I recall reading a supposed Chinese proverb that went along the lines of:

"Craftsman, know your tools!"

Now I'm trying to find the original Chinese saying, and if there was more to this, wanting to use it in mentoring.

Can any scholars here help me?

1 Answer 1


I think the original proverb is "工欲善其事 必先利其器"

工 = 工匠 (craftsman)

欲善其事 (want to do his job well)

必先 (must first)

利其器 (make his tools sharp, meaning in good condition)

This saying is using "To do a good job, a craftsman must sharpen his tools" as an analogy for "To be successful, one must first prepare his tools (make preparation)".

"Sharpen tools" is a metaphor for "make preparation".

  • 1
    Hmm, possibly. Although I distinctly remember it having to do with the knowledge of tools and materials, but I'll take your word for it (unless you can amend your answer, of course). Dec 24, 2019 at 13:03
  • @Zalán Meggyesi Different tools require different care. A craftsman need to know his tools to make each of them in good condition. 利 doesn't only has the meaning of 'sharpen' it also means 'make effective'
    – Tang Ho
    Dec 24, 2019 at 13:54
  • That's a great clarification, thank you! Dec 24, 2019 at 14:53

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