyǎ xīwàng àomén xiàgōngfū gǎohǎo jiàoyù jí réncái péiyǎng

English
Wang Guang Ya hopes that Macau can put effort into improving education and cultivating talent.

source

The next time you hear the word 功夫 used in Chinese you’ll know that the meaning isn’t necessarily about the martial art. This really is a useful and versatile word that is worth learning, and if you’ve learnt Chinese for long enough and complained to your teacher that it’s difficult you have no doubt heard the words 你要更下功夫一點!

Now if you are 機車 enough you could also use your new knowledge to confuse some friends who are just starting out learning Chinese.