Po Fu Chen Zhou – 破釜沉舟 – Chinese Idiom

破釜沉舟 – po4 fu3 chen2 zhou1

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The Chinese Idiom Po Fu Chen Zhou, 破釜沉舟, originates from a story about a chinese general who ordered his troops to destroy their encampment and sink their ships as a means to motivate them to fight for survival.

It means literally, to cut off all avenues of retreat.

It can be used to describe a situation where you take away any means of backing out, or showing ultimate resolve.

For example if you bought a one way plane ticket to asia……..[I DID!!! ;)]

You would be  po fu chen zhou’ing.

破 means to break apart

釜 is an ancient type of cooking pot

沉 means to sink (/ scuttle by burning)

舟 means boat or ship

So all together you have,  破釜沉舟。

Example Sentence: Tā pòfǔchénzhōu, juéxīn zuò dàodǐ.  (Comment below if you know what this means.)

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Background on the idiom: The story takes place during the later (Xiangyu is a general) years of the Qing Dynasty, before Xiangyu’s struggles with Han.  Xiangyu at this point is still a lesser general under 楚怀王, showing the potential to be great, but not yet renowned around the country. Qing had just attacked 赵国 and had defeated them repeatedly, forcing them to retreat to what is now present day 今河北平乡西南. Chuhuai wang, not wanting to see zhao utterly defeated by Qing, decides to send 宋义, one of his generals, to help the struggling Zhao armies, and also orders a young Xiangyu to be his second in command. Songyi leads the chu troops to present day 今山东曹县东南, and stays there for 46 days straight, wanting to wait until the Qing troops are weakened after battle against Zhao troops before attacking Qing. Xiangyu was opposed to this strategy, as he noticed that troops were becoming lethargic with inaction and supplies of food were beginning to run low. Songyi, however, dismissed Xiangyu’s concerns and simply sat around all day doing nothing but drink wine. Xiangyu could not stand it any more, so he decided to take drastic action: he kills Songyi, takes control of Chu’s armies, and marches them across the Yellow River to fight the Qing troops. What is most amazing is that he orders his troops to sink their own ships, break their cooking cauldrons, and take only three days worth of food. His message was clear: we will win, or we will die trying to. Other lord’s armies were now also awaiting the outcome of the battle between Qing and Zhao, but none dared to attack Qing. Although his troops were outnumbered by the Qing’s 10 to 1, Xiangyu’s armies crushed Qing’s troops. Xiangyu gained much fame for his efforts. Conclusion The chengyu 破釜沉舟 now means an unwavering determination to do something.  Source: http://www.interestingchinese.com/culture/fortunecookie-sayings-chengyu/traditional-chinese-proverb/chinese-chengyu-pofuchenzhou.html


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