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I've seen the phrase 自力更生 used to mean self-reliance, but am confused by what the function of the last 2 characters is.

  • 更生 means to revitalize, or to revive. In this context, it means "revitalize yourself with your own efforts" idiomatically – sqrtbottle Jul 19 '15 at 20:35
  • So the full phrase implies that you are somehow not in your best state to begin with? – oceanus Jul 19 '15 at 20:36
  • Yes, I would argue that 更生 suggests that something was once great, then fell down, and is now coming back up to its "normal" level of some quality – sqrtbottle Jul 19 '15 at 20:39
  • @S.Rhee Right, but here I'm asking about 自力 not 自立 which I guess may be pronounced the same in Mandarin, but this is not true for all ways of reading Chinese. – oceanus Jul 19 '15 at 20:50
  • 自力更生is a word in its own right (dictionary item), which happens to have been constructed from 2 simpler words 自力:self-power;self-reliance;efforts;self自力更生:rely [depend; count] on one's own efforts; hoe one's own row ; make one's way in life by one's own efforts ; self-dependence – user6065 Jul 19 '15 at 22:31
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更生 means on its own to revitalize, or to revive. In this context, 自力更生 idiomatically means "revitalize through our own efforts".

An example of its usage is in the communist saying "独立自主、自力更生". iCiba translates this as "build socialism independently and with the initiative in our own hands and through self-reliance" (which I find awkward, but it gets the point across). Ultimately, 更生 states that you're revitalizing something, in this case a country.

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