Zu Ti of the Jin Dynasty£隆搂265-420£©was a big-hearted and farsighted person who, however, was very naughty and did not like to study when he was a small kid. When he became a young man, he felt acutely that his knowledge was inadequate and that he could not serve his country well if he did not study hard. So he put all his energies into his study. He read extensively, seriously studied history from which he absorbed rich knowledge, and made good progress in his studies. He had been to the capital city Luoyang several times, and all the people who had to the capital city Luoyang several times, and all the people who had come into contact with him said that Zu Ti was a talented person who was capable of assisting the emperor in governing the country.
When he was 24, someone recommended hem to be an official, but he refused the post. He was still making a sustained effort in his studies. Later, both Zu Ti and Liu Kun, his close friend since early childhood, were appointed chief clerks responsible for document administration in the Sizhou Prefecture. he and Liu Kun cherished a deep affection for each other. They not only often shared the same bed in sleeping, but also shared the same lofty ideals; to render meritorious service in rejuvenating the Jin Dynasty and play the part of the pillars of the state. Once, Zu Ti heard a cock crow in the wasteland in his dream at midnight. He kicked Liu Kun a wake, saying to him: "People say it is inauspicious to hear a cock crow in the wasteland. I don"s think so. What about getting up and practicing sword playing the moment we hear the cock crow form now on?" Liu Kun agreed readily. So every day when the cock crow, they got up and practiced sword playing, the cold steel of the swords glinting and flashing.
Day by day and year in, year out, they never stopped. As the saying goes, constant effort yields sure success. Through long periods of hard study and training, they finally became versatile persons versed in both civil and military affairs. They could write good essays, and were capable of leading troops in fighting victoriously. Zu Ti was invested with the title the General for Guarding the Western Regions, thus realizing his wish of rendering meritorious service to the country. Liu Kun became a governor, and at same time was in charge of the military affairs of the three prefectures of Bingzhou, Jizhou and Youzhou. In discharging his duties, Liu Kun also fully displayed his talent in both polite letters and martial arts.
This story appears in "The Life of Zu Ti" in The History of the Jin Dynasty. From this story people have coined the set phrase" rising up upon hearing the crow of a rooster to practise sword playing" to signify that someone is exerting himself to do something worthwhile. It is also used to signify that a person of noble aspirations exerts himself in time.