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Newsletter "SEI NEWS" 2011

Home > Company Information > SEI WORLD > Back number > Vol.410

[Newsletter "SEI NEWS" Vol.410]

Ou Shin (Ying Xin)

Masayoshi Matsumoto, President and CEO

Many Japanese are familiar with the phrase from the Chinese classics, "de shou ying xin (learning with one's hands and executing with one's heart)." At Sumitomo Electric Industries, Ltd., we focus on ying xin (or "ou shin" in Japanese) and try to transmit the wisdom of this phrase to younger generations.

At our company, "ou shin" is the name of the dormitory attached to the technical workers' training facility that was constructed 70 years ago on the premises of Itami Works. Because of the importance of the facilities as places of learning for young workers who will go on to lead the company, the naming was entrusted to Masatsune Ogura, Sumitomo's sixth Director General, who chose "ou shin" for the dormitory from the well-known passage in "The Way of Heaven" by the Chinese philosopher Zhuangzi (369?286 BCE).

The passage is reproduced in context and commented in the book Shokugyo to Jinsei (Work and Life) written by Yoshio Tanaka, another great Sumitomo Electric elder, who served as the Company's practical top leader before the Second World War and as the Chairman of Osaka City Board of Education in the post-war years:

"In the Spring and Autumn Period of China (771?476 BC), a master wheelwright, Bian, said to the Duke Huan of the state of Qi (Qi Huan Gong): "What is most difficult in my work is fitting the inner part of the wheel to the outer rim. This seemingly simple task is in fact the most difficult… To master this, one must learn it with one's hands and execute it with one's heart. There is a knack in adjusting the movements of one's hands just right. This must be personally acquired, for it cannot be explained verbally or written with words. The right movements are subtle and cannot be modified even by the width of a hair. To master these movements, a worker must totally dedicate himself to practical training and repeat by trial and error; otherwise, the knack will never be his."

 

A framed calligraphy of ou shin by Masatsune Ogura

In the hope that those who use the facility will dedicate themselves to training to acquire a solid base and work in the spirit described above, a framed calligraphy of "ou shin" by Masatsune Ogura is on display at the training facility at Itami Works, the present-day Technical Academy, together with a bust statue of the calligrapher.

In the original text, in fact, the dialogue between Bian and Duke Huan continues. Bian says that he cannot teach the knack to his son, nor can his son learn it from him, and that this is why he still works at the age of 70. I find this part problematic in our age of dynamic globalization. We must find a way to share tacitly acquired workmanship or expertise of true importance by explicitly formalizing it as much as possible, and then practice this way earnestly and repeatedly to master it so that we can execute it with our hearts, further improve it and transmit it to our future generations.

The whole dialogue progresses this way: Duke Huan is reading a book of words by ancient sages; Bian comes up and says that those words are mere dregs and sediments of the sages and talks about his work, concluding that the true essence of any matter cannot be expressed with words. Zhuangzi is cynical in this context, but the classics are full of insights. Why don't you put them on your reading list this autumn, a great season for reading?

 

Masayoshi Matsumoto

 
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