Rabbits, Threads, and Mantis Arms

Occasionally, students feel that college application forms do not provide sufficient opportunity to convey important information about themselves or their accomplishments. If you wish to include an additional essay, you may do so. Possible topics include: Unusual circumstances in your life, Travel or living experiences in other countries, A letter to your future college roommate, An intellectual experience (course, project, book, discussion, paper or research topic) that has meant the most to you, How you hope to use your college education, A list of books you have read during the past twelve months


There is a Chinese proverb, or chenyu, that literally means “guarding a tree for rabbits.” The story behind it involves a farmer who saw a rabbit run into a tree, providing his dinner for the night. He then waited by that tree the next day in hopes of getting lucky again, but his effort was futile.

Another chenyu, “marking the boat to retrieve the sword,” was coined when a fool dropped his sword while crossing a river, and thinking himself clever, marked the the side of the boat at the spot where his sword fell. After he reached shore, he plunged into the water at the marked spot to find his sword, and—you guessed it—it wasn’t there.

Although I had a good laugh at these chenyu and the many others that my mom told me throughout my childhood, I take their lessons to heart. Rabbits aren’t part of my diet, but I know to never wait idly for opportunities to come to me. And I may never be found on a boat with a sword, but I appreciate logic and practice it 99% of the time. Derived from ancient poems and legends, these idioms may seem silly at first, but they have been integral in shaping my philosophies on life.

一丝不苟 (yī sī bù gǒu): Three summers ago, I took up soapmaking. You can say that it was just for fun, and that’s what I...

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