To Act In An Expert Way
If you want to find an idiom to describe someone who does things with high proficiency, you can use this phrase. It came from the personal feelings of an ancient craftsman who learned his skills so well by heart that whatever he wished to do his hands could carry it out.
Here we'll learn a new phrase “what the mind wishes, the hands are able to do.” The idiom reads “de xin ying shou” in Chinese. We use the idiom to describe those who do something in an expert way. Here is the story behind this idiom.
During the Spring and Autumn period in ancient China, one day, the king of the Qi Kingdom was reading a book out loud. The noise irritated an old craftsman who was making wheels nearby. So the craftsman went to the king and asked, “what are you reading, your majesty?”
The king was unhappy being interrupted. But still he answered, “I'm reading a book by a wise man.” “Is that wise man still alive?” “No,” answered the king. The craftsman said, “If the writer is dead, what you are reading now is waste of time.”
The king was angry with the craftsman. He said, “I'm reading my book here. You, a craftsman, are standing here commenting on this. You have to tell me why things left by ancient people are a waste of time. If you don't have a good explanation, I'll have you executed.”
The craftsman replied with ease, “Your majesty. Don't be angry. I made the conclusion based on my own experience. When you make a wheel, you have to make sure that the tenon and the mortise are a perfect fit. The skill of making a tenon and mortise is in my fingers. I don't know how to teach people to do it. I can't describe it. I can't pass this skill to my son. That's why, at the age of 70, I still have to work to make a living. The essence of the thoughts of ancient wise men must be something that can't be put into words. Therefore, if what you are reading now is not a waste of time, what is it, your majesty?”
The king thought what the craftsman said made some sense. So he didn't have him killed.
The idiom “what the mind wishes the hands are able to do” then came into being. We use it to describe those who are expert at the thing they do.