These Chinese characters represent learning.
The first character means ‘Study’.
This is made up of two parts.
The first part means ‘to accumulate knowledge’ by various means and methods.
The second part which is at the bottom represents a child in front of a door. That means in order to learn one must be blessed with a child like curiosity and innocence.
Now we shall examine the second character.
The second character stands for ‘constant practice’. Understandably there is no substitute for hard work and constant endeavor to practice and hone a skill to perfection.
This character is also made of two parts.
The upper symbol represents ‘flying’ showing a bird developing its ability to leave the nest. So it means ‘being on one own and being a leader too’ signified by one’s ability to leave the nest.
The lower symbol or the second part of the second character represents ‘youth’. This is an important benefit. With constant learning, rediscovering and reinventing oneself one probably never ages mentally and psychologically — perhaps even slows down biological aging.
When we put all the four parts of the two characters together they holistically mean — to learn one has to be like a child accumulating knowledge in bits and pieces, which is then followed up by constant practice with the strength and perseverance of youth in order to come up with something original like ‘flying’ (signifying ease and competence of some skill gained) to become leaders by leaving their nests and making their presence felt in the world through their own ability.
However, the most important thing in the whole issue is to become like a child. Christ’s teachings also reflect the same when he says, “Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.”—Matt. 18:3
Constantly learning is indeed the ‘kingdom of heaven’, which is symbolic in the sense that in heaven none grows old, which is just the same as what the Chinese meant by ‘youth‘ (inability to grow old while learning).
The process of learning can therefore be divided into three parts —a) Accumulating from a teacher (accumulation of information, knowledge and the path to self mastery) b) Self Study (to be the child at play with whatever one is interested to master) c) Dialogs with peers and friends and application in real life (constant practice, refinement, development of leadership and the abilty to stand on one’s own feet).
1. Fifth Discipline Fieldbook, Senge, et al.
2. New Testament, King James Version.