Knocking With the Oar in Midstream
zhōng liú jī yī
Zu Ti（祖逖,266－321), courtesy name Shi Zhi (士稚), was a famous general of western Jin Dynasty. He came from a family that had produced high officials and generals for several generations.
When he was yound Zu Ti did not like studying, which caused general concerns of his family members, but he was generous and chivalrous and often helped the poor in the name of his old brothers.
In 300 the western Jin Dynasty was plunged into civil war and soon collapsed to the ensuing foreign invasion. Seeing the suffering of his people and homeland, Liu Kun began to study hard and was determined to sacrifice his life for his country, expel invaders and regain the lost territory.
When he was in the position chief clerks in charge of document administration in the government. He and his friend, Liu Kun, often slept in the same bed, talking about the current situation and in the morning at the first cock-crow, getting up to practice martial arts - See 'Practice Sword At Cock-crow'.
Later, although Zu Ti was put into a series of important positions, he got fed up with the life of scrambling for power and wealth in the court. He resigned and went back home. Before long however, he was forced to flee, to protect his family and people who came to him for help from the invaders. He had to escort them to the south of China where he passed several years of agony and frustration.
In 313, Zu Ti finally got the opportunity to realize his ambition: he was assigned as the general to recapture the lost land in the north of Yangtse river. Though for financial and political reasons the court of Jin only gave him very few soldiers and supplies. Zu Ti was not depressed. He recruited warriors, made weapons and in a short time built a small but elite troop, which he led across the Yangtze river.
When his boat sailed to the middle of the river, Zu Ti, knocking hard at the gunwale with an oar yelled loudly to the sky: "If I, Zu Ti, fail to expel the foreign invaders and recapture the lost territory, I will never return just like the river flowing eastwards and never coming back!" His words were so impassioned that all his warriors were deeply moved and voluntarily made the same pledge. Their sound was like thunder above the roar of the churning water, od the the great Yangtze river.
This moment is recorded by historians as the typical case in which Chinese warriors showed their patriotic passion and determination to serve their country against foreign invaders.
The parable is from "the Book of Jin" (晋书), one of the official Chinese historical works covering the history of Jin Dynasty from 265 to 420.
The saying 'Knocking With the Oar in Midstream' means to do a somehing with determination.